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"Too Much" & the HSP

Have you ever felt that you were “too much”? If so, when did you learn that?

When I was younger, I got so excited about things that were important to me. During a rave about how elephants have an entire system of communication that scientists were just starting to understand (I was always into science-y things!) – a friend commented, “Your enthusiasm is so annoying! This is why no one sits with you sometimes. They don’t care about stupid elephants!”

That’s when I learned to tone it down a bit because being too happy wasn’t cool and made me unlikeable.

When I was a teenager and angry, as teens often are, my stepmother would walk past me as if she couldn’t see me. We moved around each other like magnets flipped to the wrong side.

That’s when I learned that anger was bad and made me someone not worthy of talking to or even acknowledgment.

The list could go on and on.

Our experiences like this teach a resounding lesson sometimes that works out generally, “My needs make other people leave” or, “Needing things makes me unworthy of love.”

When and where did you learn that your passion for politics was too much? Or that your fashion sense was too much, your love for silly house shoes too loud?

From these “lessons” we walk away with an idea: I am too much.

But…you really aren’t.

When you give yourself permission to really enthusiastically learn and dive into things that spark your passion or enthusiasm, you’re participating in your own life more deeply. When you’re brave enough to show or tell someone how you feel about a topic or situation, you’re showing up, as you.

“Too much” is a phrase I hear many of my HSP (highly sensitive person) clients use a lot in describing their experiences and emotions, but quite often they use it to describe how they believe others are receiving them.

HSP’s always find this acronym helpful in explaining the way they experience the world:

D – deeply processing things

O – overstimulation from deeply processing things and picking up on more than about 80% of people

E – emotional reactivity and empathy

S – sensory sensitivity or picking up on things others don’t

If you’re picking up on subtle things around you, processing them more deeply, feeling more deeply, and then having bigger emotions (more enthusiasm about elephant communication, for example), you may wind up feeling like you’re too much.

That hurts. It’s like being told there’s not enough space for you in the world. It can also feel like being surrounded by people that don’t understand you, which winds up feeling lonely for many.

Many people with HSP trait, and women in particular work very hard at shrinking themselves or playing “cool girl” in their groups of friends or romantic relationships. Working hard to be small and tone it down means that no one ever knows or sees the real you, and the connections you do make will be ones where you never know if you fit, and when a bit of that “you” comes sneaking in sometime, your “friends” may be surprised, leaving you feeling rejected all over again.

For your consideration:

Invite the fullness of yourself out, to find your people. You’re not attracting people who know the you-you if you’re not expressing your genuine self with them.

Take your time inviting all of you into each situation in a healthy way (this could be a whole topic in itself!).

Learn to express your feelings logically to people you are building connections with. No one wants to listen when we’re yelling and healthy communication includes sharing, and sharing well.

But the main point…

When someone communicates to you that you’re too much, they’re telling you things about themselves.

Emotions and needs may seem intense to people or “too much” for people who learned to tamp down their own feelings and needs to make others happy or for people who haven’t learned how to access their own feelings. When someone tells us to “calm down” because we’re “too much”, they’re telling us that they can’t handle their own emotions – even the fun ones like joy, so they aren’t comfortable with our emotions.

Some things I’ve heard about me (as an HSP myself!) over the years:

You’re overreacting

No one is that sensitive to pain!

You’re fine! Just calm down!

When I took time to think about it, I realized what those things really mean is:

I’m afraid of your feelings because I don’t know how to deal with my own.

I’m closed off to your pain because I’m closed to the idea that others are different than I am.

I don’t know how to deal with conflict or upset, so I must avoid it by dismissing what you’re going through.

Other people’s judgments and thoughts are a reflection of their own experiences, not a true portrait of you. If they don’t know how to deal with emotions or are carrying around their own experiences of tamping things down to please others, then they’re passing that onto their interactions with you.

Understanding that deep wounds and fear around being vulnerable about emotions and needs can be rooted in painful experiences can help us develop a level of compassion for the people that stiff arm you with the “too much” message. Being compassionate to that fear and those experiences doesn’t mean you must put up the same walls or distance or start shrinking yourself to fit into other people’s boxes.

I love to utilize the RAIN meditation with the experience of “too much” and you can check that out here.

Crafting your “people” takes time. It requires vulnerability, or the willingness to step out as your whole self, while also paying attention to who is responding how. Who is listening when you speak? Matching you with messages of “I hear you”? Who is hearing your needs or feelings and responding with, “How can I help?” or, “I see that, let me respond,” without judgment?

That takes time, but as it happens, relationships where there is space for you develops and avenues to finding connections that are healthy and meaningful present themselves.

If you don’t fit somewhere, try another puzzle box.

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