Normal Is Screwing Us Up

The dictionary definition of “Normal” is conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

How many times do you use the word “normal”? And in which situations? How many Google searches begin with the question “Is it normal…”? About 1,570,000,000 results.


Each period in history has its own definition of what is to be considered “normal,” and anyone who deviates from this definition is considered a pariah.

We lust after normal. We don’t want to stick out. We want to be accepted. We want our children to behave normally. We want to be within the range, physically, medically, emotionally. We want to be able to have natural births, breastfeed, serve fresh organic meals to our children, and live wholesome lives. We want our children to adhere to our definition of “normal,” and to have learning styles that conform to our ridiculously narrow educational system.

Beyond our wishes for ourselves, we look at others, and judge them on how “normal” they are. How can they possibly be happy when they are “weird” and “non-conformist”? If you are religious and part of a community, the fixation on “normal” can be even more acute. Are you married? Are you one of us? Do your children fit into our group? Slowly, whether consciously or unconsciously, we pass on a message to our children of what “normal” looks like, and when looking into our children’s future, we desire that they get married at a “normal” age and marry someone stable from a “normal” home.

What is the problem with “normal,” though? We are chasing something that does not exist. The quest for “normal” gnaws away at our soul, and doesn’t just erode our own individuality, but blocks us from truly loving others. “Normal” creates a breeding ground for “us” versus “them.” You are not like us. Your views don’t align with ours. You don’t play a social game or talk about “normal” topics. “Normal” causes hatred and wars, and builds real and imaginary walls. “Normal” crushes hopes for self-growth, and fosters deep insecurity and the feeling of never being “enough.” “Normal” means that you are on the outside.

Rivky Berman, a young Chabad Lubavitch emissary, who inspired many throughout her lifelong battle with illnesses, challenged the word “normal” every day of her life. She passed away this week at the age of 29. She was born with Bloom Syndrome, a condition that affected her growth and caused her to be to susceptible to serious illnesses. Her life was anything but “normal,” but every minute was filled with meaning. Take just two minutes to hear what Rivky has to say about the word “normal.”

Here is what Rivky has to say about the word “normal.”

From childhood onward, we look at others and wish we could be as “normal” as everyone else. What it takes decades to realize is that no one has it figured out, and anyone who claims to be “normal” is lying to themselves and to you. You want to be happy? You want to find your way in life? Drop the definition of “normal” – it is just the setting on the dryer. And when you stop judging others based on “normal,” you might find yourselves surrounded by the most “real,” exceptional, human beings to fill up your world. Go on, try it.

About the Author
Sorelle Weinstein is Content Manager for Nefesh B'Nefesh. Previously, she worked as a book editor for eighteen years specializing in works of Jewish interest. She lives in Rehovot with her husband, three daughters, and Golden Retriever, Cadbury.
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