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What Overthinking Actually Is — Because It's So Much More Than Worrying

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This piece was written by Kirsten Corley, author of “But Before You Leave

Overthinking. It’s the nights I spend not sleeping as mistakes I’ve made in the past act as a plague to my mind. It’s worrying about things that might never happen as I dwell over the things that have.

It’s every fear I have that debilitates me. And as I think more, I hold back tears.

It’s failure becoming the worst reality in my mind. Failing class. Failing at a job. Failing in relationships.

People who overthink tend to strive for unrealistic expectations which lead to success.

But the cost is exhaustion trying to maintain them.

It’s being both physically and emotionally exhausted from a brain that never slows down or shuts off.

Overthinking is that pause between texts as I wonder how they are interpreting what I said. It’s typing and deleting and sending yet another because my mind is playing tricks on me.

It’s the constant need for answers and responses just to keep my mind at bay and calm.

Overthinking is the voice of criticism that is trying to destroy me as it doubts everyone and everything around me. Then it makes me doubt myself and second-guess everything. I never follow my first instinct when I overthink things.

It’s following the destructive path my mind leads me down and I can’t make it stop if I want.

Overthinking is like some fire I can’t control and it just destroys everything in its path — including me.

It’s the critical voice that clings to mistakes only to bring them up later.

Overthinking feels like you’re constantly waiting for something but don’t actually know what you’re waiting for.

Waiting for something to change.

Waiting for something to go wrong.

Waiting for someone to get mad.

Waiting for something to end dramatically and it is my fault.

Overthinking comes bearing apologizes I didn’t need to say in the first place, but I’m sorry for questioning my loved ones and thinking the worst. It leads me to think every worst scenario will be a reality.

Overthinking leads me to be overly cautious with everything.

Overthinking is like tiptoeing around everything like there are shards of broken glass below my feet and any wrong move will lead to pain.

It’s the fear of relationships because I need so much in a partner that I wonder if I’m better off alone.

Because how do I even explain to someone it isn’t them I’m doubting or don’t trust? My mind is just leading me to be so cautious. How do I explain to someone I’m interested in that I need to hear certain phrases over and over again like, “it’s OK” or “we are OK” or “I’m not leaving you.”

Overthinking in relationships is accepting I’m not going to be the strong and confident one ever. It’s needing that reassurance for every doubt. It’s needing someone, to be honest, all the time and explain things very thoroughly. It’s the conversations that might be awkward, but the person needs to be able to communicate. Someone to tell me when something is wrong. To tell me when they are mad. To tell me exactly what they are thinking. It’s the fights I want solutions to immediately because if I don’t, my mind will create 10 more problems.

It’s listening to scenarios that are very real in my mind even though to a normal person it’s so out there.

Overthinking is caring too much and no matter how much someone else’s opinion shouldn’t matter or that ignored text shouldn’t even impact me, under the surface, I’m wondering, “What have I done wrong? And what can I do to fix it?”

The root of overthinking is just wanting people to accept me and be happy with me because I’m still learning how to be happy with myself.

It’s choosing words so carefully because I never want to intentionally hurt someone.

Overthinking makes me think I’m always to blame when my relationships end.

Overthinking makes me want to find solutions to things that aren’t even problems.

Overthinking is the want and need to control things because it feels like this thing in my life controls me.

I know I can learn to adapt to this thing that hurts to live with, even if I don’t remember what it was like to live without it.

And as I navigate through these thoughts, I’ll find comfort in others who love me through this flaw and learn to adapt to having someone like me as part of their life. They are the ones who help me through it — constantly reminding me they won’t leave.

This story was brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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Unsplash photo via Daniel Monteiro

Originally published: August 20, 2018
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