Since we entered this crazy, wonderful, heartbreaking world, we have been trying to squeeze ourselves into these awkwardly shaped, uncomfortable boxes. Like the feeling after an alcohol-fueled night, we are constantly on edge, pretty disgustingly sweaty, with just a touch of anxiety to finish it off.
This image is what I envision all of us to resemble when we are stuffed into our individual boxes, striving to be what society has told us we should be. This is the image of us pressured into being something almost criminal—being something other than ourselves.
These boxes are identical. I can see them now stacked up next to one another, mirroring each other in size and shape. And herein lies the problem—good old societal norms.
All of us are never going to fit into the same shape and size of box because we are so beautifully and wildly different from one another.
But increasingly, in recent years, this seems to have been looked upon as negative. Society has drilled it into our brains that we should mirror each other, both physically and mentally. Why? Fear; fear of our brilliant minds, fear that we might want something different to the path mapped out for us, fear of a higher form of consciousness.
The concept of a norm is something that has puzzled me for as long as I can remember. It’s a concept I questioned and challenged through my university dissertation on mental health. (I won’t go into that side of it, as you wouldn’t thank me for those endless ramblings.)
But who are we to call an individual crazy because they don’t conform to a set of normative values dictated by society? I indicated in my dissertation that, perhaps, it is in the structures and regulations of society that the sickness lies, rather than in the minds of those individuals who refuse to conform to such absurd assumptions that we all think the same way. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. It’s from Maslow, one of the giants in the development of Western psychology: “What we call ‘normal’ in psychology is really a psychopathology of the average.”
This normative set of ideals has long dictated our everyday desires. With a life ever more focused on screens— phones, TVs, laptops that provide constant distraction—we become ever more aware of what normative behaviours and ideals we should be chasing. We are plagued daily by unrealistic body images, by advertisements which dictate which material objects we “need,” and what we should invest our money in to be considered sexy, happy or successful.
Consumerist advertising and obsessive consumption, in my opinion, is one of the leading causes of insecurity and unhappiness. In Western society, we are constantly being told that we are not enough, that simply being ourselves is not enough. Why? Because happiness doesn’t sell. If you are happy living a minimalist life and perhaps have a deeper understanding of what brings you inner peace, then how would businesses sell you anti-aging cream, or the latest sports car, or a new, expensive lipstick?
Happiness doesn’t sell, which is why I urge you to step away from the monotonous background noise of the TV and, instead, step toward places and people and activities that make you feel alive.
The problem is that we have been conditioned to consider difference as weird instead of amazing. But weirdness is amazing, and it is a struggle in this life to find your own weirdness and be okay with it. This is difficult because people judge us—they judge us for not being like them, for stepping out into the unknown and screaming—for no other reason than because it feels good to scream.
Whenever I start to fall back into a monotonous routine, I remember that the world needs people to come alive—it doesn’t need us to fall in line with everyone else. It doesn’t need another nine-to-five worker who wears pretty dresses and says all the right things.
No, it needs someone who steps out of line, someone who is so amazingly different that people stop and stare.
It is difficult to break down the walls on your box of normality and finally become yourself. But we must. We must question everything—everything we believe to be right—and instead, search for our own voices, rather than an answer which we’ve adopted from a lifetime of being docile to societal norms.
We have to strip back the layers and search for what makes us shine, because this life is about so much more than just getting through the day. It’s about breathing fresh air; it’s about adventuring; it’s about experiencing other cultures; it’s about finding the things that makes us come alive.
Bulldoze the walls of your box, step out into the blinding sun, feel the grass between your toes and be truly alive. Find your weirdness and chase it to wherever it may take you. And when people question what you’re doing, and give you strange looks, just smile and nod—for they are only jealous that you are comfortable in your own weirdness, while they are still stuck in the box.
Rock on, mad hatters and crazy cats of this world. Thank you for making me see that most days should be spent covered in glitter and hanging in hammocks.
You are more than a label. You are more than a box. You are more than the latest product you’re told to buy.
You are you.
So go, be weird and wonderful and unapologetically yourself.
Author: Ashley Roy
Editor: Callie Rushton