You’re (not) too much

I have a wish for you this year, as we begin a shiny new decade. May you embrace whatever is true for you. May you embrace your “too.”

“Too” as in when friends or family tell you that you are “too fill-in-the blank.” Too smart. Too sassy. Too independent. Too sensitive. Too brash. Too bookish. You know what your “too” is. You don’t even have to think about it. Am I right? Because most of us have been walking around with this label from a very young age. Even the most enlightened parents cannot save us from the schoolyard bullies, the mean girls, the “well-meaning” bosses and teachers. And for some of us, the “too” began at home with those who were supposed to love us best.

Pop star Pink told a really moving and powerful story at the VMA Awards in 2017, as she accepted her honor. Here’s a shortened version of it:

“Recently, I was driving my daughter to school and she said to me, out of the blue, ‘Mama?’ I said, ‘Yes, baby?’ She said, ‘I’m the ugliest girl I know.’ And I said, ‘Huh?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, I look like a boy with long hair.’ And my brain went to, ‘Oh my god, you’re six. Why? Where is this coming from?’ 

 . . . I said, ‘Well what do you think I look like?’ And she said, ‘Well you’re beautiful.’ And I was like, ‘Well, thanks. But when people make fun of me, that’s what they use. They say I look like a boy or I’m too masculine or I have too many opinions, my body is too strong.’

And I said to her, ‘Do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘No, mama.’ I said, ‘Do you see me changing my body?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?’ ‘Yes, Mama.’ ‘OK! So, baby girl. We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl.” 

Now that’s wisdom.

But let’s move beyond talking solely about appearance. Most of us come into this world with a trait or a talent that may make others uncomfortable. Or maybe they appreciate it but they don’t understand our full-fledged passion for it. Yet that same trait is usually the light that we share with others, the one that shines into some dark places.

It may be what makes us write a book or a song, brave adversity, fight like hell for what’s good and true. Bottom line—it’s integral to who we are. It’s our secret sauce. It’s my friend Traci’s over-the-top love for humanity, which made her an amazing social worker. It’s my friend Matt’s ability to cut to the core of any issue, bluntly. That made him a good C-suite executive. But in both cases, people around these movers and shakers may not have liked what was being offered to them. No matter, those gifts—from a huge hug to a clarity that sometimes stings—served a higher purpose.

I was a smart girl. “Too smart.” That made some of the kids around me uncomfortable in grade school, especially the ones who struggled with academics. It made the boys wonder what to do with someone who was more an equal than a giggly sidekick.

I was “too headstrong.” Still may be (wink, wink). That made my mother uncomfortable because she could not keep me close to home, dictate my friend circle, control my opinions to ensure they meshed with hers.

Are the wheels in your head turning yet? Are you walking down your own version of memory lane? Good. Stay with me.

I’m recalling umpteen conversations with well-meaning friends—friends who love me—in which I’m grilled on why I don’t date more. Or where a quick meeting for drinks or dinner turns into them scanning the bar or dining room for eligible men—for me, of course. Where they tell me I have to “get out there more.” I hear that I’m “too picky,” “too nonchalant,” and yes—“too independent.”

I want to be loved. Truth be told, as the youngest from a big family who live hundreds of miles away, I get lonely sometimes. I’m used to chaos and loud dinners and good-natured teasing. I envisioned marriage, a big family of my own, a busy house and a husband with whom I’d grow old and wise. And even sassier.

As it turns out, life took a detour. I try to see that in a positive light. I am alone, yes, as I was much of my childhood. I chose then to be alone with my books and my writing and my thoughts. And now, decades later, I am alone with my books and my writing and my thoughts. As I have been, really, throughout my life to varying degrees. While I know that can’t be a steady diet for weeks on end, there are times when my creative soul just needs to be alone so I can hear what it is I’m meant to say when I put virtual pen to virtual paper. It brings me joy.

And even when it doesn’t—when it’s frustrating and hard and I feel I have nothing of worth to write—it does. Because I write whether I’m read or not. Always will. That’s what a real writer does.

My well-meaning friends—who are educators, managers, doctors and lawyers—don’t understand. And the words that tumble out of their mouths, sometimes, seem to indicate that I should care more about finding someone. “Oh, I do care,” I say to them. It’s just that I’ve always cared about this other thing—my writing—more. I want to be loved. (But it’s going to take a really unique someone, as I tromp through the house musing about something in my writer’s outfits. Which is really a fancy phrase for baggy pants and misshapen sweaters and big fuzzy socks with my hair every which way—all while sporting my purple glasses. A fetching look, no? As I said, it’s going to take a really unique someone.)

Thank God I was too smart. Had I been a giggly sidekick, I would not have been able to get out of what had become an unhealthy marriage and support my kids.

As for being too headstrong, how fortuitous. Because without that trait, I’d never have moved to the Big City, had the career I’ve had, been published as many times. It takes a hard head to withstand all the hard knocks that come with putting yourself out there for a living.

In the same vein, thank goodness my friend Traci oozes love from every pore. She impacted her clients in a way social workers without that love can’t even imagine.

“Too” simply precedes someone else’s inability to stomach your particular brand of magic. You’re not for everyone, sweet thing. No one is. And anyone who puts “too” in front of a descriptor for you is probably not deserving of a front-row seat to your starring role. That’s ok. It’s as it should be.

So as you begin 2020, embrace whatever it is that puts you over the top. Some of us can’t wait to see it, to hear it, to feel it, to experience it. And if it brings you joy, it’ll likely bring joy to the world around you. You’re not too much. Trust me, you’re just right.

 

50 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen Lang says:

    The greatest freedom we can discover, is to embrace all that we are in this life, warts and all; without apologies to anyone. You are definitely unfolding that within! And So glad you continue to share your gift of writing with us 👏💚💚👏

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Karen! Unfolding in my 50s. Who would have thought?!😉

  2. Your writing is a great pick me up for everyone❤️ It’s so essential we all remember to play our lead role , with heads held high in life’s stage production of Me, My Magnificent Self! IAM sure when you’re ready mr. unique will be standing there in his slippers, wondering wheee you’re been! Imagine what he’s wearing and telling you, what you do together and don’t stop until it happens🥰 much love, and Thankyou for your inspiring writing, Barbara x

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Kind words on my writing and wise ones on manifesting!

  3. What a great way to start 2020 … yes you are amazing! You’re not too much! Trust me you are just right! Wonderful!

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thank you, Julie:). Right back ‘atcha!

  4. Well, that was amazing. You…are amazing. Thank you for this. ♥️

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad you liked it. Welcome!

  5. nights7 says:

    Great post! You and I share some of the same too’s. My exhusband used to bring the Too Smart up way too much. He used to use that as a weapon against me, calling me Little Miss Know-it All and frequently saying I thought I was Sooooo much smarter than everyone else. The actual problem was that I didn’t recognize my intelligence, I didn’t own my Too.

    No worries though, I’m good now. Over the years I’ve gotten to know myself better and embrace all the things that not everyone loves about me.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad you own your Too! It’s not always easy, I know, but it is the secret sauce we each bring to the world :-).

  6. There are so many things about this I love! I’m with you on this one. Sometimes I’m too much for others and I’m learning that’s okay! I’m learning to like my own self and traveling at my pace! Even when it’s not with the crowd. I don’t think it would be anyway because the crowd wears me out quickly. I prefer my leggings, big shirt, quiet driveway and my own writing place! And you, friend, are not too much! 😁

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you😊. Kind words. I’m glad this one resonated with you!

  7. markbialczak says:

    As I’ve been reading your words these years, Kay, I envision a person who makes the most out of your mind and what buzzes about in this big world all around it. No too ways about it.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, I see what you did there😉. Thank you for the kind words and the years of reading, Mark. Much appreciated!

  8. fritzdenis says:

    I was too emotional as a kid. A friend told me a few years ago that my paintings were too emotional. I recently read a short story that someone near and dear found too grim, too dark. Thank you so much for this post.

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s all so subjective, right? If you don’t have a firm grounding in what you are, you could easily go down a rabbit hole . . .

  9. Love this post, Kristine! I’ve been called “too sensitive” many times in the past, but I’ve grown to embrace it as a part of who I am. I don’t think I could have written my novels without that trait, to be honest. And being too sensitive sure beats hell out of being insensitive. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Exactly, Jennifer. Your sensitivity is necessary for you to be able to go into the inner world that allows you to write. I’m so glad you embrace it!

  10. Masha says:

    Oh I love this Kay, I watched that award, thanks for the reminder because I forgot what Pink said. For many years I hid myself away because I didn’t want anyone to see that I was “too” much this, or that. I kept myself small not to offend anyone, or have them laugh at me. Now I’m in a completely different place and I love my “too” and I love being alone, and like you Kay I need my time to write, to think, to just be me. Wishing you all the best in 2020

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Masha, I just love hearing this. The fact that you have stopped worrying about trying to be “less than” so as not to ruffle feathers. I’m glad you love your “TOO” and I am sure it is part of the special gift to bring to us all.

  11. Jane Fritz says:

    Great post, Kay. And your words of wisdom remind me of my favourite question (out of 50 great questions) on Some Kind of 50’s self-awareness questionnaire: Do you believe in yourself?

    1. candidkay says:

      Right? If we can’t love ourselves, who can? Thank you for the kind words, Jane. Happy new year!

  12. Take the gravel and the shell and make a pearl. I love that (thank you, and thank you Pink). And I also love that image of you in your baggy pants, fuzzy socks and purple glasses! Yes…my mirror often shows me something similar when I’m in writing mode! Two years ago today I was in England, visiting the place the Bronte sisters lived, and I bought a card with a quote from Charlotte Bronte: “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.” I reckon those three Bronte girls were also told they were “too…” something. Here’s to being over the top! Great post.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Lee, it is always so good to hear from you :-). And I love knowing that I have a soul sister down Under who is wearing her own version of a crazy writing outfit. I bet the Brontë sisters had their own version of it.

      1. Right now it is so hot here that my usual writing outfit is a sarong! I figure the Bronte sisters would have had something a touch warmer but definitely something not to be seen in outside the house!

      2. candidkay says:

        I think that sounds very exotic! At least you’re not a frumpy writer:)>.

      3. Oh, in the winter I am! Just as you described yourself…baggy sweat pants, slippers, hair all over the place! 🙂 Always mortified if parcel deliveries arrive unexpectedly!!

      4. candidkay says:

        I know the feeling!😱

  13. Wise words dear lady, and very well written. This life removes all those ‘conditions’ that we and others brand us with, to finally be at rest with that love and happiness we have always looked for…the unconditional variety 😀 ❤️ 🙏🏽 🦋 🦘

    1. candidkay says:

      And our world seems to be having a bit of trouble with the “unconditional” bit right now.

      1. Just a wee bit. But that is how it creates its balance. It has to go ‘too’ far one way to realise that it isn’t acceptable and begin the journey back, even to the point of over doing it in the opposite way. Just like us 😀

  14. Good stuff Kristine. Self acceptance has been a hard and loving gift to offer myself.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad you’ve been able to offer it to yourself. I think it is a hard life when you’re self-critical.

      1. Yes, it was hard until the last few years when I’ve grown more accepting and compassionate toward myself. It sounds like you’re in a similar place.

      2. candidkay says:

        I certainly am trying. I think it will be something that I will work on for my entire life-I think a lot of us do. But it sure feels good when I get it right :-). I’m glad you’ve gotten to a better place.

      3. Agreed on these being life long challenges, and yet as my self-acceptance grows I find less desire or need to work on myself. Not that I live in total peace or acceptance. I just visit more often. 🙂

  15. Judy says:

    “You are never too much. You are always enough.” ~ Jon Jorgenson

  16. Yes. We should be true to ourselves. That often involves having courage.

    There’s a lot to ponder in your essay. Thanks for that.

    Neil Scheinin

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Neil. I really don’t know how else to live. I kind of feel sorry for the people who do.

  17. Robin says:

    Wonderful! I love this. I’ve embraced my “too” (and celebrate it, while I’m at it). Wishing you a wonderful 2020. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad you do! Whatever it is, I am sure that the world needs it :-).

  18. Yes, Kay. Like you, I am too, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told those too’s. “Too hard on yourself.” “Too sensitive.” Too ambitious.” The best one from my second wife was “too gentle to live among wolves.” Wishing you the best 2020.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh boy. I am not sure if she meant that as a compliment or an insult, but either way, I’m not sure that one would be easy to take without getting defensive. It’s just so definitive. Doesn’t really leave any shades of gray.

      1. She meant it as part of the rationale for accepting my decision to go our separate ways. She and her associates were pretty hard to deal with and she labelled herself and them as as wolves. I actually admired the realisation.

      2. candidkay says:

        Ah, Now I see. In that case, it was said in a good context.

  19. Dale says:

    Excellent and on the money, as per, Missy. Using “too” in front of a descriptor has the same effect as adding a “really?” to someone’s comment. Both of them are rooted in disbelief in the other. Like that Marianne Williamson quote about not being afraid to shine our light – I’m sure you know it but just in case, here it is: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/928-our-deepest-fear-is-not-that-we-are-inadequate-our We become “too” when we are no longer afraid, don’t you think?
    I honestly no longer remember which “too” (s) have been or were assigned to me since I basically have gone deaf to them. Or maybe they have stopped using it with me. Either way, Let ‘er rip!

    1. candidkay says:

      That Marianne Williamson quote is one of my very favorites! And I am so glad that you no longer pay attention to the critics. I find they are generally people who are not doing enough in their own lives anyway. Here’s to a phenomenal 2020 for both of us, Dale!

      1. Dale says:

        It is one of mine, too.
        One of my other ones is by Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – and that’s when we become “too” 😉
        Yes! A phenomenal 2020 for us both! 💖🥂

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