“When the shadow of a tree is bent, straighten the tree, not the shadow.” – African proverb
Living happens to us, but it is by no means an easy experience. From trying to find meaning to the efforts you put into enjoying your relationships and work, to defining aspirations, handling achievements and finding ways to overcoming the obstacles that rear their heads from time to time; we are often on our own to make sense of an unfamiliar, labyrinth-like world. And these difficulties can ebb and flow throughout the course of one’s life – or even throughout the course of a month or week, or even in a day.
To add to this, there is the constant pressure to appear normal when deep inside we feel conflicted. Perhaps it is not even about you being different, but you would love to do things slightly outside the accepted order – except you hold back lest you are branded with the ‘weird’ label.
Interestingly, when we get together we often steer our conversations outside the complexities of how to handle living. Maybe they come up from time to time, but keeping appropriate boundaries about being normal means that you do not divulge too much information about your personal struggles.
On the other hand, the lack of conversation around handling living complexities energises you to want to be so strong you look good in the eyes of your family and friends. But we know that no matter how hard we try, a part of us on the inside struggles to accept the ‘normal’ picture.
Thus, many of us live never feeling that which we perceive is normal. So we fake it, we try to be normal – all the while hoping ‘normal’ will magically happen.
Sadly, the pressure of trying to be normal affects our sanity. It ingrains itself so deep into our lives, we cannot simply ignore or shake it off. Instead, we often take recourse in creating a public self and a private self.
It is sort of an existential comfort. Thus, on the outside we look good and sound great, but on the inside we are melted like wax, struggling to even accept ourselves. For many among us, it is a Catch-22 situation.
On one side of the divide, to complain about how tough life is would be tantamount to being a wimp. On the other side of the divide, not complaining eats you up and tortures your sanity. The scary aspect of all this is that many of us prefer the latter.
What we need to appreciate is that it is difficult – if not impossible- to be conflicted and creative. When your sanity is tortured, the sense of self you have of yourself is so fragile you almost always feel too inferior to bring out the best of yourself.
That is why many who are conflicted create the ‘public personality’ to connect with others. Sadly, this increases the torturing of your sanity, as you have to put in more work to appear normal so that you are accepted.
The effect is the creation of inconsistencies in our attitudes which adversely affect our relationships with our families and friends, and sometimes endanger our own sense of reality. It is more like living someone else’s life. You want to live the person inside you, but you have not fully embraced that personality.
So, you swing between the sane person on the inside and the insane person you constantly project to the world. Not only do you feel guilt, but the shame of not living as your inside dictates depresses you and attaches itself to almost any situation you find yourself in.
It is no secret that many of us stand for one thing and act another way. It is a destructive and appalling attitude typified by greed and a lust to impress others. But it happens because quite the majority among us have this illusion that a normal life is what everyone else does. Even if that was the case, why would you want to act like everyone when you are not really like everyone? Why would you suppress your uniqueness?
Not only does this reduce you to a cynic, but you prevent our humanity from flourishing. This is because the bulk of your decisions will be geared toward populism, and not wonderfulness.
To those in leadership positions, such an attitude inspires mediocrity among your followers. We need to understand that ‘normal’ is often the mentality of the masses – and quite often this group is no respecter of status or intelligence.
They do not see themselves as change agents, neither do they appreciate that to flourish they have to bring their uniqueness out. Many mainly live for the moment and nothing else.
It is essential that you work on embracing your inner sense of self to keep your sanity. And you must do this if you truly want to live, and live life to its fullest. In fact, no person should aspire to be normal, and we should not succumb to the pressure to be.
Instead, we should work on syncing our private selves with our public selves, and harness the synergy that comes with that. This would make us compassionate to the point where we would establish authenticity where there is none, and inspire many others to become authentic and lessen the insanity that has engulfed our humanity.
Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and helps them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]