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In my last corporate role I went from never having had anyone “reporting to me” to having a team of twenty people overnight. I was the second youngest person in the team and the usual imposter syndrome that any rational human being would experience existed, but I was mainly concerned about presenting my true self to these resolutely normal people.

Over the next 5 years (whether I wanted it or not!) people found out what I was really like. I also learned that the idea of normal is totally ridiculous. As my team got to know me better so I got to know them better – and ended up thinking one of those twenty people fitted my original definition of normal – and by definition was therefore the weirdest of us all (or I just hadn’t got to their interesting bits).

And yet that perception of normal still exists.

I was struck by the brilliant Rhys Williams from QuietRoom at the Women In Protection conference today telling his personal story. I agree to his request to be nice to him, but do (politely and very kindly) also question his assumption that there is this normal thing out there. I say this knowing that Rhys is amazingly wonderfully brilliant with words, which made this “normal” thing really stick out for me.

It feels like searching for normal and measuring yourself against this non-existent standard may be even more damaging than the usual social media aspirational warfare where you at least know that you can’t really achieve it. “Being normal” feels a lower bar yet in my humble opinion is equally impossible to attain.

This human reality is overlaid by insurance language of “standard lives”, which was picked up in the second session of this morning’s conference. Whether mental health or physical health the black and white lines of normal or abnormal, able or disabled need to be challenged for everyone’s good. In the same way that we should focus more on what someone can do than what they can’t in society and when underwriting an individual we need to stop holding people up to an unachievable standard of “normal” in both instances.

My last 24 hours have seen me:

Monday midday – call with clever doctor about new app and how it could work in insurance

12.30 – look after chicken pox covered daughter who is off school for the week

4.00 – into London for InsTech event

Tuesday 7.00 – send ridiculous e-mail to person who designed logo asking if I could have purple dots added for the day for Purple Tuesday

8.00 – ignore wife’s overnight sickness, take son to school and then head into London for Women In Protection conference

11.00 – accept reality of wife’s sickness and rearrange afternoons meetings to get back home Tuesday midday – get on train and write blog about being normal (without editing or checking…) and next – help my daughter by watching Frozen, put bicarbonate of soda (not baking powder!) in the bath, and survive.

Am I normal? Definitely not? Is my behaviour today rational or good or the right thing to be doing? Who knows. We are all humans doing our best (apart from the d*ckeheads cited by Rhys), and the more we recognise and understand that the sooner we can get on with making things that bit better for each other and our ourselves.

My train station is approaching – thanks for reading, we’ll see if this remains up when this storm passes in a week…

3 Responses to The nonsense of normal
  1. Well put Andrew. “We’re all different.” Everything is relative and everything sits on a spectrum, as does everyone – in every respect. Language is tricky and words can be interpreted differently. We have to differentiate between people and groups and our challenge will always be how we explain the fairness of this. Good luck 🙂

  2. Spot on, I’ve always thought “normal” was a terrible standard to achieve. With my long history of various mental health struggles, being “normal” always seemed so far away. And to be told, “can’t you just be normal?” the most unhelpful of responses. I prefer to be myself these days….
    Thanks Andrew


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