I overthought my overthinking. Here’s what I learned
Updated: Oct 29
I spent almost all my life not knowing that I am an overthinker. I didn’t know about my anxiety either. I can’t tell which one is the egg and which is the chicken, but it appears they work great together. I spent most of my life thinking that I am a deep thinker and thought that I’m a better person then almost everyone else.
Because I cared.
I always had every possible point of view, every possible outcome and everyone’s opinion considered before I made any decision. Then I would question that decision over and over again. Once the thing was done I would again go back to it and evaluate my actions. Very often I found I could do better, and then I’d think about the reasons that led me to the “wrong” decision. I would beat myself over it, over and over again. The next time I was in a similar situation, I would do a different “mistake”, or the same mistake differently, and then start the self-blaming again, for both times I got it “wrong”. I would go through the same suffering every time something depended on me. Even if it didn’t, I’d still find a way to blame myself. Whenever I had some free time not struggling and explaining myself to my internal criticizer, I would overthink others’ actions. So that was the first 25 years. After feeling bad for a long time, a lot of reading and research, I thought I might be an overthinker.
After I overthought that thought, I figured I might really be an overthinker. But that is not a bad thing, I thought. Yes I do sacrifice more of my time thinking than other people do, but I’m not sorry for that. I do it because I am a good person.
So yes, sometimes I end up feeling sorry for myself, and yes sometimes I do want to escape the face of earth for a day or two years, but other than that I am the best person I know.
Ok, I am sometimes a little distant or overworried, maybe even yell at my closest family and friends because I am stressed out, but I am like that because I care. And if they love me, they will know all that and they will know that I love them even when I’m like that. They just need to understand and leave me alone sometimes, and maybe feel sorry for me from time to time.
That would be the best right?
Well let me tell you what I learned in the next five years of overthinking. It had nothing to do with me being a good person or caring for everyone. It had nothing to do with me wishing the best outcomes. Everyone wants the best for themselves and their close ones, but not everyone is an overthinker. Overthinking had only to do with my anxiety issue. Just go back to the previous paragraphs and it’s easy to spot it. Give it some time and anxiety and overthinking will “blind” you with self-righteousness, give you hundreds of excuses for your misery and hundreds of reasons to blame others for it.
Overthinking can even make you feel like you know other people, because you’ve put so much thinking into it. It makes you think you know what everyone thinks, what they feel. Most of the time you are wrong, but regardless, the feeling of knowing will make you stop asking. It will make you stop listening. Because you have the hardest time of them all. Before you know it, you turn into a selfish, self-pity and self-centered pain in the ass for everyone around you.
To sum it up, bad news (always the bad news first!) is we – overthinkers (of the anxious type) are not that good people. Even for the ones that are truly good deep inside, struggling constantly with negative thoughts will turn you into a tragedy, sooner or later. Even the best people “infected” with it, become very bad friends, partners and parents. Often we are bad employees too, hiding our fears behind the perfectionist we think we are. We get stuck in loops, we stop working, loving, living.. and turn to full time overthinking instead.
But there is some good news too! Good news is that you can stop it! There are plenty of things you could do about it. Here are just some examples that work for me:
Start doing. This doesn’t mean that you need to jump mindlessly in the next decision, but it means that a decision only needs so much thinking. Overthinking has a starting point. Instead of that, just start planning the idea. It doesn’t matter if it will happen or not in the end. You don’t know how things will turn out. You can’t know what will happen, so stop thinking about it. Instead really start your research and put things on paper. What, when, how… The process of planing itself will give you most of the answers that you need – the ones you want to overthink.
How important is it? When stuck in a loop just take a deep breath and ask yourself does it really matter? Overthinking can get so bad that you’ll find yourself asking your second cousin’s girlfriend what she thinks of the sneakers you want to buy. If you equally like the red ones and the blue ones, and you can’t buy both pairs, then just go with the ones that go with most of your sportswear. Or just go with the red ones. It doesn’t matter.
Some decisions do matter. That’s when you need to do some serious thinking. That doesn’t mean that if it is important you are allowed to overthink. It means that you need to start serious research and planning. See start doing again.
It may just happen that you can not find all the answers by yourself. And you don’t have to. Just ask the right people. Ask professionals. You will be surprised how open they are to the idea to help. Ask someone who has had a similar experience lately. They will love to share what they’ve learned. For example, you can not decide your next step in your education. Consulting your friends might help too, but isn’t it even better to ask someone who actually knows your qualities as a student? Like some of your high school professors maybe? Or maybe students that are already there? Talk to them, see what they have to say. With your plans made and with the right people consulted, the decision making can be much easier.
Put your hopes and fears aside.
They have nothing to do with planing. Both your hopes and fears will just feed your bias and your overthinking. Instead start doing. And when you are done planning and you have a clear picture of what your decision is, then see how you can accommodate your hopes and fears. For example, you decided to go to the college six hours away from your hometown, because it is the best one for you, but you are afraid to lose your boyfriend you have for eight months now. Put on the red sneakers, ask him to go for a walk and discuss your decision. Spend the rest of the time you have doing stuff you both love and plan how to make your relationship work. Should you talk over phone every day? Video calls? Should you visit each other once a month? Yes it’s that easy. And yes it will work. And if it still doesn’t work, well at least you’ll have a college degree.
It may seem like some of the outcomes you overthink can be the best thing that can happen to you. That is just your hopes messing with you. That’s how you end up disappointed. It can also look like some of the outcomes can be the worst thing that could ever happen. And that is just your fears dragging you back into the loop. That is your anxiety. Reality is that both outcomes and probably hundreds more are possible. And they are not that different either. Yes, if life stopped there they might be total opposites, but in reality, life will go on one way or another. And the outcome won’t be that different. Because if you fail (fear will help you fail worse and more often), you will find yourself the next morning (or the morning after the 3 days of crying) thinking about other ways to make it happen. Other ways do exist and you can never know all the possibilities nor what the outcome will be. Other ways always exist, you just need to open to them.
Patience is crucial.
Knowing all this, it still doesn’t happen overnight. Patience is crucial. And I know that patience is not easy to learn, but it’s something you can work on. Here are just some of things that help me in the process:
Relax. Yes I know that one can not relax on command, it doesn’t work that way. Well let me tell you it does. Consciously and deliberately stop everything. Stop thinking for a second.
Breathe. Everything will be OK. Tell yourself that. It sounds clumsy, but it works. Tell yourself to stop thinking for a second, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything will be OK. Everything is OK. You can do this. It may feel funny at the beginning, but as you do it more often it just starts feeling right. It does work. If you practice some sort of meditation or prayer, do more. If not, maybe consider the idea, they are a great way of calming the thinking mind and relaxing.
Go out. I know you don’t feel like it. Go out anyway. Go run, take a walk, ride a bike, lay on the grass. Out is amazing. If you have the possibility go near water. A lake, a pond, a fountain even. Look at the water. It’s amazing isn’t it? Look at the stars. Do you know how big the universe is? Where does all that beauty come from? Those are questions worth wondering.
Talk about it. Other people’s support is very important. It is crucial to have around someone that understands what you are going through. Someone patient enough to listen to you when you need to be listened to, and willing to help you and hold space for you so you can help yourself.
Spend more time with people who are not “deep thinkers” like you, and instead lighten up with some “shallow” and careless company. You might find them more caring and loving than you think you "know”. You might find them very helpful and you also might find their happiness contagious.
These are some of the things that work for me. Find what works for you. There has to be a moment you remember when you felt it just might be ok. When was it? Where were you? Who was there with you? Try doing more of whatever it was, you might just find the cure in it.
Happy healing ❤