I talk too much

Photo of Janet holding a sign that says "contemplative". dark blue splash in top right says #RadicalReflections in yellow type with "I talk too much" listed in white underneath.

There. I said it. Simple. Honest. Accurate.

Right?

But I can’t deny how that phrase is loaded with shame. An admission of guilt. A worry of vulnerability. A judgment of character. “I talk too much” is both an accurate acknowledgment of one of my flaws and a critical presumption that this is in fact a flaw a all.

I talk too much means everything from “I overexplain myself because of past trauma” to “I am trying to reach every person in the room so I’ll reframe things a hundred times to ensure understanding.”

I talk too much is just as much a defense mechanism against the inevitable judgment of my peers and supervisors as it is a rational excuse for the paranoia of social anxiety I’ve been feeling in my friend groups.

I talk too much has become my punishment so I stop talking at all, voluntarily silencing my truth in order to fit in, a rationale for not speaking up when others around me are swirling into racist or ableist judgments.

I talk too much leads to other conclusions like:

  • and that’s why no one likes me
  • which is why I should just shut up
  • so I should let others speak instead
  • so I’ll just scrap this blog post
  • so I just won’t send my manuscript to an editor
Picture of Janet drinking iced coffee from a plastic cup. In white letters on top it reads "intrusive thoughts". On the left a dark blue half circle carries the phrases "I talk too much" "no one wants to read this crap", "nobody likes me", "I should just shut up", "I take up too much space", "Everyone is better at this than me" in different white fonts.

There has been so much in my heart that I’ve wanted to share. But the problem is that often when I sit down to write, I start in one place and meander into thirty other places, taking my reader on a journey that makes sense to only me.

I can punch out 3000 words in 2 1/2 hours with hardly skipping a beat. But when I look at that all those words I feel embarrassed, not proud. My lawyer brain says, “If you really were that good, of a writer, you’d be able to say the same thing in fewer lines. Avoid dicta.” I start hearing the imaginary critics who say, “ugh, who has the time to read that shit?” and “good blog posts are at most 1000 words”. So even though I have written beautiful prose that all flows well together, I then spend the next ten days tearing it apart, hoping to make it accessible and presentable to the expectations I think my readers have of me.

My husband, also a writer, often tells me how jealous he is of my word counts. I have over 165K written on my book when the standard advice for a debut novel is 80K words. I’m not even done and I have enough for three novels already. How utterly mindblowing is that? And yet, I look at those word counts and bemoan the fact that I talk too much. I can’t even let myself objectively celebrate this win, because of how embarrassed I am that I can’t get my story across more succinctly and directly.

I have created so many stories in my head about what I think my readers want from me that I haven’t stopped to ask how much of that is real, how much of it is productive, how much of it even matters. All this does is keep me burrowed in my overthinking, over-catastrophizing brain – the same one that has kept me in survival mode since 2006.

Which is what I talk too much really comes down to: I talked so much, said too much about my life, that I left myself vulnerable. Not just vulnerable to someone misunderstanding my life, which they did, but to exploit it in order to hurt me, which they also did. And for as much as I’ve tried to hide, muted my voice these past 15 years, I’ve also never stopped talking about it. I’ve never stopped talking about the stories of woe, shame, trauma, and humiliation that came from that one single moment in my life….why?

Because to continue telling the story of how I talk too much, I reinforce the public punishment of that moment. I use it as a cudgel to force myself to conform to some standard where I say just the right amount, at the right time, at the right place. Perfect little communicator. By continuing to tell the story of how my talking too much led to my downfall all I do is discourage myself from talking more, talking louder, taking up the room that was left when that moment shut me down.

Close up image of Jupiter's gaseous surface with the words "You don't see anyone ask Jupiter to stop taking up so much space. We are allowed to exist exactly as we are."

My partner and I joke often that I’m a Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, the planet of expansion. And if I really want to be a badass Sagittarius, then I need to feel free to be as big and as expansive as I want to be, as I need to be. And it’s not like our biggest planet is a shameful eyesore – its expansiveness allows us to see so much complex beauty, such rich dimensions. It doesn’t need to be like Saturn with its glamorous rings or Mars with its angry sandstorms or even stand-offish like Venus. It exists and takes up exactly as much space as it’s supposed to.

I have spent too much of my life editing myself to fit in, to feel like I belong literally anywhere. And yet, in this great cosmos of interconnectedness, and especially in my writing, I can just exist. I can just exist as I am. I don’t use this blog to make money, but to share my ideas, to let others know that they’re not alone by giving insight into my own flawed transformations and how I conceptualize the barriers I’ve faced.

If I am serious about changing my life, I need to change the story I tell about it as well. And frankly, that starts with admitting that I am allowed to use as many or as few words as I want to share my own truth. That truth-telling has to start with me.

(pssst…this post is less than 1000 words!)

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