One of the most popular aspersions that many love to cast these days is the idea that everyone is overthinking. You see it referenced constantly on social media, hear it casually bandied about on television, and find it a common topic on self-help websites geared to those seeking to learn how to self-love and self-care.
But I put to you this "radical" notion: There is no such thing as overthinking.
I don't know where the roots of this grand affliction that apparently plagues us all first began, but over the past 10 years or so, it seems you can't share an insight into why something is the way that it is or flirt with the possibility of viewing a situation from multiple angles without someone insisting that you are overthinking.
It's gotten to the point that whenever I hear someone use the term at all, I immediately ignore anything they say after that. It has become my clarion call to exit the conversation or change to another source of entertainment.
I know. It doesn't sound like me to be so "close-minded," but this bandwagon is one I refuse to follow or jump on.
Here's why ...
I love thinking. Thinking is my anti-drug. It's my jam. It's what's for dinner. [insert other dated cultural reference here.]
Thinking is what keeps me sane in a world where you're constantly told what to think, say, do and believe by others who barely know you, but insist that they know what's best for you. Thinking is what kept me from following the crowd when I was a tween and teen, and allowed me to develop my sense of self at my own pace within the comfort of my own existential bubble.
Thinking (or, as I like to refer to it, thinking for myself) is my #1 defense against toxic people, manipulative advertising, and cult-like cabals. Thinking for myself has given me the space to question the norm, embrace the weird, and enjoy the absurd.
Thinking for myself has allowed me to dive deep into the shadows of my psyche to gain perspective on why I am the way that I am. It has granted me grace when I was too hard on myself, but punched me in the arm when I lagged too far behind for too long.
Thinking has never been our enemy -- despite what some English professors' interpretation of Hamlet might have you believe. Thinking was and is the means by which we can avoid the easier traps of our complex society, so we are free to sit up and notice the more intricate ones that are harder to navigate.
I know what you're going to say. "But Candace, what about when it's time to act? Isn't it possible to overthink and miss an opportunity or delay progress toward your goal?"
To this I say, "Absolutely not."
Sure, we've all had moments when we second-guessed ourselves, and it turned out that our first answer was the right one. But I put to you that if you think about it, there are probably just as many times in your life when you changed your answer or decided to do something else at the last minute instead of your original course of action, and it actually turned out to be the right choice.
You see, we focus on the times when we changed our minds and learned all too quickly that our first choice was the right one. But we ignore all those times when we changed our minds and learned that the change was for the better.
We kick ourselves for not getting it right 100% of the time, which leads to us believing that if we only hadn't deliberated over it, we would have gotten it right. Therefore, thinking must have been the problem.
But the question then becomes, "How long should you deliberate? How long should you allow yourself to think about something before it's considered 'overthinking?'"
And therein lies the rub.
No one knows. No one.
Everyone telling you to not give in to overthinking, or telling you those moments you stay up late at night ruminating over your day, wondering what you could have done differently, is the unspeakable curse that is overthinking. Those people can't tell you when thinking officially becomes overthinking.
They can't tell you because they don't know when one act ends and the other begins. All they're telling you is that it's messing you up, making you feel depressed, and should be stopped immediately.
And to that I say -- no. I say there is no such thing as overthinking. You're simply ... thinking.
For some reason, we have this weird notion in modern society that we can control everything. We can control our safety. We can control our feelings. We can control our thoughts. And if I've learned anything over my short time on this planet, it's that none of that is true.
There is no scenario where you are 100% safe. You are meant to feel all emotions, even those that you don't like to feel -- especially the ones you don't like to feel. And our thoughts are there for us to work through the problems that life presents us. The only way to know when you should stop working through the problem is either a) when you're tired or b) you've found the answer.
Every thought is a necessary thought to get you to where you want to go. And there's no way to determine if you're ready to stop thinking until you reach the end of where your mind needed you to go to get you where you want to go.
So I'm not convinced that thinking harms us. Yes, there are moments when our intuition should be our guide, but that doesn't mean that thinking is the enemy. A respectful balance between listening to our visceral instincts and listening to our conscious mind is possible. And the only one who can tell you where that balance lies is you.
Not your parents. Not your psychic. Not your favorite Instagram influencer. It's a balance that can only be struck by going inside your mind and learning to trust yourself. Moments when your intuition should take the wheel will present themselves, and your mind will let you know by quieting itself at just the right time. And when it's time for your thoughts to take charge again, they will do so without hesitation. When you're in balance, your thoughts and your intuition work together harmoniously.
So I say embrace it and lean in. How do you do that? By accepting your thoughts as a part of the process.
Thinking is worthy of its own moments in the sun. Sometimes it's in the form of writing in a journal. Sometimes it's in the form of jogging in the park. Sometimes it's in the form of re-organizing your closet. And sometimes, it's simply you sitting in bed, looking up at the ceiling and letting your mind go where it needs to go to get you where you want to go.
It's not overthinking. It's simply ... thinking.