Overthinking by Nicola Allen

The perils of overthinking

“What are you thinking about?” I ask my friend.
“Nothing” she responds. “What are you thinking about?”
“Well…” and so begins a ten-minute explanation about my current thoughts.
“I would be exhausted if I lived in your head.”

This happens to me a lot. My brain is never quiet. I analyse everything – what people say, what they don’t say, and what their face and body is doing throughout the whole process. I am always curious, keen to understand why both myself and others, think, feel and act the way that we do. This has been a great tool for my writing; research, analysis and getting to the crux of an issue through effective questioning are vital skills.

My social life is different. With strangers and in new situations, my overthinking makes me appear quiet and reserved, seemingly aloof. This is because my brain is questioning everything. Will I sound silly? How will this make other people feel? What will they think of me? I don’t enjoy socialising in big groups and find it difficult getting to know new people. Small talk is my idea of torture!

When I get to know someone well and/or feel comfortable in a situation I become the complete opposite. With the right people I can talk about anything and everything for hours and hours. This is because the overthinking makes me genuinely interested in almost everything and everyone. But even then, there are doubts. Do they really like me? Am I talking too much? Am I boring them?

My friend is right – it is exhausting. My mind is never quiet. On a bad day, I worry a lot. I play various scenarios out in my head, over and over, and am prone to catastrophising. On a good day, I am flooded with so many ideas and so much inspiration that I often don’t know where to start, this is why another one of the perils of being an overthinker is procrastination. I am always looking for the perfect solution, the right answer, the thing that will make me happiest. I can spend so long weighing up the pros and cons of each scenario that sometimes it feels easier to just give up and not bother.

When I decided to write this piece, I mentioned the idea to a few people and was comforted by what I learned. It seems that to some degree or other we all have our moments of overthinking and talking ourselves out of things. We are each at the centre of our own universe, worrying about how we appear to others, keen to fit in and not be judged negatively. I have become braver in the knowledge that, most people aren’t paying attention to how nervous or unsure I might be because in the nicest possible way, they are all too busy thinking about their own stuff to even notice.

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