How can we handle being different when that is interpreted as abnormal?

By: Edinah Masanga

Being different to what is considered normal by the mainstream society comes with a lot of baggage – and judgement.

The baggage is in the need to explain yourself every time when people misunderstand you and therefore judge you in the wrong way. It is also in dealing with stereotypes that are attributed to people who do not strive to fit the norm but rather like to fit into their own personal norms.

I have come to the conclusion that just because something is accepted as normal does not mean that it is the right thing to do. It may be just that we are now accustomed to it because we have seen it happen all our lives. Norms, therefore, are not always right.

Sexual harassment of women is insanely abnormal – and gruesome – but those who perpetrate it get away with it because it has been considered for centuries as normal for a man to be an aggressor in pursuit of affection or physical liaisons with a woman.

That is why some judges find it hard to convict perpetrators of sexual harassment because despite the law coding it as a crime their own personal biases will prevent them from seeing anything wrong having been done because after all, it’s “normal” for a man to pursue a woman by all means necessary. We are sometimes told, “it is the order of nature.”

I myself am sometimes made to explain why I work (what is considered extra) hard for some people but what I consider normal. I have had to contend with being told that I am suffering from bipolar although my doctors dispute this.

When I examine this further I find that it is because maybe I have an ambition which is sometimes taken to be too much for a woman by some people and therefore the effort I put in trying to advance that ambition is “abnormal.” It’s not.

So how do I handle this difference?

I listen to everything but I do not internalise everything. I am able to discern when people feel threatened by me, when they are just being jealous and when they are genuinely expressing concern.

I think that when we do something we love, it will seem as hard work to others but not to us because we don’t have to put in a lot of extra effort to achieve results. Everything just flows.

So when people interpret our strengths and joys as abnormal, I think we should just check if the things we love to do are impacting those around us negatively otherwise there is no need to conform to another person’s idea of what our normal should be.

I think it is also about not worrying too much about acceptance (a word I have come not to like) because to me acceptance is this small box made out of a narrow and individualised view of how other people than yourself should be. It’s not always our place to prescribe how others should be.

Also, just be yourself. The kind that is not toxic, and you will be fine. You – WE, are fine are fine the way we are.