Failing to be normal

If you were able to look at yourself, dispassionately, as an outside observer, what would you see?  And if you had to describe yourself to someone who had never met you, what would you say?

I had Anxious | A worried looking goldfish swims toward the camerato do this once, as an “icebreaker” exercise at a workshop about twenty years ago.  It didn’t so much break the ice as nearly break me, because I simply could not think of a single thing to say about myself that was positive – and we were not supposed to say anything negative.  Imagine a tall, dark-haired human goldfish, opening and closing her mouth soundlessly and trying not to weep… that was me on that day.

We really are our own harshest critics, aren’t we?  We may be prepared to forgive other people for the non-crime of being human but ourselves – hah!  That’s quite another story!

Somewhere we get hold of the idea that we have to be perfect.  Or, to put it another way, that if we aren’t completely perfect at all times in all ways, well, then we have failed utterly.  Can you relate?  This nagging sense that we are somehow built wrong, doing it wrong or saying the wrong thing can eventually drive us into an anxious and exhausted heap.

Or sometimes it’s not so much about being perfect but just “failing to be normal” – anxious clients often tell me they feel like a freak.  Surely “normal people” don’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of facing the day, never mind being in large gatherings or stepping outside their own home.  “Normal people” definitely don’t have such an uncontrollable fear response to the sight of a spider or the sound of a bird’s wings, do they?  And the need to live up to this elusive concept of “normal” just makes everything feel so much worse.

So, here’s a radical thought.

You’re not a disaster. You’re not wrong.  You’re not broken. 

You are human.  You are real.  And I’ll bet you are doing the very best you can.

So cut yourself some slack – or maybe even go further and actively be kind to this bundle of discomfort and anxious awkwardness, this worrywart, this precious soul in human form – you.  The most powerful gift we can give another person is our unconditional acceptance.  Seeing someone clearly and loving them for all that they are.

Please do consider giving that gift to yourself.  It really is OK to be you. 

The only thing missing from this post is your voice – what’s your experience?  Please do leave a message in the comments, below.  Or get in touch here to discover if I can help you see yourself in a kinder light.

Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-SA


  1. Sue on August 29, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Great post Lizzie and it’s so true, we are our own harshest critics. It’s curious isn’t it, where we get this idea from that we have to be ‘normal’ whatever that is!

    • Lizzie on August 29, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      I suspect there’s no such animal, Sue!

  2. Anna on September 3, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    There is no such thing as normal! I saw a man fall over at Waterloo Station the other day and then followed him on foot across Waterloo Bridge. I could hear him calling himself stupid and it made me so sad. He wouldn’t have followed me along calling me stupid if I’d fallen over, so why was he prepared to be so unkind to himself?

    • Lizzie on September 3, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      The awful things we say to ourselves! How sad to hear his embarrassment berating him like that.

Leave a Comment