How do we define what is normal


Kevin Mangelschots

How we define what is normal is an abstract concept. It also doesn’t help that being average doesn’t have just one, but multiple definitions.

Furthermore, what’s considered normal in one demographic or society can be considered abnormal in another demographic or society.

Without further ado, this is how to figure out what the norm is.

How do we define what is normal?

The quote, “normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly” written by Charles Addams in white letters.

We define something as normal when an individual’s behavior conforms to the most commonly displayed behavior in a group or society without deviating too much from the norm.

This means that what’s considered normal in one society can be considered abnormal behavior in another one.

  • Defined by the average of a certain society or demographic

    Normal is more or less the average, with a small amount of deviation possible. In statistics, we call this small, yet still in the conventional variation range from the average to the standard deviation.

    For example, the normal height distribution of a country or the whole world. Or what IQ falls in the normal range category.

  • What society deems to be normal behavior or what society tells the people what is normal

    This means that in this specific case, normal is dependent on what other people say, or find typical. Based on this definition, normal is subjective and subject to what a certain society or group deems to be regular behavior.

    For example, it is considered normal practice to be out of your parents’ house before the age of 25. It is normal to work an 8-4 job for a minimal amount of wage because these are ‘nice’ working hours.

    This also conveys that what’s seen as normal in one certain society might not be in another social group. The death penalty for instance is still considered “normal” behavior in some countries as a form of punishment, while in other states this is unthinkable or certainly not thought of as “conventional” behavior.

Who defines what is normal?

A crowd full of people.

Society and its inhabitants, or the group and its members define what’s normal. It’s often decided on the premise of what they deem to be average, and what doesn’t deviate too much from the norm.

That means that what’s considered the rule can change depending on the circumstances, and which group you’re currently residing in.

What is normal behavior?

What is normal behavior depends on whether these actions conform to social norms or not.

That means, if the actions are around the average of the standards of that particular group, it will probably be considered regular conduct.

Defining normal

We define normality as a behavior that can be considered average when it is more or less consistent with the most common behavior for that same person without deviating from the norm too much.

Let me give you an illustration. A person who’s usually enthusiastic, energetic, empathic, and positive, but is suddenly negative, harsh, and lethargic due to depression can be considered to be behaving abnormally.

What is abnormal behavior?

Image of a clown making a silly face.
Abnormal behaviors are actions that are considered atypical, uncommon, and/or non-conforming to the social norms of the group, or society in question.
It can also be defined as conduct that’s dysfunctional and nonadaptive to the situation and circumstances.

Being normal or unique in today's world?

Image of the sentence “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” By Frank Zappa written on a blackboard with kids in front of it.

People, for all their differences, are more alike than they are different.

This is why what society deems as normal or average can be used as a general measurement tool of your behavior. It can be used to gauge if your actions are generally considered median or not for that particular group, or society as a whole.

It’s also worth noting that in nature, anything that deviates too much from the usual or what is currently considered normal typically doesn’t last/survive long. Not only that, but it reminds me of the following popular quote:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

This means that to “survive” or be well-liked, you must sacrifice a part of yourself to fit into the group. Knowing that we are in multiple groups at the same time in our lives, means that we may have to adapt our behavior accordingly to the group we reside in to conform to these norms.

However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be average or “the same” as everyone else. As I said before, every person has their unique traits. Instead of worrying about what’s the rule, try to develop your specific perks because those unique parts of your personality are what make you, well, you.

Different ways of thinking are necessary for growth. If everyone were to think and act the same, we would have a very poor and boring society based on everyone having the same advantages and downsides. It would be impossible for our society to find any form of balance in the various aspects that life consists of.

The way I see it, you have a choice to make. You’re either obsessed, or you’re destined to be average.


Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

I think that being normal is overrated.

Every individual is distinct, with each their strengths and imperfections. Dare to stand out, and dare to be special, as long as you do you. What fun would life be if everyone would act the same and have the same interests? Where would the growth come from if nobody dares to think differently?

However, be prepared to take some heat if you decide to walk your path in life, and that happens to deviate from what’s considered normal practice. Not everyone is open-minded and receptive to a demeanor that differs from theirs, or behavior that they consider to be normal.

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