Who Says? (An Examination of Norms)

Jul. 4th, 2016

Most people grow up “just knowing” certain things. We learn things from the cultures we inhabit that become ingrained so deeply in us that we often do not remember the origins. They are undercurrents, stemming from family, from society, from social groups. They are also very hard to ignore.

They can range from deeply harmful to neutral to helpful, depending on the specific type, the person, and the circumstance. One I have always loved is in my family we always try and make something before buying it. “Oh I can make that, and for a fraction of the price.” I assumed everyone was like that.

Other ideas can be less useful. Like the ideas that universal problems have universal solutions. Very few people are born with the tools to handle all of life’s problems. We often must learn our own unique ways to deal, especially when ADHD is involved. However, different is often suspect, to other people, and even to ourselves.

“If you have trouble managing money, just make a budget and you’ll be fine.” Sure, budgeting can be a powerful tool for money management. This does not mean it works for everyone, in every circumstance, in every stage of life. Assuming it will work for you, and conversely if it does not there is something “wrong” with you, can cause huge problems. Self esteem, emotional, relationship, and, obviously, financial.

So, exactly who says that you must do it that way? Who says the widely accepted solution will work for everyone? Who says certain activities or behaviors are only acceptable at a certain age? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know, and have witnessed countless times, that trying to force yourself into a shape that does not work, regardless of your brain chemistry or diagnosis, is harmful. Every. Single. Time.

I have found, the best solutions are the ones tailored specifically to the people using them. “Weird” or “unusual” are judgments sometimes applied to these unique solutions and are an unfortunate reality of throwing off “general knowledge” in favor of a custom-made path. These judgments can come from others or ourselves.

For me, the first step in embracing these “unusual” solutions was ceasing to care what others think (as much). Once others’ opinions make less of an impact, the road to unique happiness stands more open and is easier to travel. The next step was knowledge, education, and research. What other ideas and experiments were out there? What tidbits could I acquire, magpie-like, to slowly build whole frameworks for my life?

The result (and by no means the end of a journey) was very weird and strange (both terms used in pride) methods of living that are shaped specifically to me and that serve me in incredibly unique ways. It is a circumstance I never would have believed possible five years ago.

What preconceived notions are affecting your life?