You’re too intense. Too serious. Too quiet. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too…
Chances are you’ve had someone tell you that you’re “too” something. Perhaps it’s something from childhood that sticks around in your psyche, or maybe someone pointed it out yesterday at the grocery store.
The comment never feels helpful, yet the comment giver thinks they’re doing society a favor: ‘This person does fit my acceptable social norms, so I will shame them.’ Even if it’s not a conscious thought, that’s what it is.
Being called “too anything” is attempted shaming.
These kinds of comments linger, which highlights the strength of that exact kind of social shaming. It doesn’t even matter who made the comment. The intended message is clear:
You are different, and that’s bad. Tone it down.
When you’re young, the tendency is to believe that there’s something wrong with you. (It’s hard not to feel like this when you’re an adult too!) This is true especially for intense, gifted, and twice exceptional people because they often see all the things they don’t know or can’t do, while not valuing what they can do. They also may not realize that others don’t think or feel similarly. If they do see their differet qualities, they may not yet know where those qualities can exist as a positive.
Often when you’re an intense child (or even adult), it’s not easy to find your tribe. When my oldest was younger, he had one friend that had similar intensity, humor, and interest. It was refreshing. (Then we moved, but that’s another story.)
Adults can shrug off ‘Too Much’ comments more easily. If one hasn’t found a place where their intensities are celebrated though, it might still sting. It could also cause you to doubt if it’s good to be as “too” as you are. You might be tempted to tone it down, just in case. Maybe you should for the sake of others, right? We wouldn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable. (I hope you can hear my sarcasm.)
As a parent, you get the ‘Too Much’ from both sides.
You have your own intensities, and you get to experience the joy of everyone else’s. What fun! Particularly when you’ve been at home 24/7 with your family for months. There’s a lot of energy!
I’ve told my kids to ‘tone it down’ many times. I’d love to say it’s only when they’re singing with their new, bellowing teenage voices when I’m in a meeting. If I’m honest though, it’s when I’ve either tried to protect them or reduce someone else’s discomfort (sometimes mine).
It’s no fun for a parent to see their child as the odd one out or attracting unwanted attention. We all feel a need to be part of the group, for ourselves and our kids, even if it’s some imaginary version of ‘normal’. We know what’s best intellectually, yet sometimes worry, exhaustion, and exasperation win. Sometimes a lot.
We all have bad days.
If you look back generations, it was either dangerous or troublesome to be too different. Our families likely created their own ways of protecting each other, fitting in, and staying safe. Those generational patterns live within us, even when we now know it’s better to express ourselves and engage our intensities. It still feels scary at times, for ourselves and our kids. It feels safer to tone it down.
Don’t beat yourself up about wanting things to be ‘normal’. You inherited that message, so it’s what feels safe. Easier perhaps. Here are a few things to try if you find the intensity driving your bonkers:
- Give yourself a break. We all lose patience when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, which most parents are most of the time.
- You’re allowed to be human. Bring yourself back to what’s best for you, your children, and your family without the guilt. Guilt helps no one.
- Make it a conversation. Let your children know where the cultural impulse of “too much” and “tone it down” comes from: the need to fit in and be safe. Being different in any way makes people uncomfortable, as it calls their own behavior into question.
- Engage the intensity creatively. Guaranteed, everyone in the family can benefit from more play and creative expression. It could be messy and might not be easy, but it’s always positive.
- Move that body. This one seems counterintuitive, but movement helps discharge built up emotion. Whether it’s from your own intensity, or your responses to others’, physical activity always helps. #danceparty!
- Go for grace. Remember extended families are often the biggest purveyors of “too” shaming because those same patterns and coping strategies live within them as well. They may have never been able to fully express their intense feelings and interests, so believe it’s not safe for you either.
Space, grace, and movement help every time! 😉
Hi, I'm Cara Maclean, a coach who'd love to see you thrive. I work with rule-following moms who've realized the rules don't work. You're smart (gifted even), maybe with neurodiverse kids, and simply too good at making life work for everyone else. I created the AIR Method to help moms thrive on their own terms. I've also got a book coming Spring 2022, through GHF Press! 🥳
If you're ready thrive on your terms, sign up for a free 30 minute consult call here!