This one word creates more suffering than any other.

Here’s a riddle:

What’s a word that has created more suffering, pain, violence and death than any other word?

What’s a word that everyone wishes they were, but no one actually feels?

What’s a word that everyone wants and resents at the same time?

I’ll give you a second to think about it.


The one word that creates more suffering than any other...

Is the word: “Normal”.


“Is this normal?”

“Am I normal?”

“Normal people don’t have these issues.”

“Why can’t I just be normal?”

“They’re not normal.”

“That’s not normal.”

The word “normal” is a shame stick we use to beat ourselves and each other.

No matter how many times our struggles are “normalized”, we still never feel normal.

Even when we hear people say “No one is normal.” we still imagine that there are people out there who are truly, purely normal. And we yearn for that.

Because being normal equals certainty.

It means you can stop doubting yourself.

It means no one can judge you or criticize you.

It means your path is laid out for you.

It means no one can question your choices.

It means it’s not your fault when things go wrong.

Being normal means you don’t have to worry about a thing in life.

You can just sit back and relax as the plane lands itself.

Doesn’t that sound awesome?


Or maybe once you have your needs met for certainty and security, you start starving in a different way.

You start yearning for adventure, surprise, novelty. You start wanting to strike out on your own and do something different.

You start resenting normal and wishing to be unique.

“I don’t want to be like everyone else.”

“I want to be seen for who I am”

“I’m special.”

“I’m proud of my differences.”

Aren’t we humans crazy-making?

The truth is that we are all both normal and unique. Some parts of us are universal. Some parts are uncommon. And some parts are rare.

But the combination of them all creates only ONE instance of you.

This tension between seeking normal and uniqueness creates energy that propels life forward.

Unique can’t exist without normal.

Certainty can’t exist without uncertainty.

Every person’s path is unique, but we are all on a very normal march towards death.

As complex our life tapestries are, they are all nailed down to the same place.

Stop trying to be normal. You are already normal.

Stop trying to be unique. You are already unique.

Stop trying to be.

And just be.

Eddie Shieh, PCC, MFA