Are you someone who lies awake at night worrying about things? Are you overly concerned about what other people think of you? Chances are you’re an overthinker. Professional career coach and recovering overthinker Claire Seeber is here to help you understand the pattern of your overthinking and use it to your advantage.
If used in the right way, your overthinking can become a strength instead of a weakness.
Hi, my name is Claire, and I’m a recovering overthinker.
What does that mean? That means I have spent far too many years thinking far too often and far too long about what others thought of me. And the day I realized that none of that energy was worth it, was the day my life changed for the better.
Overthinkers are often highly empathetic and passionate people. However, this care and concern for others, and the insatiable desire to feel that you are doing well, can sometimes overtake the actual doing of things. It can paralyze you and ensure that you invest more time dissecting conversations — what you did or didn’t say — over the positive contributions that you made to the conversation.
Overthinking can make you anxious and stunt your ability to learn and grow because you don’t see growth, you only see failure.
There are an endless number of books out there that will tell you how to ban overthinking, or offer a ‘five-step guide’ to stop thinking about what others think of you, forever. I call bullshit on that — and I can, because I am an overthinker. I don’t believe it is something you can just ‘cure’. It’s a part of you, but when understood and used in the right way it can be a strength instead of a weakness.
I recently ran a coaching session with someone who wanted to ‘beat’ overthinking. The truth is, you can’t. But you can learn how to use your overthinking for good and not as a stress trigger.
It’s not the overthinking itself that causes stress or anxiety, it’s what you’re thinking about when you’re overthinking. I still catch myself from time to time caring about things I shouldn’t, people’s opinions of me, or whether I did or didn’t say something.
When you catch yourself overthinking
Now when I catch myself, I ask three things:
1. Firstly, why am I thinking about this, and is it worth investing the energy?
2. Secondly, will this thought or event be a blip on my radar in six months’ time?
3. And thirdly, what evidence do I have that either a) person ‘x’ actually has the opinion of me that I think they do, or b) my contribution to something was below par?
You might not be able to ever fully beat the overthinking, but you can control it and own it, instead of it owning you.
Lessons from a recovering overthinker
Here are some things I’ve learned about overthinkers, as a recovering (but not recovered) one:
1. We aren’t insecure — we just think
We think a lot. We think about us, about you, what we said to you, what we said at that meeting (or didn’t say). Is that why you haven’t replied to our email, or returned our phone call? Is that why my ears are burning? As I said, we think. A lot.
2. Sometimes we care too much
When we think we might have upset you we feel really bad and want to make it better. The key for us though is to learn that sometimes we are helping people more by telling them what they need to hear.
3. Sleep can be the hardest part of our day
It seems to be the time when all the day’s events decide to replay themselves.
4. With all the thinking that we do, we often come up with ideas and find solutions
Research has discovered that overthinking has some positive effects. The challenge is harnessing this thinking, for the positive not negative.
5. You might not be an overthinker in all aspects of your life
Sometimes people are only overthinkers in one segment of their life (i.e. work, friends, or family) depending on where their insecurities lie. You might find with family or friends you are confident, clear, and don’t overthink, yet switch to Monday in the office and your brain goes into overdrive.
Overthinking has become an epidemic, and with the social media tap heavily flowing and constant communication not disappearing anytime soon, we need to get stronger and more resilient at managing the reams of information thrown at us.
Breaking the cycle
So if you’re an overthinker, here are four things you can do to help you get out of your own way (or head, in this instance), and invest your energy on things that count:
1. Write it down
Journal about what is going on in your head and get it out of there.
2. Talk to someone
But make sure they are someone who will call you out if you go around in circles with your overthinking talk.
3. Use positive distractions
These will stop you from thinking about things you don’t want to be thinking about. If you are lying awake in bed just hoping you will fall asleep, get up and do something else for a while, focus your energy on that, and then try again.
4. Change the pattern
Most importantly, ask yourself the three questions above, and try to dissolve the thinking pattern.
Written by Claire Seeber. Claire is a professional career coach who helps women get the f*ck out of their own way. She is the founder of Eating Your Cake Too and you can follow her on Instagram @eatingyourcaketoo.