Imagine this: You sent a text to a person that you just went out on a date with, and it said you had a great time and would love to hang out again. Then, 20 minutes later, the person replies with a smiley face :) You think, “OMG, what does that mean? It’s a smiley face, so that’s good, right? That must mean he wants to see me again too! But wait. He didn’t actually say that. Maybe he really doesn’t want to see me again and didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so he thought it was easier to say nothing and just send a smiley face. But wait. Maybe he’s just busy and didn’t have time to write anything, and he’ll write again later saying he had a good time too. But wait. If he was really interested, he would have made the time to write back even if he’s busy … But wait …”
Does this sound like you? If it does, then you just might be an over-thinker.
And here are 7 crazy things that you will be able to relate to:
1. We always make assumptions.
“She rolled her eyes at me, she must think I’m stupid.”
“He didn’t text me back for 3 hours … he must be doing that on purpose. He’s trying to blow me off!”
“I haven’t seen my fried Mary for 3 months, and she’s probably mad at me for not calling her.”
These are assumptions. They are not necessarily based in truth. But an over-thinker’s mind makes all sorts of assumptions. That’s part of the problem. Usually, making assumptions creates more problems – and more over-thinking. Then you get caught in a nasty downward spiral. Instead, us over-thinkers should live by this rule: “DNAA” … Do Not Assume Anything. Instead, ask people for the facts. Don’t jump to conclusions.
2. We always assume the worst.
“He was supposed to be here by 5:00. It’s now 5:12. OMG what if he was killed in a car accident? I wonder who I would call to find out? What route was he driving? Let me go check the police and traffic reports online to see if everything’s okay. Oh, that’s ridiculous. He’s only 12 minutes late. Maybe he just lost track of time. But maybe he didn’t. OMG what’s wrong?!?!”
Usually, the worst doesn’t happen. Sure, it does sometimes, but if you think about it, 99% of the stuff we over-think and over-worry about doesn’t actually come to pass. So wasting so much mental energy trying figuring out why people died or were captured by an alien really doesn’t do us any good.
3. We always think in terms of “What if…”
“This guy asked me out, and I don’t really think I like him, so I’m not going to go. But what if he’s really my soul mate? If I don’t go out with him, I’ll never know! But he’s kind of short. Oh that’s stupid – am I really not going to give him a chance because of that? Oh, but what if I go out with him and he’s a bump on a log. Then I’ve wasted a few hours of my life. And if I went out with him, what would I wear? Nothing too sexy because I don’t want him to like me THAT much. But what if I really do like him, then I will want him to find me sexy….”
There are literally infinite “what if’s” that could occur. And we imagine every little teensy tiny scenario. They drive us over-thinkers crazy! We’re afraid to make a mistake, so we think about all the things that COULD happen. So we should try to practice living in the NOW. Because that is really all we can control.
4. We always stress that we can’t control things.
“My son loves baseball. I HATE baseball. But what if he took guitar lessons and started a band? I would love that … because I love music! Oh, but I can’t take way his baseball, that would make me a bad parent. Maybe he would like football? At least that’s not boring. Oh but what if he gets a concussion and has brain damage. That would be awful. What other ways can I make sure that I don’t have to go watch boring baseball games? Oh, if only I could wave a magic wand and make things happen the way I want them to!”
We can’t control anything or anyone but ourselves. Over-thinking about how we can change things so we can be happier, or life will be better somehow, just sends us into another crazy cycle of spinning our mental wheels.
5. We are frequently wrong.
“After days of sleepless nights because of over-thinking it, I am convinced he doesn’t like me!”
“That little jerk! I’m sure he said that because of …”
Because over-thinkers imagine SO many different possibilities and scenarios, statistically speaking, we’re often wrong with our assumptions. Because if you come up with 100 different possibilities in your head, there’s going to be a 99% chance that you are wrong – because only one of those actually WILL be right. So don’t convince yourself that you are right – or wrong. Most of the time, you will never know the truth with your own over-analyzing.
6. We get sick of our own “analysis paralysis.”
“OMG, just stop it! You’ll never figure it out.”
“I know I’m torturing myself … but I just can’t stop it!!!”
“My head hurts and I’m exhausted from thinking about this!”
Over-thinkers say these things to themselves very frequently. Running things over in our minds over and over really does lead to exhaustion! Sometimes we really wish there was an “off switch” in our brains so we can stop. When this happens, try thinking about something else. Or doing something else. It really can distract you and calm you down.
7. We seek other people’s opinions to help us over-think (or help us stop).
“I’m going to forward this text to Julie and see what she thinks he means.”
“I got a job offer, but I can’t make a decision because I can think of too many pros and cons! Let me ask 5 of my friends what they would do … ”
Because over-thinkers get stuck in “analysis paralysis,” they often look outside themselves for answers. They either get sick of themselves, exhausted, or the situation just becomes so cloudy from the over-thinking that they can’t think straight. It’s during that times that over-thinkers turn to other people to help them make decisions, and even to calm them down. This is actually a good thing to do. It helps put some objectivity into our minds, and/or distracts us from our own craziness.
Over-thinking isn’t necessarily bad. It says we care. It says we have complex minds. It shows that we know there are multiple scenarios that can play out in life. But the secret is to gain control over your mind so it doesn’t run out of control. And you can do this, it just takes some effort!