Feeling like too much

man covering face with both hands while sitting on bench

I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to get the message that whatever we are, we are not enough. Or we are way too much.

I think about this as a parent because I sometimes become overwhelmed when my kids are especially needy and one more tearful episode threatens to push me over the edge.

And I think about this as a former child who was often pushing my parents over the edge with my own needy intensity.

Somehow we got the idea that we are all supposed to be even keeled all the live long day. Maybe one too many readings of Goldilocks gave us the illusion that “just right” is a worthy goal. In any case, most of us got the message that when we were at our most emotional — most angry, sad and even happy — that we were too much.

It’s why people apologize for crying in therapy; they worry that they’re too much for me; at some point they internalized the message that crying is a violation, that feelings in general are a violation.

Sometimes the people I work with think that any negative feeling whatsoever is a failure, that experiencing a negative emotion is proof that they’re unreasonably out of control. They chastise themselves for not being more placid. They tell me stories of loss and conflict and crisis and beat themselves up for being sad and angry, for not being at the top of their emotional game.

Speaking up

Feelings are a language and if we strangle that language, we stop our healing. We have to find ways to acknowledge and express all the big messiness of being a human being, which is hard when we’ve spent most of our lives trying to stifle ourselves for being too much (overwhelming others with our very selves) or not enough (unable to ignore our own needs to attend to the needs of others).

You may have to stay calm, cool and collected at the job or with your kids but you will function better if you are able to find ways to give space to your necessary selfishness, your need to be present only for yourself.

Do you have a friend who will take your calls when you are at your worst? Or is there a group whose members will accept you whatever you bring to them? Or a therapist whose office will be a safe space to share all of your messiest feelings? Because you are allowed to have messy feelings.

You deserve this.

You are not too much. You are not too little. You are enough. You deserve a space where no matter what you show up with, no matter how full or how empty you feel, you will be just right.