The ‘Overthinking’ Mind

Worrying, for some (especially over-thinkers like me), has the potential to become a full-time occupation. The brain chunters away below the surface of whatever else is going on in life, taking in the view, and coming up with the worst possible situation at any given moment.

At any given moment, the brain might choose to fixate on something, gets it teeth stuck in, gnaw away at a previous innocuous circumstance, inflaming it, turning it wild. At this point, the thinker had better have the nous to step smartly away, take the brain in hand, and stop making things worse.

The advanced over-thinker can even worry about worrying, is this you?

Worrying (I think) stems from a sense of self-preservation. If we can imagine the worst possible outcomes, we can prepare to manage them, or better, avoid them completely. If we can envisage catastrophe, we can hopefully see a way to extricate ourselves before it happens, or at least with as little damage as possible. Worrying might well be ingrained in our systems precisely because it is such an effective protector of life. Without it, we wouldn’t be here.

Our early years are fraught with the contagious concerns of our parents, regarding what we might touch, trip, or choke on. We learn to be cautious, even fearful. We learn to internalise a cycle of worrying in hope it might prevent disaster. At some point, this vicious cycle has to be stopped, or consume the thinker entirely.

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Maslow’s base concerns aside, it’s easy to get lost in the back and forth of whether or not one’s other needs are being adequately met.

From a safety point of view, worries can appear like pop-ups in the day to day life; do you have enough money to last the month? Am I going to make it on time?  Should I find an alternative route to this dark alleyway?

Worries about the next tier up (love and belonging) are less a pop-up, and more of a series of tangling threads weaving through the everyday. In spite of the luxury of some of those threads remaining consistent and strong, there’s always a trail of loose ends and snaggling thoughts regarding belonging, the deserving (or not) of love, and whether or not I think enough of myself to feel I ought to belong in the first place.

Here, the tangling thoughts grow seeds and roots, tapping deep into the next level up – esteem. Worries in this area are sown early, childhood experiences proving fertile ground for those demon seeds to set root, forcing their tendrils through the psyche, cracking it beyond all knowledge of repair. When life waters those seeds ( and it does, often), the hell-plants take on vigour, bearing stinking blossoms, fast-falling fruit, and a further smattering of demon seeds to start the cycle once more, with feeling. The thicket of worries rooted in esteem has only proven susceptible to machetes wielded carefully by those who care deeply, and the blazing sunshine of their love, from which is recoils, screaming.

Conversely, the worries surrounding self-actualisation, I have found consistently encouraging, as though finding new things to concern myself with mean additional stepping stones along the way, with the implication that each stepping stone stepped is one less stone that needs stepping in the future. As though I am something which can ever be finished. However distant that goal, I am content in discovering new ways to become my best self, and part of the joy is in the journey – seeing how far I’ve come, as well as how far I think I can go. In the meantime, I am determined to value the small successes, and reap their rewards, even if my status never goes beyond ‘Becoming’, I am certain it will only be in response to the shifting sands of time and circumstance, and half the fun is in navigating the changes in life.

In all cases, counting my blessings and being thankful has always proven suitable recourse from worrying, with the added advantage that once I realise how relatively little I have to worry about, and element of freedom creeps in, lifting my spirits.

 

Thank you for reading, there will be a follow up post to this with top tips on how to stop overthinking. Keep your eyes peeled lovelies.

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10 Powerful Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt

Self-doubt can be troubling and somewhat a persuasive voice that holds you back. It holds you back from seizing your opportunities. It makes getting started or finishing things harder than they need to be.
Sure, it can sometimes be useful as it helps you to soberly see your current limitations or simply recognise a half-baked or bad idea. But mostly, it holds you back in life.
So how can you get around that, how can you overcome those times of self-doubt so that you can move forward once again?
In this post, I’ll be exploring some tips and habits that have helped me to decrease that destructive inner voice.

1. Say stop

First, when your inner doubts bubble up, be quick. Don’t let them spin out of control or grow from a whisper to a scream of discouraging words. Instead, talk back to that doubtful part of yourself.
In your mind, say or shout something like: No, no, no, we are not going down that road again. By doing so you can disrupt the thought pattern and stop that inner self-doubter from taking over.

2. Look to the past and awash yourself in the memories

Be real with yourself and ask yourself:
How many times when I doubted myself or feared something would happen did that negative thing come into reality after I still took action?
The answer for me — and probably for you too — is not very often at all.
Self-doubts are most often just monsters in your head that your mind may use to keep you from making changes and to keep you within the comfort zone.
If you look to the past and see how well things have gone many times despite those self-doubts then it becomes easier to let go of them or to ignore them and to focus on the more likely positive outcome and to take action.

3. Talk to someone about it

When you keep your thoughts on the inside they can become distorted, exaggerated and not very much in line with reality or reasonable expectations. This is very much true when it comes to self-doubting thoughts.
So let them out into the light. Talk to someone close to you about your self-doubts. Just letting them out and saying them out loud can often help you to hear how exaggerated these thoughts have become. And by talk about those doubts with someone that is supportive you can get a change in perspective.

4. Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap

If you compare yourself to other people all too often, to their successes and especially to their highlight reels that they share on social media then self-doubt can quickly creep up.
A better way to go about things is to compare yourself to yourself. To see how far you’ve come. To see what you’ve overcome. And to see how you’ve kept going, succeeded and grown as a human being.

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5. Start keeping a journal

Keeping a journal can be a helpful habit for many reasons. When it comes to self-doubt it can help you to:

  • Keep a realistic record of your life as this helps you to remember the positive things, the successes you have had and how you have overcome obstacles if you are prone to remembering things with a negative slant.
  • Gain clarity more easily. It is often easier to alleviate fears and doubts and to gain clarity if you have an issue laid out on paper or in a computer document rather than if you try to go through it all in your mind. By making lists of pros and cons, going through your thoughts and emotions and similar events from the past and by writing down different perspectives on the issue it becomes easier to find solutions and to see your challenge in a clearer and more level-headed way.

6. Remember: people don’t care that much about what you do or say

When you worry about what others may think or say if you do something then the self-doubt can quickly become stronger and you get stuck in inaction and in fear.
When that happens remind yourself that the truth is that people don’t really care that much about what you do or not do. They have their hands full with thinking about themselves, their kids and pets, jobs and upcoming sports matches and with worrying about what people may think of them.

7. What someone said or did might not be about you (or about what you think it is)

When someone criticises you then it’s easy to start doubting yourself. When someone rejects you and you don’t get the job after an interview you think went pretty well then it’s not so strange to get down on yourself.
But what if what he or she said or did really isn’t about you at all?
Perhaps your co-worker that verbally lashed out at you is having a bad day, month or time outside of work. And you might not have gotten that job because the managers mum got sick and they had to focus on that and were then unable to employ as there was nobody to train new starters.
You don’t know everything that is going on in another person’s life. And the world doesn’t revolve around you so be cautious not to misinterpret and build blame and doubt without any reason.

8. See a setback as temporary

When you have a setback then you might start to see things through a negative and dark lens. You might see this current setback as something that will simply be your new normal.
This way of looking at things can trap you in thinking that there’s no point in continuing to take action.
So instead:

  • Remember: You are not a failure just because you failed. Setbacks happen to everyone who take chances. It is simply a part of living life fully. Sometimes things go well and sometimes they don’t. So don’t make a failure into this huge thing or into your identity.
  • Ask yourself: what is one thing I can learn from this setback? Use the mistake or failure to your advantage and to move forward once again in a smarter way.

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9. Celebrate that small step and win

When you’ve taken one small step forward — for example, set up your own website or gone for the first 5 minute run in months or years — and you’re done with it then you have a win. It may be a small one but it’s still a win. So celebrate it.
Have a tasty snack or your favourite food for dinner, spend some time on your favourite hobby or by yourself something you’ve wanted for a long time. This will renew and recharge your motivation and make taking action feel more exciting and fun. And that will push self-doubts aside so that you can keep moving and get more small and bigger wins.

10. Remember: You can course-correct along the way

Trying to plan every move you will make on a journey towards a goal or dream can become draining and lead to quite a bit of self-doubt. And it usually won’t work that well anyway since the best laid plans often start to fall apart a bit or need some change when they are confronted with reality. Acceptance of this is key.
So do a bit of rough planning and then start your journey, it’s all trial and error. Remember that you can always course-correct along the way towards what you want. Empowered by the new knowledge, experience and feedback you will get as you keep going on that path.
To round this all up, I definitely feel that self-doubt is something that many of us do naturally and somewhat don’t realise we do. I hope that these 10 tips help you all on the road to overcoming self-doubt.
Please feel free to drop any questions or queries below.
Thank you for reading x