Jessica on Being Too Much
by Jessica Ward
All throughout childhood I was the loud, funny, goofy kid. I wore silly hats to school, cracked jokes in class, and loved — I mean, LOVED, a good talent show. I was friendly, I was fun, and for a while, I thought everyone was having that fun, too.
When I got to middle school, I carried my eccentricities with me. I auditioned for the choir and the dance team, and I was involved in theater in my community. Life was great for this hyperactive kid. Except for the times when I’d accidentally knock something over... Or, the times when my joke in class didn’t land. Or, when my feelings would get hurt, and I’d cry. Hard. Those were the moments that made being hyperactive and loud less endearing to others. That’s when my hyperactivity became a nuisance. That’s when my creativity became destructive. That’s when I became a problem child, rather than a well-behaved child.
See, having big emotions means having big. emotions. I’m talking laughing fits, bouncing off the walls. I’m also talking temper tantrums and periods of deep sadness that little me could not comprehend. I learned to live with being told that I have to be more careful, that my crying was unwarranted, that I’d need to learn to sit still and be quiet if I want to make it anywhere in this world. And, as a kid, you do what the adults tell you to do. You blend in. You keep your hands to yourself and you begin to look at the world differently. I remember when I was around 15 or so, and an adult approached me and asked “Do you have something wrong with you?”
Immediately, I was ashamed of myself because I already knew what that question meant. I’d done it again. I’d gone and been “too much” for the adults. Shame. Guilt. The need to apologize, to fix. Meekly, I asked what he meant. He explained that he’s never seen a kid as off the wall as me, and wondered if I had “an issue.”
As I got older, I began to blend in more and more. I started caring about how I looked. I stopped wearing clothes that were loud for fear of being seen as goofy and not “pretty” or “cute.” I sold myself short, far too many times. I truly began to stop believing in myself, and the more I tried to conceal my big emotions, my “too-muchness,” the more I betrayed myself.
What adults don’t tell children who have big personalities, who are hyperactive, or who feel very deeply; is that these qualities are normal, celebrated, and necessary in our society. It took me nearly a decade to understand that all of the qualities that I felt made me a person who is difficult to be around, was actually great tests to figure out who deserved to be around my energy and feel the expansiveness of my love. As an adult, I work in a field that allows me to be as goofy as I want — I literally wear wigs and bunny hats and perform for children stories they have written. I encourage creativity. I celebrate loudness, queerness, and just-not-right-ness.
Reframing how we view eccentric personalities is pivotal in creating an expansive, open, colorful world full of differences, with different abilities to be celebrated. I began to adopt the thinking that sad, tired, boring adults had, and I have decided that’s enough of that noise; I’ll take something a little more exciting, thank you very much.
The journey of growing into my expansive, loud, goofy, “too much” personality has been one that is full of forgiveness, support, therapy, and most of all — love. Feeling things deeply has been more of a gift than a curse, with superpowers to boot. It’s not all loud laughing and crying like I was made to think. As an adult, I’m recognizing my big personality is knitted with empathy, courage, motivation, imagination, and resilience. And those strengths will never be “too much.”
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