I was sitting quietly in my kitchen one morning, sipping my tea, working away on my laptop, when my roommate suddenly broke the silence and announced in a loud voice 'OMG! WE HAVE LIMES!' I visibly jumped and dropped tea all over myself and said: 'Are you insane? Over limes? You almost gave me a heart attack!' We both ended up laughing as she agreed that at times she can be a little over the top but this is also one of her most endearing qualities and makes her fun to be around.
Here is a recurring question mainly asked by female clients and friends and something I've experienced myself:
'My partner says that I'm dramatic or a drama queen anytime I get upset when they disregard a boundary I had asked them to respect. It makes me feel like I'm not allowed to express my needs and they make me feel like I'm over the top. Am I over-reacting?'
Here are some of the recurring descriptives for the word 'dramatic' found on various online dictionaries:
- striking in appearance or effect
- exaggerated or over the top reactions
art credit: Ashiah Searle
I think we can all agree that without theatrical abilities, most movies and performances would be pretty dull. But what about real life? Most would agree that we prefer to do without the 'theatrics' in daily life. That being said, what about expressing emotion?
What is considered an 'over the top' reaction or causing drama?
When I teach Time Management, I share a study conducted by Shawn Achor @ Harvard U on the types of people who have the greatest chance of success and productivity. The study showed that people who are happy have a considerable successful edge over their peers who are negative, NEUTRAL or stressed. This was interesting to me as there are plenty of people who consider any expression of emotion such as joy, excitement, sadness, anger or frustration to be 'over the top or dramatic' and yet, there's countless research that shows that emotional repression not only leads to less productivity and success, but can also cause serious illness.
This aside, there's another type of person who is likely to refer to others as dramatic:
I like to refer to them as CBB's, or Consistent Boundary Breakers.
I'm referring to life partners, friends and family members to whom you've clearly expressed a boundary, (which may even be acknowledged at the time you express it), but then choose to ignore or break your boundary if it conflicts with their wants and then call you 'dramatic' when you become hurt, angry, frustrated or disappointed with them.
This my friends is called DEFLECTION. It's designed to shift the focus from their behaviour and the betrayal of your boundary to making you feel shame about your reaction instead: '
Look at yourself, you're a mess, so over the top, you're so dramatic...'
According to Joaquín Selva, Bc.S., a psychologist and behavioral neuroscience researcher and scientific editor,
'setting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health and well-being, (...)
healthy boundaries are set to make sure we are mentally and emotionally stable.'
CBB's will often even refer to you asserting a boundary as 'creating drama'. This is usually because your boundary conflicts with something they want. Narcissistic personality types are especially notorious at ignoring any boundaries that conflict with their personal agendas.
There are certain types of people who are much more prone to falling prey to a CBB:
- if you grew up with narcissistic (self-absorbed) parents,
- empaths or HSP's (highly sensitive people)
- if you already suffer from excessive guilt and shame
- if you have low self-esteem and feel the need for outside approval and validation.
If you fall into one of these categories, you're more likely to shift your focus from the broken boundary and bad behaviour to your reaction instead and to second guess yourself. If you find yourself in a repeated cycle of this, you can end up even questioning your mental sanity and become depressed at having been labeled 'dramatic' by the CBB who may even tell others to 'watch out because you like to create drama.'
What's brilliantly insidious about this type of deflection is that it's the CBB who creates constant drama by consistently ignoring or breaking boundaries. Breaking boundaries is also often accompanied by having to lie or cheat in order to circumvent the boundaries without getting caught, which sometimes involves other parties and creates dissent.
CONSISTENT BOUNDARY BREAKERS ARE in fact the DRAMA CREATORS
To sum up, if you're the type of person to throw a fit because a store didn't have your size or your world is ending because the wifi is down or you like to gossip, exaggerate the facts or tell tales then maybe you are in fact a 'drama queen'. If so, you may want to consider working on your ability to manage change or whether the unhealthy attention you seek by the drama you create is due to a deeper unmet need for self-acceptance.
But if you happen to be an expressive person and limes bring you a lot of joy for instance, then this doesn't fall under the realm of 'dramatic'. ;)
If you assertively communicate healthy boundaries for yourself, you have the right to be upset when those boundaries are crossed and to communicate this disappointment.
This does not make you 'dramatic'.
It means you're mentally and emotionally healthy and prioritize self-care.
I'm attaching a couple of stellar articles below for you to read if you need support on setting healthy boundaries.