Why you can't stop overthinking

mental health productivity Feb 10, 2024
Why you can't stop overthinking

In this modern age, many people overthink their way into things that they never should have. Even the smallest thing can be grounds for endless rumination. It doesn't take a therapist to know that this is unhealthy. Today, we'll be going over why you can't stop overthinking and how to solve it.

The steps of overthinking we'll be covering are:

  1. Placing too much importance on the opinions of others
  2. Paying too much heed to the spotlight effect
  3. Being unable to let go

Don't overthink overthinking

This post is perfect for those who are such overthinkers that they overthink their overthinking. Even if you aren't that far gone, if you can resonate with this at all then you're in the right place.

As someone who was once caught in the middle ground of this conundrum, I still benefitted greatly from the points I'll be sharing here and I'm confident you will too.

Placing too much importance on the opinions of others

The main thing I learned about this whole predicament is that it centers around others. Specifically, around how we think others view us. I recognized this when reflecting on how I'd always bend to the tide of the situation if it meant avoiding trouble. Useful in some situations, yes, but it's not a recipe for a sustainable lifestyle.

Those who seem to be chronically stressed out and those who overthink are often the same people even though they can be separate. The one thing in common is these people put too much focus outward into the world.

Whether it be stress or thinking too much, we often place how someone else would view the situation above how we want the situation to unfold. The conflict occurs when how we think they would see it goes against how we want to resolve things.

These people are chronically stuck in their heads and have no easy way out. They can't see beyond what they think will happen.

If this sounds like you, then the first reason you can't stop overthinking is you're trying to control something that you can't: other people.

On one hand, overthinkers want to maintain a good image in the eyes of others. They want to be accepted and will do almost anything to get this. This leads to stress over how to do it.

The problem arises on the other hand, where you can't know for sure how someone will respond. Even if you have a good idea of how they would act, there is no guarantee.

There are only a few guarantees in this life: you are alive, you will die, and you know what's happening in your head. The solution, therefore, is to play toward the one guarantee you can influence, which is what goes on in your head.

Rather than pour out energy over how to act to garner the favor of others, pour out that energy over how to garner favor with yourself. You know if what you'll do will please you or not, so play with that and pick up the pieces from there.

The spotlight effect is the cause of overthinking

We're all such conceited bastards. We all think we're so important. That's why we stress over that one embarrassing thing we did years ago even though everybody else already probably forgot about it. The thing is, this is how everybody thinks. We can use this to our advantage.

I remember back when I stressed over making everything come off as cool or charismatic. I thought that everything had to be a certain way or it'd flop and people would hate me.

Then I farted in one of my college classes out loud. Nobody batted an eye and everybody still treated me the same way as before: kindly and courteously.

If there is one cognitive bias you should remember, it's the one known as the spotlight effect. I'm pretty sure this is at least the fifth time I've covered it. It's that effective to know about it.

And it's pretty self-explanatory: we all believe that we're the star of the show and everybody has got their eyes on us. We all believe that our every move is being scrutinized by everyone around us.

The second biggest factor as to why you can't stop overthinking is exactly this. You think everybody is focused on you and your actions when they're doing that for themselves.

When I first learned about this, it was a huge weight off of my shoulders. Once I was able to implement it, even more weight came off.

Being able to act genuinely is key to not overthinking. When you think everybody is scrutinizing your every action, this is very hard to do.

The sooner you can learn that everybody is too focused on themselves to focus on you, the sooner you can start being more genuine. Sure, you might get judged here and there, but it won't be for more than five seconds at a time.

Being unable to let go

When I first started high school, we had this Christmas band party. It was the first week back after the Christmas concert and we gathered all the band students from all the grades to celebrate and watch the movie Frozen. The most memorable part of the party for me was during the part of the movie where Elsa undoes her hair near the end of Let It Go. One of the older male students grabbed a sweater and wrapped it around his head, then whipped his head back in sync with the song. It was hilarious.

Those who overthink are those who are unable to see the present moment because they're too focused on the future. They can't stop wondering what'll come next when the clues are right in front of them.

This is often why these people are the killjoys and boring people of the world. They don't want to risk anything for enjoyment because of the risk of humiliation.

In other words, those who overthink are living in fear. They are scared of something that isn't in front of them.

This is the most covert reason why you can't stop overthinking. To get over this habit, you need to stop looking ahead so you stop tripping over your own feet.

The solution to this is simple. All you need to do is focus more on the present moment, and everything will solve itself.

Okay, that was a lie, it's not that simple. To stop dreading the future, you need to uncover why you do so in the first place.

For me, it came from my religious upbringing. I avoided that which would make getting to heaven harder and embraced that which would make it easier.

As a result, my life became quite bland and sanitized. The most exciting moments were the holidays and my birthday, and even those were diminished to an extent.

If your focus is on getting into the afterparty, then of course you won't enjoy the actual party. You can enjoy both, you just have to put more focus on what's in front of you and forget why you cared so much about the afterparty until it happens.

I'm over overthinking

When I finally got to the point of mental peace, I was kind of taken aback by it. My mind was so still and peaceful compared to before. It was weird, to say the least.

But like many unfamiliar things, you get used to it very quickly. This was no different, and I'm very glad I got here.

If you've ever asked why you can't stop overthinking, you now have a rough roadmap on how to get out of this rut. Now stop thinking and do the work!

- Karl