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Stop Taking Relationship Advice From Instagram Memes

By Mary Ward | December 8, 2021
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“If I’m a lot, go find less.” 

Have you noticed this phrase showing up a lot lately? On memes and in hashtags and even on the back of cute, pink crop hoodies? Me too. I want to love it. I love a crop hoodie. And I do love the sentiment. But if SATC 2 taught us anything, it’s that sometimes things we love can turn very bad, very quick.

The notion here is so important, and while I can’t seem to find the origin source of the quote, it’s clearly meant as an empowering reminder to people, especially women, who have been made to feel like they are too much, too loud, too complicated, too emotional, too thick, too thin, too smart, too funny, just too much of whatever “norm” is supposed to make them right and good. For Salwa Kyobe, a Neural Manifestation Coach who posted the quote on social media, the phrase has more to do with authenticity and the fear that if we show up as our true selves we might be rejected. She asserts that those fears often push women into being who they think others expect them to be in order to fit in and belong. Ugh, why do we always have to work so hard? 

The reality is, women endure a lifetime of being told to make our bodies smaller through diet and exercise, to cross our legs on the subway to take up minimal physical space, to lower our voices in heated debates. Women who assert strong opinions or give clear directives or wear bold colors or have big hair are constantly told to be less. It’s a patriarchal tool of oppression to keep women small and voiceless, and it is especially used to silence BIPOC women. This reminder to stay in your power and keep being “a lot” is so important. But maybe. Maybe? Sometimes it’s okay to hear people when they ask us to be less. Let me just slip on my Counseling Psychologist/Feminist Analyst hat here for a minute (Trust me, it’s cute! It’s plaid!). 

I have a friend who keeps posting the “If I’m A Lot, Go Find Less” meme and using the hashtag #gofindless in what is very clearly a direct response to a breakup that wasn’t really a breakup because the relationship couldn’t have been more than two months from start to finish. Within a few weeks of meeting and a handful of casual dates, she was talking to him about going away for the weekend together and sending him playlists filled with love songs and expecting an amount of his time and energy that was wildly disproportionate to how invested they actually were. He’d ask her to slow down.  He’d remind her to chill, that they were just getting to know each other. Sometimes she brushed it off, sometimes she took it as rejection. What she did not do, however, was chill. He ended things and his reason was clear—she was stressing him out! She was kind of a lot. Then it began—in her stories and posts, enough times to notice, a message to him (and any other future dating prospects) that she was and would continue to be “a lot” and they should “go find less.” 

This “friend” wasn’t me, okay? But honestly, it could have been at some point in my life. I’m an intensely emotional person who didn’t understand intimacy for a long time and often relied on big emotional responses and high-stakes expectations in order to feel connection. A couple of months into our relationship, my S.O. and I were out for drinks one night when he very gently stopped me in the middle of a story I was telling about some childhood trauma and said, “Hey. Do you think this is something you should maybe talk to a therapist about? It’s heavy stuff and I’m not quite ready to take it on.” He wasn’t mean or unsupportive. He was honest. And he was right. My first reaction was defensiveness. I wanted so badly to snap back at him something along the lines of, “That’s too much for you? Well maybe you can’t handle me then!” Instead, I felt myself open up to the possibility that he might be onto something. He so clearly knew his boundary and what I was offering in that moment was…a lot. It was too much. It was unfair and unhealthy for me to expect him to take it on. If I’d hitched myself to the idea that in my relationships I was just “a lot” to handle and that anyone who couldn’t deal with it needed to go “find less” I would have missed the opportunity to really reflect on my behavior and change some toxic patterns of relationship. I would have pushed him away and given myself no chance at accountability. It doesn’t mean I need to dim the fiery parts of me. It means I need to find the appropriate places to let them burn.  

So, here’s what I think: We keep the quote. We keep reminding each other not to get small. We vow not to change our important parts and never to be anything less than ourselves. Then we also hold space for self-awareness. We maybe even acknowledge that sometimes we’re confused about how much to give and how much to be, and it’s okay to listen to the people around us when they tell us we’re being a lot. Maybe we take that as a cue for self-reflection and allow ourselves to reach out for other kinds of support rather than shutting down to the idea that sometimes people need a little less of us. I’ll keep trying if you do. (See? Belonging! We’re making so much progress.)

Now go spread out on the subway and take up the space you deserve!

Image: Alexey Kuzma / Stocksy.com

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