I have believed for most of my life that “I am too much.” This was told to me when I was younger, and more directly as a teen, and then frequently by my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I suppose that the term “too much” applies to a lot of things. I took it to mean, that I – my being, my soul, my needs, my personality, me-being-me – was too much for people to like, and therefor to be loved I needed to just scale back. Essentially, I couldn't be the all-out “me” and be loved.
I have been addressing this belief, and had some significant breakthroughs in this area. I’m glad to say that I am embracing the idea that I am OK, and that indeed I am not too much. That I am OK the way I was created to be; that my high-spirited, live-out-loud, expressive, sensual, emotional, analytical self is just who I am. In my quest to be authentic and genuinely the person God created me to be, I am finally accepting that there is a reason that I am made the way I am.
Today it occurred to me that what is really meant by “too much” isn't that there is something wrong with me – implying I am defective, eliciting shame – but that some of my behavior relates more to a containment boundary. If I am behaving loudly, for instance, and someone asks me to tone it down, it just means that my behavior may be offensive or that my behavior is undesirable. I am not undesirable or unlovable. My tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve – that is to be expressly emotional with my feelings – is uncomfortable for some people. In these cases, my way of behaving may be “too much” for them. I can accept that this is not about me, but about them. I can accept that some like it one way and some like it another. I do not have to “change” in order to be loved. I can choose whether I want to contain my behaviors in order to respect the boundaries of others. That is my choice, and it is about loving myself and accepting that I am the way I am. However, I can love others by containing my behavior which does affect others.
Containment is about recognizing my choices. I may choose to respect another’s request or boundaries by modifying my behavior. Not because I am defective, but because of my desire to be loving and respectful. A request doesn't mean I have to honor it; it doesn't mean that I am unworthy, unlovable, broken, or any of the shame labels I have given myself in the past. A request is simply that: a request. A judgment, preference, or indifference over behavior is not equal to judging, preferring, or rejecting the person. This realization is a rather significant “a-ha” moment for me because I haven’t gotten this until now! Out of respect for myself and/or others I may choose to remove myself rather than contain myself in a way that is disingenuous or feels unauthentic. This is a perfectly reasonable option. That just occurred to me! It is simply another choice.
Telling me “You’re too much” was translated to “I’m not right; I’m not good enough; I can’t be loved the way I am, so in order to be loved I must change who I am.” Just how does one go about changing who we are anyway? My solution was to hide, to minimize my needs and the pain of feeling rejected, to turn on myself by believing I was defective, to medicate, and ultimately not be the “real me” to the world. Oh, there were glimpses, there were times when my inhibitions were let loose. There were those people that embraced my larger-than-life ways. Thank God for those times. Thank God for those people who loved me in spite of myself. But over time, by-and-large, I just became less and less of myself -- essentially shrinking on the inside, while getting larger and larger on the outside.
Fifteen months into therapy and recovery, and I’m seeing some Healing Lane victory laps! It is still such a day-to-day challenge. I feel up one and down the next. It seems there is no shortage of issues to address, emotions to reconcile, issues to process. Ah, but isn't that always the case? I’m still rather new at this, but I’m starting to flow in this whole “awareness” thing. I’m starting to figure this out on my own, or so I hope. This containment revelation is so new (I did say "today" by the way) it hasn't passed the Debra session yet. It appears I’m getting rather confident in myself. Whew! That says a lot in and of itself! With that, it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, which is of course, while cruising along, windows down, enjoying the ride through The Healing Lane. Today has been a great day! Full moon Saturday night, here I am (too much, ya think?)!!