The title of today’s blog post is credited to Glennon Doyle (one of my inspirations) who recently posted a perfectly intelligent quote on social media. It reads as follows:
“You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people. Maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s them. There are people for whom your too much will be exactly enough. Don’t become less. Find those who want more. Don’t unmuch yourself.”
This bold statement really made me think yesterday, and today, and tomorrow when I let my frantic-planner head wander a bit. Don’t unmuch yourself. What a profound thing to say. I think my entire life has been about unmuching myself in order to fit in or please others whose agendas are skewed toward their own levels of perceptions anyway. I’ve been too much of a lot of things. Too sensitive, too old, too young, too fat, too thin, too bulimic, too smart, too sad, too angry, too tomboyish, too anorexic, too athletic, too stubborn, too snarky. Some people agreed with the “too” reference to these things about my nature. Those folks became, over the years, part of team Not Steph’s People. But others never said boo about too much of any-of-my-things about me. Those, the ones who stuck to my side and never stopped cheering for me, are my people. Yet, ironically, I’m consumed with trying to convince the ones who think I’m too much to realize that I’m really not, or that they should just take another look at me through different lenses, or that they haven’t really experienced the true-natured me yet. I can’t quite sit with the fact that I simply don’t do it for them. The long and short of it is that I dislike being disliked. I think that is a stubborn force of human nature that we all share on some level. To not be liked means to risk being ostracized, which means to be alone, which means to not pass on our genes, which means a life of dying with the very DNA that makes up our bones and knowing that that DNA will never exist again in any form. Innately, animalistically, we want to be liked. To be liked is directly congruent to our sense of survival. This is the soup from which pop culture steams up and permeates all the structures around it–personal structure, school structure, family structure, professional structure. We often aren’t even aware of how we gravitate toward conformity in the name of feeling safe and surviving. We even instagram ourselves into displaying some sort of our uniquenesses to the world in an effort to seem different, but the very act of posting our entire lives on social media is conformist at its very best.
I’ve always been wary of pop culture from as young as I could remember. I loathed sameness. I wanted to be different. I really thought I was different. I went through all kinds of phases: athletic, bohemian, hippie, preppy, academic, beatnik etc. all in an effort to stand out through being different. Looking back, I can see that I was unconsciously trying to avoid the inevitable–the potential ostracizing that ultimately comes with social constructs and belonging to a group (especially a group of adolescent girls–sheesh). I figured if I just ostracized myself first, I could beat the others to the punch and I could free myself from the uncomfortable feelings of being unwanted. It actually backfired on me in the best way possible. I ended up becoming friends with EVERYBODY and belonged to pretty much all the groups. From marching band to choir to sports to artists to goths to outcasts–I had personal relationships with people in every single one of those groups, a fact about which I am deeply proud and completely grateful. It rounded me out in such a fantastic way. It taught me how to be human. I also unmuched myself to most of these people in order to not rock boats or lose any friendships that I needed in order to build my fortress of safety against the abuse I was experiencing outside of school. I desperately didn’t want to be unwanted. But, you know, no one wants to be unwanted. We don’t even want to feel it. So we unmuch ourselves. All the time. Especially women. Women are told to shut up and stop with alarming frequency and normalcy. And (gasp) we often listen. We are taught to not rock the boat, to not question our feelings or things that make us feel unsafe, to not become educated and curious about injustice lest we challenge society to THINK a little bit. And we often unconsciously internalize this message to possibly consider the gaslit belief that ‘this is probably my fault,’ that my being too much or not enough for him or her is all on me, that any boundaries that were crossed by the other party simply must have been caused by some sort of much or enough of mine. We are not held up in confidence either by society or even by each other. We unmuch the shit out of ourselves in order to find some sort of belonging which is a vast ruse at best to begin with. There is no real belonging. It lacks a clear definition which instead molds into whatever it needs to become according to the varying personality arrangements of groups. It is fleeting and tricky and not real. But we are nonetheless motivated by aspiring to belong. To belong means to be wanted and to not belong means to be rejected. Rejection, well I’ll let you find your own words to describe what that feels like.
I was recently told I was too much for someone. The actual word used was “threat.” From my perception, I feel like I’m the least threatening girl on the block. I could be in a deep depression having not showered for days or slept for weeks or cleaned for…and still have you over for tea so you could bounce ideas off of my mind regarding your difficult choice to change hairdressers. I could be better or worse than you at something and never let on that I was better or worse. I’m pretty unassuming and what you see is what you get. I don’t have hidden agendas. But this person was afraid I did. And maybe I did and was simply unaware. Maybe she saw things that I couldn’t. Maybe she got a glimpse of more of my too much than I did. We do that for each other, we humans. It’s tribe culture, really.
At first I (naturally) internalized it. I took it very far down the path which continues along my usual gauntlet of ‘not enoughs’ smashing like glass waves on my head over and over again like a drowning surfer. I went into myself, didn’t look for my inner knowing, and instead decided to dine at the table with fear. I started to convince myself that I was unwanted to everyone who ever existed in my life, that any niceties I’d experienced from anyone were fake and fabricated, and as shallow as a facebook ‘thumbs up.’ (Good LORD, do I need to write a post about social media sometime very soon.) I didn’t trust that there was a deep purpose for my life here on earth, that I was plenty for the people that mattered and only not enough for the people that didn’t. What I needed to learn was that the head of the people that matter has to be me. Otherwise I can’t act from a place of authenticity and integrity and then I can’t pour from my cup and spill my faith out all over the people that need some of it, and that is one big fat not enough for everyone.
I realized that to let myself release from the fear and discomfort of being unwanted, I had to learn to simply want myself. I don’t need to unmuch myself for this person. She has a right to her own perceptions which really stem from her life experience the way all of our perceptions are simply molded from our own human experiences too. Whatever is going on in her own head and heart is hers and hers alone to bear. And, from human to human, I completely respect that even if I feel unwanted or too much from the whole experience. I don’t need to take on any feelings that are not my own and I can be confident about that. I also don’t need to think that my feelings are her responsibility. I alone entertain their company or escort their exit. But the process of this thinking and changing of mindsets without just checking out is, at best, just so fucking uncomfortable.
I’m an addict. And we are good at avoiding feelings, at checking out. In fact, it’s all we live for. It’s not about getting high. It’s not about the purge. It is the avoidance of feeling uncomfortable. In my recovery work, everything I do is in direct order to build the muscle of my ability to be comfortable in the discomfort. Really allow myself to feel it, convince myself that I actually WON’T die from these feelings, and that all of this will pass. Time really is the holy grail of healing. There’s nothing like it. And we take it for granted constantly. Time is, in its very essence, the epitome of too much and not enough all wrapped up into one giant ‘fuck! where did all that time GO?’ Perspective needs time to water it so it can grow luscious and new and ever changing with the spring breeze. Perspective and time need to get married. But we often rush perspective by ignoring the wisdom of time and that’s how we get stubborn about changing it.
Today I change my perspective. I’m not in his head or her head or your head or those heads. I’m in my head. I can choose to feel like I’m a prisoner there, or I can visit my inner knowing there, feel the velvet feathers of her winged cape as she climbs a moonlit snowy mountain with her wolfpack, and cultivate that. Pretty soon, I feel the cape on my own physical right-now-present self. Majestic. Right there in the minutiae of life. I can be majestic at a cocktail party, or cheering for my kid at a swim meet, in Washington fighting for this that, or in the line at the grocery store, giving a speech, or feeding my kid cheerios at the park. My majesty is the farthest thing from too much. And it is never not enough. It is my perfect form from which all of my perceptions arise–when I dare to let them–and from which, when I am paying attention, I can act as my pure authentic self.
I don’t need to know your definition of too much. I don’t care. If it differs from mine, or if you need to apply that meaning to me, then that’s fine. I will not unmuch myself for you. Maybe time will marry your perceptions and they will change. But I don’t hang on needing that. I’m enough for my team and for me, the leader of my team, and for the majesty that carries me through this timeless world of more than plenty enoughs.