How to manage people who say ‘you’re just too much’


Let’s talk about being too much.

“We will embark on a pragmatic exploration of the tactile world in a way that can be described as ‘too much!’. An exploration of the ‘too…’ used by children to express approval and enthusiasm.”

Notes on SS18 leather and fur trend display, Premiere Vision, Paris.

(This is another long one, so make the tea now or come back to read later. You’ve got time.)

One of the core myths about myself I have let go of, slowly and not without caterwauling, is that I am ‘too much’.

I had been told, explicitly or implicitly, for many years that I was ‘too much’ of one thing or another. This feels common to all humans, particularly women and particularly if you are in any way thoughtful, creative, funny or generally outside what your immediate social circle expects.

As a child I was too serious. As an adult I was too silly.
I was too aggressive, too bold, too strident, too opinionated.
Too bossy, too confident, too quick to chip in, too much of an independent player.
And then also: I shared too much, asked too many questions, supported others too much, gave too much, listened too intently.

Confusing? Indeed. Irritating? Oh so much.

But the two ‘toos’ which used to really fucking bug me out were these:

  1. You think too much

  2. You feel too much

You might identify with one of these, or both … or you might be the person who often says it to a friend, co-worker or family member. If you’re the latter, please stop.

If you’re the former: I hear you. I see you. It’s okay. I am the person who cries in public. I am the person who writes down everything she thinks. I am the one with the loud laugh, the awkward question, the raised eyebrow. I am the one who thinks and feels ‘too much’. And I am okay.

Let’s break this down.

Step 1. What people mean when they say ‘too much’

What chimed with me from that opening quotation was how ‘too much’ can be used to “express approval and enthusiasm”. See, when someone says you are ‘too much’ of anything (or a variation on that theme), there is a part of them which is expressing delight in your personality.

  • You’re too intense! = I wish I could be slightly intense without worrying + their intensity is threatening me and my Self
  • You always look so extra! = I wish I could wear clothes like that without worrying + their ‘extraness’  is threatening me and my Self
  • You ask so many questions! = I wish I could ask more questions without worrying + their questioning is threatening me and my Self

Many people take joy in you doing something they think they cannot do at the same time as feeling their self and their identity threatened by you doing-the-thing-they-think-they-cannot-do.

My example? Maths.

Really don’t like maths. I have a comprehensive lack of skill in it. I love people who can do it and show off about it … yet I still find it frustrating when they do and the experience transports me immediately into the back row of GCSE maths where I fucked it up on a regular basis.

So when someone says “You think too much” or “You feel too much”, they are saying: “I wish I could be as thoughtful/feeling as them without worrying + their thoughtfulness/feeling-ness is threatening”. They’re expressing admiration, inability and fear – all in a few words. 

Step 2. The magical, invisible ‘too much’ scale

Someone who says you are ‘too much’ of anything is measuring you against a scale you have no knowledge of: their own. They have a ruler, a set of weights, one of those clicky things you roll along the ground, a barometer and they are measuring you against their own personal set of calculations.

There is no way you can come out on top in this measurement, because you don’t know what you’re meant to be measuring up against.

Consider the person who drinks one glass of wine a night, and the person who drinks one bottle every night (of course that first person is completely theoretical; once the bottle is open, it’s open).

Person A thinks Person B drinks ‘too much’. Person B doesn’t hang out with Person A any more. And Person C who is a teetotaller thinks they’re both glugging ‘too much’ vino.

Ad nauseum.

If someone says you think or feel ‘too much’, they are measuring you against a magical invisible scale only they can see in their head. They are measuring you against themselves.

And, very importantly:

Most people are afraid to interrogate their mind, also known as thinking.

Most people are afraid to engage with their heart, also known as feeling.

So it’s not hard to think or feel ‘too much’ in a world of people actively avoiding doing either of those things. 

Step 3. What is your ‘too much’?

Sometimes people will give you the ‘too much’ line because you are pursuing, attending, expressing, writing, designing, -ing a thing, and they believe the current way you are behaving is detrimental to achieving that thing.

Sometimes, they are right.

I have been told by dear and wonderful friends I have a tendency to “think too much” when it comes to love and friendship. They say I should roll with the punches, don’t ask unnecessary questions and try to avoid tangling myself up in my noggin.

In some instances, they are right: within the context of past relationships, I needed to think less and enjoy more – and I missed out because I didn’t do that.

In a previous job I was told I was “too bossy” and “too outspoken” to be pushing for what I was pushing for. At the time, I was angry and upset.

Now, I see they were right: within the context of that organisation, I needed to be more submissive and more diplomatic if I wanted to achieve my goal.

But (and here’s the good bit): you get to define what ‘too much’ means to you, and how you want to change things if you hit your own ‘too much’.

If you believe the way you are behaving is detrimental to you achieving what you want, to your life, to your relationships, then you can change that. If you don’t, then you don’t have to change. The key is to listen to yourself, to others, reflect and choose with confidence.

In the first example, I have chosen (and it’s a work in progress) to balance my natural tendency to think ‘too much’ with accepting that what will be, will be – and it’ll most likely be amazing. That means tapping into my feeling tendencies and allowing thoughts to come in, be jotted down, and drift away again. Meditation helps.

In the second example, I chose to not change my behaviour because being ‘bossy’ (a.k.a. confident) and outspoken was more important to me – and the idea of being submissive and diplomatic so unsavoury – than achieving what I wanted in that organisation.

And, it turns out lots of people like confident, outspoken individuals. Fuck yes!

You get to decide when thinking ‘too much’ or feeling ‘too much’ really is too much for you and the type of day, week, or life you’re having. Other people measure you by their standards – but you get to choose your behaviour based on yours.

Well done for making it this far (has it been ‘too much’?).

Releasing myself from the mythology of being ‘too much’ has allowed me to be me; that is, someone who is sometimes extreme, sometimes not, and most of the time just … who she is. I don’t have to play up to the ‘too much’ nor do I have to hide it. I can just be me.

Let today be full of you, as much or as little as you want.


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