I used to be an overthinker, and I made life much more difficult for myself than it had to be.
At the time I self-isolated and stopped being very communicative, partly because I was constantly over-analyzing everything and over-worrying in my mind.
Here’s what I wish I would have been able to express to my loved ones at the time.
These are the top things overthinkers want their loved ones to know.
1) It’s not easy to stop
The first of the things overthinkers want their loved ones to know is that it’s not easy to stop.
When you have a very active mind, it tends to circle around and around.
From a young age, I was an overthinker, so I know what it’s like.
When loved ones tell you to just stop overthinking everything so much, you smile and agree and say you’ll do your best.
But what you want to explain is that it doesn’t even feel like a choice.
You’re just constantly overthinking everything from your doctor’s appointment to what kind of shoes are cool to wear to school or not.
2) It’s instinctive
What makes it even harder to stop is that overthinking is linked to the survival instinct.
The reason is that we are hardwired to focus more on painful experiences and insecurities as overcoming and “solving” them was linked to our survival in evolutionary times.
They are aware that it’s not doing any good, but their mind has become hyper-focused on second-guessing, reanalyzing and breaking apart every small decision that comes their way.
It can be downright exhausting especially since it’s so instinctive for some of us.
3) It isn’t personal
The next of the key things overthinkers want their loved ones to know is that it isn’t personal.
Overthinking can be very annoying and come across as not respecting someone’s time.
For example, something as simple as going to the barber could lead to ten or more minutes of walking back decisions on a hairstyle and then changing your mind half way through.
The barber or stylist may be understandably miffed or feel like you don’t respect their profession.
On the closer friend and family level, those close to you may feel that you waffle about deciding on anything or accepting invitations as if you don’t appreciate their affection for you.
You want them to know that your overthinking doesn’t mean you don’t like them! It’s just how you are sometimes.
4) The second-guessing is torturous
The next of the things overthinkers want their loved ones to know is just how uncomfortable the second-guessing can be.
Part of the problem with second-guessing yourself is that it is an illusion, especially in retrospect.
What I mean is that overthinkers tend to look back at an event or decision and second guess what they did, imagining how much better it would have been if they didn’t do that one thing, or did do that one other thing.
But the reality is that we just don’t know, and it’s a fool’s errand second guessing in this way.
If you hadn’t gotten drunk that day maybe she wouldn’t have broken up with you…OK, sure, but maybe you wouldn’t be single now and just meeting your future wife!
If you hadn’t invested in that disaster stock maybe you’d have way better finances today…OK, sure, but the truth was the other stock you almost invested in would actually have been even worse!
The second guessing can be a kind of torture.
It always convinces us that the other path would have been better, but we really have no way to know that.
5) Living in regret hurts you and others
The next of the things overthinkers want their loved ones to know is that they understand how much overthinking can hurt them.
Sometimes when I feel down about life and left behind I think of a friend of mine who died at 25 from cancer a number of years ago.
I’d heard of his travels and success with girls and felt jealous of his success.
I was overthinking my own life and feeling like everyone else was ahead of me. I remember talking to him and he advised me not to get too caught up in the ups and downs of life and just put my energy into something.
For his part, he went to be an intern at a prestigious medical organization.
As I later found out, he was also there as a patient to be treated for a rare and deadly form of cancer.
That overthinking and the jealousy I’d felt were in my own head. Finding out he’d passed on made me ashamed of the way I’d built up all these scenarios and imaginations in my head.
Overthinking can truly blind you to the reality around you.
6) It’s causing and worsening anxiety
The next of the things overthinkers want their loved ones to know is that they are feeling a lot of anxiety and worry.
As a kid, I was highly self-conscious and would overthink how others perceived me.
I felt too thin and as a teen began to eat enormous amounts and go to the gym constantly to try to feel more secure in myself and confident.
Then I would overthink if I was now fat, or if my voice sounded weird. The thinking about whether my voice sounded weird made me sound…weird!
It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.
Loved ones should know that sometimes all we want is to be rescued from this loop of useless overthought.
Which brings me to the last point…
7) Sometimes a push is needed
When I think about the best experiences of my life and the most I have accomplished, it was when I put my thinking into the service of action.
I didn’t just think for the heck of it or for an intellectual puzzle, but in order to accomplish something.
Many times this didn’t happen from my own volition, however.
It happened when I was given a bit of a push.
That’s why one of the biggest things overthinkers want their loved ones to know is that sometimes they need just a bit of a push…
Being signed up for something they were on the fence about…
Being pressured a little about a volunteer opportunity…
Being cajoled into going out dancing on a Saturday night even though they say “I dunno.”
Sometimes a little push is all you need!
It’s all going to be OK… Or is it?
When it comes to the top things overthinkers want their loved ones to know, the above items are very important.
There is an element of overthinking that can be channeled into useful analytical endeavors and a certain amount that’s only going to do harm.
When the time comes to put action over analysis, the overthinker sometimes needs a bit of a push!
Loved ones just need to know that if they make suggestions in line with the overthinker’s true goals and desires, then these little pushes will ultimately be highly appreciated.
If you want to learn more about loving and dating an overthinker, check out the below video we created on 15 things you need to know if you’re in love with an overthinker.