Being true to oneself
I was talking to some Year 6 pupils yesterday afternoon and we had a very interesting discussion around the meaning of ‘being normal’. Respondents could be divided into two camps – realists and idealists. Quite a few articulated the idea that ‘being normal’ is being yourself because everyone is different – an idealistic view of the world perhaps. Several others were more pragmatic and identified that ‘being normal’ is about ‘trying to fit in with the in-crowd’. We discussed times when one might feel like an outsider and ‘not normal’ and we centred on mufti day as a perfect example. Almost everyone said they had felt nervous about wearing their own clothes to school in case they got teased for what they were wearing and they would then ‘stand-out’. Everyone agreed it was wrong to be critical of each other’s attire and yet everyone worries about it.
The media and advertisers are behind this of course – big brands are so clever at portraying a ‘normal’ lifestyle – pop idols, sports stars and anyone in the public eye influence attitudes and change perceptions. When I was in Year 6, adverts only ever showed boys playing football and girls doing ballet, thus creating the perception that it was ‘not normal’ for boys to be good at dance and drama or girls to kick a ball around and play computer games. At worst this kind of stereotype led to prejudice and this is something I am keen to break down.
The beauty of our discussion yesterday was that every pupil could recognise the importance of celebrating differences. We need empathisers in society – people who can put themselves in other people’s shoes – for the world is a diverse place with rituals and customs that vary from place to place. One’s view on what constitutes ‘normal’ is driven by the values, beliefs and experiences that one grows up with. Hopefully, by being open, honest, kind and reflective here at St Andrew’s Prep, we are creating an environment where ‘being normal’ means being confident and true to oneself. Simply that.