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Ask Billie: “A few friends have recently said that I’m ‘a lot’. Should I be less?”

Stylist’s columnist Billie Bhatia on why dimming down your light is the most damaging thing you can do. 

“A few friends have recently said that “I’m a lot”. I don’t think they meant it maliciously, but it hasn’t made me feel great about myself. I’m an extrovert; I can be dramatic and I love to laugh – things I always thought my friends loved about me, but now I’m toning myself down when we’re together. Am I “a lot”, and should I be less?”

I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve used the phrase “she’s a lot”. Every time the words have slipped from my mouth – whether in group WhatsApp chats, to dinner companions or even sometimes directly to the person in question – it has been a default reaction to someone who doesn’t behave in exactly the same way I do. And given how many times I have heard it uttered by other people, I know I’m not alone in this behaviour.

The comment has become a relied-upon response (one that seemingly means nothing and everything) spat out at the smallest trigger point. I once told someone they were a lot because it took them three full minutes to order eggs at breakfast (well-done poached eggs are apparently a thing now) and used the same words when I witnessed a woman having the time of her life at a concert while everyone else was very much contained in their seats. “She’s a lot” has been used when someone has been overly joyful, dramatic, loud, proud, silly or smart.

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I used the saying in a flippant way, much like your friends. I would be mortified if anyone thought I meant it with malicious intent. But worse, in all those times I said “she’s a lot”, I never once considered that someone else might be saying it about me. Because the words you’ve just used to describe yourself could easily be my bio too. I’m an extrovert, I’m dramatic and I love to laugh. I know these are qualities my friends love about me because they have told me so. And so, I’m a lot too. And like you, that doesn’t make me feel great either.

Now that I’m sitting on the phrase longer than I normally would, it’s giving me the ick. Because what exactly have we been accusing people of being “a lot” of? A lot of personality? Passion? Emotions? Drive? Ambition? Joy? Sadness? Decisiveness? The list is endless. In that moment of not feeling great, I understand why you think toning yourself down feels like a reasonable solution. You’ve been accused of being extraordinary, and we all know the comfort that “ordinary” brings. It’s a safe space – one where there are still faults to be picked, but less obvious ones.

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On reflection (not my strongest Aries suit, but I’m working on it), if I heard my friends repeatedly tell me I was ordinary, I would be more devastated than if they told me I was a lot. In using the phrase “she’s a lot” (which, coincidently doesn’t get used as often in relation to men), we have accidentally reduced all the things that make us individuals to nothing more than mild irritations. On further reflection (I told you I was trying), I find that a really sad place to be, and one where I hold my hands up at being both the cause and the problem.

So while I understand the want to tone yourself down (the need to people please is also one I know well), don’t. Don’t mute your funny or hold back your dramatics. Don’t pretend you’re fine with plain chips when you want parmesan truffle fries. Don’t quieten down your laugh for fear your joy is louder than someone else’s indifference.

We have grown up wanting to be like everyone else; it wasn’t cool to be different. In our formative years, our heart’s greatest desire was to blend in. Thankfully, we have started to unpick this practice – to celebrate the things that make us unique – but that doesn’t stop us from slumping back into our old habits and allowing conformity to leak back in. So, no, don’t be less. Be a lot. And tell your friends they should be a lot too, I’m about to text mine the same.

Ask Billie anything on Instagram @stylistmagazine

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Photography: Sarah Brick, hair and make-up: Patrizia Lio at S management using Kevin Murphy and Nars