Most of us women have a list of these messages a mile long, messages delivered explicitly or implicitly, well-intended or ill-intended across childhood, adolescence, and our adult years.
These messages may have come from our families, our teachers, our coaches, our siblings and peers, and then later, our lovers, co-workers, and even our in-laws. And certainly, all of us growing up as a woman in this world received some version of these messages from society as a collective.
At it’s core, each message delivered a warning: “You’re too much. STOP.”
And many times, we likely listened. Because when everyone around us is telling us we’re too this or that, it’s hard to not believe, isn’t it?
But what if you weren’t too much? What if it said far more about the people delivering the messages than about you? What if you could believe something different and really embrace your “muchness”?
In today’s post I want to tell you about the one critical question you need to ask if you’ve ever been told you’re too much, why being “too much” is a personal and political issue, talk with you about reclaiming your “muchness,” and share a list of nourishing resources to help counteract those damaging “you’re too much!” messages.
Too much for who?
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung
The single most important question you can ask yourself if ever you’ve been delivered the message, “you’re too much!” is this: “Too much for who?”
You need to consider the source and context of who exactly it is delivering the message and then be curious: Is it someone who was also taught to keep herself small? Someone who swallowed whole the belief that a woman can only take up so much space? Is it someone who personally feels threatened by anger and therefore reacts strongly when you show anger?
Bottom line: If someone is giving you the message that you’re “too much” in some way, be aware that that person has likely disowned that part within themselves and is now projecting that unwanted attribute/characteristic onto you. In this way, it says far more about the person delivering the message and what they believe is acceptable or unacceptable for themselves than it does about you personally.
Look, we’re all products of our experience and if the person telling you that “you’re too much” was conditioned to believe his or her own deep and strong feelings, needs, wants, dreams and hungers were “too much,” it’s likely she will unconsciously project this message onto you.
That’s what we as humans do. We project all over one another if we don’t make the unconscious conscious.
So the next time you’re delivered this message, always consider the context and ask yourself, “I’m too much for who?”
Because I can promise you: there are many, many people out there who you would likely NOT be too much for.
Especially not for those people have done their personal work and learned how to reclaim and accept those parts – their deep and strong feelings, needs, wants, dreams and hungers – within themselves. For those people, you are probably not too much.
And remember: “too much” is a personal and political issue.
“Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.” – Lois Wyse
A woman who is told she is “too much” is, in my professional opinion, as much as political issue as it is a personal issue.
What do I mean by this?
Well, to quote the famous feminist phrase, “the personal is political.”
This term – coined in the 1960’s to underscore how what was happening in an individual woman’s home lives (access to reproductive rights, wage equality, etc.) was a universal social and political issue – can, I think, also apply to what women have to deal with on a psychological level, too.
Since time immemorial, women’s power, presence, and emotionality has often been perceived as a threat by certain institutions and certain populations in power.
The arc of history is littered with examples of this (the one-time pervasive medical diagnosis of “female hysteria” being but one small example) and remnants of this mindset linger still today in the way society collectively attempts (and succeeds) at silencing, objectifying, labelling, and keeping women small: Small in size (“Don’t get fat!”); Small in volume (“Don’t be so shrill!”); Small in accomplishments (“Isn’t being a mother and wife enough for you?”); Small in financial prosperity (.79 cents for every dollar a man makes.); and so on.
Through this lens, you being told you’re “too much” is as much a political issue as it is a personal issue.
Think about it: where did those around you learn those messages themselves? At some level in this society we’re all conditioned to believe that being “too much” as a woman is a Bad Thing. Hearing that you’re “too much” from your family/friends/coworkers/lovers is as much a political issue as it is a personal issue.
So the next time you hear this message, remember that women throughout the ages have had to deal with this very same message.
I say this not to diminish your personal experience, but rather to help you hold and consider that what you’re struggling with if you receive those messages is a product of a much larger, more systemic, entrenched social and political problem.
So what do you do about it?
Reclaiming your “muchness.”
“You’re not the same as you were before,” he said. You were much more… muchier… you’ve lost your muchness.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
I loved that moment in the 2010 film version of Alice in Wonderland when the Mad Hatter told Alice she’d lost her “muchness.”
Muchness may be a made-up word but I think it perfectly captures the idea of wholeness, vitality, aliveness, uniqueness, loudness, boldness.
Muchness is, what I imagine, happens when a woman reclaims, owns and accepts all parts of herself despite what others would have her be/do/say.
In other words, “muchness” is what happens when a woman psychologically integrates herself.
Luckily, when it comes to reclaiming our own muchness, none of us need go up against a Jabberwocky (unless it’s the proverbial psychological Jabberwocky struggle in our soul that would sooner keep us quiet!).
Instead, what we are called upon to do is to acknowledge, own, and accept the parts of us we may have muted, gagged, bound, stifled and tucked deep down inside of us (or whatever flavor of coping you chose for fear of the consequences of “being too much”).
This is the work of psychological reclaiming.
The work of psychological reclaiming is not some bulleted step-by-step guidance I can script out in this article. Instead it’s a journey. A long, ever-unfolding psychological journey akin to an archaeology dig where you get in touch with all of you – your loudness, your bigness, your lusts, your dreams, your hungers, your deep desires and big feelings – and work to accept and allow all of these parts back into your life again.
This is how you reclaim your “muchness.”
So if you’ve ever been told that you’re “too much” or any other iteration of this message AND you’ve felt shame, guilt, or rejection about these parts of you, that’s a terrific starting point for doing some self-reflection, boundary-setting, some therapy, some psychological reclaiming work on parts of you that may still need to be integrated within yourself.
The next time someone tells you that you’re “too much” and you feel shame, consider this a gift and an opportunity, a doorway into reclaiming this part of you, your “muchness.”
Resources to support your “muchness.”
“Even to me the issue of “stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest” sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is that women still run into those demands whenever we find and use our voices.” – Brené Brown, PhD
We as women still, sadly, live in a world that would sooner see us small, quiet, and pleasing than to be “too much” of anything, really.
(We needn’t look further for reinforcement of this double bind of being a modern woman than the sexist hyper-scrutiny of her emotionality, composure, and relatability that Hillary Clinton is facing in this presidential campaign.)
But when we steep and surround ourselves with supports that actually encourage us to be more of who we are, resources that call out and nurture all those disowned and rejected parts of ourselves, when we keep company with those who are not intimidated by our bigness, loudness, boldness, intelligence, ambition, hungers, etc., we give ourselves the nurturing and permission we may need to reclaim our “muchness.”
This list of resources below at the close of the article is but a small collection of supports that I’ve personally found valuable.
And I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about any additional resources that you’ve found or come across that have helped encourage you to step more into your “muchness.” Leave a message in the comments below so our community of blog readers can benefit from your wisdom.
If you would like additional support right now and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together.
Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.
And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.
- Succulent Wild Woman by SARK
- Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Every Woman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD
- Women and Spirituality, a trio of documentaries exploring the power of the sacred feminine in mythological, historical, and cultural contexts
- Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD
- The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler, JD
An excellent article! Thank you very much! And glad to see the book Chalice and the Blade listed here – it has been a very important read for me – and remains a milestone book for me. Had done a book review of it for my organisational news magazine decades ago and cherish it even to this day.
I’m so glad you liked the article, Kavita! And I love that you like “Chalice and the Blade”, too. It’s such an amazing book with really pivotal, perspective shifting messages. I’m glad you did a book review of it! Warmly, Annie
I think this was such a great read! Love the Alice in Wonderland quote. Let’s stay up and be bold women and not loose our Muchness, in a society that would much rather see us stay down.
Janis, I’m so glad this resonated with you. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Warmly, Annie
Thank you for this article. Recently I was a topic of conversation by family members all telling tales of how in one way or another how my life and myself had always been too much… I pondered thoughtfully and researched what they had said thinking it was me.. then I realized it had nothing to do with me but the insecurities and passionless lives of people who were content to just be. Here are to the TooMuchers of the World!!!
Deborah, I’m so sorry that you had to experience that. But you are absolutely correct. This experience is not a reflection of who you are, and I’m so proud of you for acknowledging that. Thank you for sharing your experience and your wisdom. Warmly, Annie
Admittedly, I went into a research spiral last night and came across this article. I have unequivocally lost my muchness and it breaks my heart. I am sure anyone can relate how awful the last 18 months has been, and working as a mental health attorney has me by the throat. Our entire office worked endless days and nights to save a population grossly underrepresented, forgotten, and the first to die last year. After many insults, endless “emergencies” (whether they actually were or not), I finally scheduled a surgery just so I could have a block of time off. My boss called me the very next day to ask questions about an appeal. I was still feeling the effects of anesthesia and begged my co-counsel to make the decision and that I trusted her. I could reproduce a litany of things, but will get to the point. Yesterday, we had a meeting with our 4 interns, myself, co-counsel on the briefs and our boss. In front of everyone, boss lady said I was “too much sometimes” in my writing and I can only assume my presentation. I couldn’t adequately respond but judging by everyone else’s reaction, I had indeed heard it right. I have cried countless times this past year (hard to admit because it’s something I don’t do all willy nilly) trying to do justice by my clients, to my office and myself but this did me in. I have no backup plan, but my resignation letter is written. Thank you for this article, and others inspired by it. We have a long way to go as a species, but it makes me feel more human when I read things like this. Again, thank you.
Hi, Christina. Thank you for all that you do! Being a mental health attorney is such important work, and I appreciate you writing in and sharing your experience. I’m so deeply proud of you for consistently showing up for yourself, your clients, and your whole office. You’re strong and brave, and I’m very pleased to hear that you’re allowing yourself some rest. Comments and stories like yours are my driving force for writing these posts, so thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with me. Take such good care of yourself, Christina. Warmly, Annie.
Seeking muchness on
Oh my God I totally relate tho this!!!! This article is amazing and this comment made me 😢. I feel you sister, and the trouble with balancing it all and keeping a brave face is really what is too much! I learned on my last job what workplace abuse looks, feels, smells, and tastes like. Often what is wanted is for us to bend over, take it, and shut up,! Tactfully I was able to navigate among the swine, horrible bosses, and insecure women of the world seeking to devour the energies of those they despise because of what they despise in themselves. I’ve alienated myself from so many people that are indeed toxic. I’m also not a victim and refuse to be treated like one. Not ready for therapy. But i love this.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, I’m so glad that this post resonated with you! I applaud you for taking care of yourself by creating and maintaining boundaries, this is such an important act of self-care. I truly love the sense of community we have built here and the way you support each other in sharing your stories. Please take care and know I am sending you my very best.
Danielle Tannhauser on
I’m currently riding the roller coaster of transitioning after a having gone out on a date with a man who asked one of the most basic questions in the world: Tell me about yourself. This. I needed this read so so much. Thank you.
Hi Danielle, thank you for leaving a comment! I’m so pleased that this post felt supportive to you. Warmly, Annie.
I have been told by the guy I am dating “I am to much”. This just gave me so much clarity. I don’t want to continue to think I am not enough or to much for people. I just know what I want and I don’t tone it down.
Hi Erika, thank you so much for leaving a comment. I’m happy this post provided some clarity and wish you the best as you continue on your healing journey. Warmly, Annie.
Amy McFerron on
Thank you I needed this. My 2 boys say this to me all the time I am divorced from both their fathers.
It’s very hurtful and delivered on n such a negative way.
Hi Amy, you’re so welcome! I’m pleased this post could validate you even a little bit and I’m so sorry that you have to experience that kind of criticism, especially from your children. I hope you can bear the article in mind the next time this happens and I hope that it’s a comfort. Warmly, Annie
Melinda Heredia on
I’m curious what it means when it comes from your children- the critique/criticism of “too muchness”- coupled with “why can’t you be more like so-and-so who is ‘just right’”… asking for a friend
Thank you for your excellent question, I’m sure many parents will be able to relate to this. It can sometimes feel like our children are our harshest critics, especially in those teen years! Part of the answer could be the natural process of pulling away that all children must do as they grow into their independence. Please tell your friend that they are doing their best and that there might be someone out there who is asking their own parent “why can’t they be more like” YOU.
I’m sending you my very best.
I stumbled upon this glorious article today. I hear that phrase so much. I’m starting to believe it. Makes me depressed, and puts me into the state of self isolation because I feel like such a burden for so many others. I hear it so much, pIm starting to believe it.
I am grateful to have found this. I love the quote.
Hi April, I’m so pleased that this post resonated with you and hopefully brought even the smallest bit of comfort. You’re absolutely not a burden and you’re not alone in how you feel.
If either of my online courses – Hard Families, Good Boundaries, or the forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School – could be of support to you as you progress and continue along with your grieving and sense-making journey, I’d love to be of support to you. In the meantime, please know I’m sending you my very best. Warmly, Annie
Madison R Buske on
I told my boyfriend the other day that he was “too much”. I should never have said such a thing. I know now how horrible and exactly how deep that hurt. I hope him and I can work through this…
Hi Madison, it says a lot about you that you’re even reflecting on what you said and that it matters to you how it might have impacted him. As I always say to my therapy client: in relationship, rupture is inevitable; it’s the repair that counts. So what that means is that if you can talk to him about it and show up for that conversation and take responsibility – that’s really what matters in a relationship longterm. Warmly, Annie
karina lopez on
You have no idea how bad i needed this! I often find myself not being good enough or “too much”. Thank you, is all i can say, you mended a broken heart in the process of shattering.😁😘
Thank you for your kind comment! I’m so pleased that this post resonated with you and helped to heal your heart. Please know that you are good enough and “just right”. Take such good care of yourself, you’re so worth it.
I have been told i am “too much” “too depressed” “too hyper” i refuse to be pigeonholed by the norm, even if they are family, – why should i laugh quieter?! why should i get over multiple deaths of my closest friends on your time schedule?! – I DONT! maybe if i am too much for them, they simply are not enough for me anymore, i am non judgemental and whole heartedly love these people and sometimes i question why, but i have spent my life trying to be the opposite of them, as i would hate anyone to feel the way they ever made me feel, i actually take great pride in not being like them, being able to be loud, to not be afraid of my emotions, to laugh until i cry and be larger than life and have some of the most extraordinary experiences.
This article has brought me great comfort after some words said this morning, i am the only person who can be me, why brighten my shine, all of my friends and the love of my life that past within the last year, loved me entirely even on my cripplingly bad days, those were the people there for me, my CHOSEN family, I was NEVER too much for them.
One day i will find another group of extraordinary, intelligent, wonderful and sparkling humans, when i do, my cup will be a little fuller and we will all shine! we will all be loud, brash, laugh, be non judgmental and have the best time.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, I’m so pleased that this post resonated with you! I hope you continue to laugh loudly and love whole heartedly on your way to finding your group of fellow sparkling humans. Sending you my very best.
Just a quick question about the movies in the resource list- can you share the names of them? I am not sure which ones to look for at the site, there are many films listed! Thank you for your work and writings.
Thanks for your question and comment. The series of documentaries is called, Women and Spirituality: The Goddess Trilogy. The individual titles are, “Goddess Remembered”, “Burning Times”, and, “Full Circle”. I hope this helps! Sending you my best.
Katie “Too Much” Torcolese on
Gosh, thank you so much for writing this. I felt so alone in feeling this way but I feel much more proud of myself after reading this. Knowing that I’m one of the people who won’t let other’s opinions of what “too much” is to them affect and change who I am at my core makes me feel incredibly powerful. At least I’m not shallow and I’m not afraid to dig deep. This really reminded me that I don’t need to be around people who find me to be “too much.” Like okay, then go talk to someone else, it’s not my problem!
I’m glad you found this post helpful! Keep being proud of yourself and remember, you’re never too much for the right people. Sending you my best.
Elizabeth Mucker on
Got broken up with a few months ago because I was “too loud”. It’s really been messing with me. I’m “a great person but” I’m “too loud”. This article helped me feel better about it!
Thanks for taking the time to comment – I’m so pleased this resonated with you and I hope it was able to provide a little reassurance! I’m sending you my very best.
I am so happy I found this article!
I’ve been through a healing journey for the past 3 years, and I have changed so much, I’m not as insecure, my self esteem is amazing, I’ve noticed my change and how powerful I’m becoming, I opened my ow business, forgave my father, i am a completely new woman! And I love it. My husband of 14 years told me that he does not like the “new me” and is not sure if he would ever, he mentioned how this new me is so strong, and determined, that nothing can’t derailed her. And wow. To say that I’m heartbroken is an understatement. Thanks for writing this, so powerful, so real, and for also giving making me feel I’m not alone.