“Am I too much?” – I’ve been asked a hundred variations of this question…

  • Am I too assertive?
  • Am I too loud?
  • Do I take up too much space?

As we experience the growth of recovery, we often experience change as a process in which we feel we’re moving from one extreme to the other. Our fears are often irrational, but given our experience, it makes sense that we fear becoming something we are not. Thus, we who were raised to believe that we weren’t good enough, now come to fear that we’re “too much.”

Many years ago, my wife and I went to dinner with a colleague/friend of mine and her husband. As we were preparing to leave, I heard him ask under his breath, “Is he always on like that?” It was far from the first time I’d heard myself characterized that way. In fact, this dynamic is so common that they make Facebook memes about it: “You will be too much for some people. Those people are not your tribe.”

I’m extremely animated, passionate, and expressive. I have opinions and feelings about well, seemingly everything. I’m confident, assertive, direct and genuine. As my friends in recovery say, I’m “really, really, real.” That has the net effect of making a fair percentage of people uncomfortable and that’s okay.

I’m not willing to play small or compromise myself in order to avoid triggering someone’s insecurities. I’m not willing to walk on eggshells or take pains to avoid upsetting someone. I am open to feedback and if I unwittingly offend then I want to know and I will immediately apologize.

But I won’t pretend anymore. I won’t adopt a persona. I won’t fake excitement if you talk about your new material possessions. I won’t judge you; I’ll just tune out and go somewhere more interesting in my head. I’ll be civil and polite, but if I’m invested in knowing you then I’ll share that pretending or faking it is too painful for me. It connects me to past trauma and people who seem lovely in public and terrible behind closed doors.

I’ll never forget how to pretend or how to be a chameleon. I catch myself sometimes drifting off or shutting down emotionally and I remind myself that I can simply remove myself from most any given situation. Being intuitive and empathic sometimes leaves one with a profound awareness of what others want us to say or how they’d like us to be. Making the choice to be true to self and doing what is simply in our best interest allows for a greater sense of identity and self-respect.

Please be true to yourself and take the advice dispensed by Dr. Seuss:

“Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”