I’m an overthinker.
With my self-imposed indoctrination in personal development, it’s odd that I would even consider writing an opening sentence like that. Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve been gobbling up the advice, direction and methods proffered by authors from Orison Swett Marden to Napoleon Hill, Anthony Robbins to Wayne Dyer and so many more.
I’m not sure any of those gurus would see the value in admitting that I am an overthinker. Still others, like my friend Mike Dooley (Notes from the Universe, Infinite Possibilities), would certainly caution me that making such a statement would, in effect, make it so – that by putting those three words out there into the ether I am giving a celestial order – visualizing, acting as-if and generally bringing this into reality.
I don’t want that, for sure – but I also want to be honest about this. Though just in case the Universe is listening, I want it to know that I am merely trying to sort this out. I hereby declare that overthinking is something I have no interest in.
Now I imagine the Universe saying, “You could have fooled me…”
Author and psychologist Amy Morin wrote in her column for Inc. that “time spent overthinking, whether it’s 10 minutes or 10 hours, won’t enhance your life.”
She also wrote that “overthinking comes in two forms; ruminating about the past and worrying about the future.”
Guilty on both counts.
I can’t tell you how many times I replay embarrassing moments or beat myself up about why I might have said what I said in a given moment. Or better still, lose sleep over things that happened years or decades ago and my part in them. That, right there, is rumination. But let’s throw in the worry component for good measure. I’ve got that in spades too, like, if I offended anybody, how will that play out in a future encounter with that person.
I am too old to continue down those paths.
I need to do something about the fact that I am a bit of a people pleaser – and that’s a symptom of a deeper self-worth issue.
Well – now we’re getting somewhere, but now I’m scaring myself. We’re supposed to be talking about overthinking.
I recently had an epiphany of sorts: I believe much of my emotional discomfort stems from the fear that somebody might misunderstand my intentions – that I have not communicated them in a way that a particular person completely grasps. In situations like these, a lot of factors come into play. I might not have chosen the right words or the correct timing and the other person might not have been in a place to receive the message.
Emotional intelligence plays a role too.
I am quick to pick up on the emotional cues of others, whether these are direct or not. Call it a benefit of my undiagnosed ADHD, but I can get to the heart of what somebody is trying to say long before they finish speaking it. Couple this with body language, tone and attitude, and I get a good sense about what’s going on.
That drives a lot of people nuts, including my son and my girlfriend. I need to learn that people generally like to finish a statement before I react.
I can’t assume that everybody else’s emotional intelligence quotient is the same. It would also be foolhardy to assume that I have imparted my meaning to others in a way that makes sense to them. We all process these things differently, I’m sure.
It’s also silly to think that what I have to say to others is so important that it makes a difference either way. At the end of the day, a perceived slight on my part could be complete fiction.
Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my own head over something that happened previously that I am not able to be fully present to others, including those I love – thus creating an endless loop of rumination and worry.
As Tony Robbins says, “Get in your head, you’re dead.”
Based on these facts, my job should be to try to be as straightforward and as mindful possible in my encounters with others – and learn to let things go if I stumble.