You’ve probably been told that the world is at your finger tips. You have more choices than ever before and that you should be so lucky that there are abundant opportunities out there.
This idea can be a blessing for some and a curse for others.
If you’re an over-thinker like me, it can be exhausting running through every possible scenario for every potential possibility.
The what if’s start to run your life and you can get so deep down the rabbit hole, that you can even forget what your original intention was.
It’s even worse when you’re unaware you are doing it!
Here are 15 signs that you are an over-thinker, even if you don’t feel you are.
1. You find meaning in everything
Someone you like twirls their hair twice, instead of three times. You walk past someone and they don’t make eye contact with you, but you walk past them again and this time they make eye contact, but for only a couple of seconds. They looked away a little too fast. What does it all mean!? When you’re an over-thinker, you tend to want to find meaning in the world around you. Sometimes, it can consume you and you over-analyze everything. It’s helpful to remind yourself that nothing has inherent meaning, other than the meaning you give it.
2. You think more than you do
Ever heard the term analysis paralysis? You think so much that you don’t end up doing anything. You weigh your options. You decide that the best outcome might be, but then you compare the best outcome with a new possible best outcome. The cycle continues until you end up doing nothing. Instead of thinking about every possibility, I find it helpful to actually start testing out some to see if they are actually true. While it’s important to think, it’s equally important to act.
3. You get excited when you’ve finally figured something out
Maybe you’ve been mulling something over for weeks. A complex problem that you haven’t figured out yet, but have kept at it. Or, a complex love interest that you’ve obsessed about, until they do something that proves your entire theory about them. Either way, you jump for joy exclaiming, “Eureka!” when you’ve finally figured out the answer. Then of course, you move onto your next problem and even begin to question whether or not you actually figured out the original problem.
4. You find it difficult to let things go
Because you’ve put in a lot of effort to figure something out, you find it challenging to let go of it. You easily attach to things you find important. You don’t want to fail. When you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into something, it can be hard to let it go when it isn’t working. You may continue thinking about it even after you believe you already did let it go. The more you think about something, the more it can eat away at you.
5. You are patient
You highly value the time it takes to “dot all of your i’s and cross all of your t’s.” Even if it takes you longer than most, you are delighted when you come out ahead because you’ve put in the time to figure it out. You are willing to wait it out until you feel comfortable with the knowledge you’ve acquired, which allows you to be patient whilst others want quick solutions.
6. You want to get all of your ducks in a row
Be careful with this one. This can often be an excuse to not taking any action. While you find it comforting to wait until you feel ready, you may never feel ready and might only be delaying the inevitable. I know this because I used to say this. Sometimes there will never be a best time and you will never have as much time as you do now. Might as well jump in the water and then get your duckies in a row.
7. You are always seeking new information
A friend forwards you an article about a topic you are interested in. You get a notification from Facebook that you were tagged in a photo at the same time you get a text from someone asking you a question. Then, you’re cubicle mate stands up and wants to try this new restaurant for lunch. With so many distractions, there is a tendency to want to know more information about all of it. So many possibilities and so much to learn about them.
8. You want to know the “why”
Kids love to ask why. It’s hot out today. Why? Don’t talk to strangers. Why? Walk don’t run. Why? Over-thinkers tend to keep this inner child with them throughout their life. They aren’t interested so much in surface level meaning, but the why behind it. This can be extremely beneficial in solving complex problems, having deep conversations, and pondering the meaning of life. Sometimes it can be detrimental, because some things DO have surface level meaning. We want simplicity, yet make things complex.
9. You want to get everything right
You might be a perfectionist. On the one hand, you pride yourself on being great at what you do and strive to do your best. But when you don’t get everything right and come up short, you can become your harshest critic. By recognizing that this can be a strength as well as a weakness, you can let up a little knowing that you simply can’t get everything right, despite your best efforts. Cut yourself some slack.
10. You dread a one word reply
When you ask someone “How they are doing?” and all you get is “Good”, you cringe a little bit. There is much more to that question than “good.” Wanting to know more, you might pry a little more and ask more questions because you want to figure out how they are actually are. How good? Really good or just a little good? Good today? Good right now? While you may be able to go on and on about how you are feeling, you might also expect everyone else to want to do the same.
11. You assume others know what you’re thinking
Those voices in your head are loud to you, but you may forget that they are yours and yours alone. You might get quiet and assume someone else will know exactly what is going on in that head of yours. But if you don’t communicate it, other people won’t know. While you may prefer quiet environments, you start to realize that your over-thinking gets louder when there aren’t as many distractions. You may find that inner child coming out again when you don’t get your way.
12. You are a lover of lists
The joy of making a large list and crossing out those items as you complete them is highly motivating. When you try and share your love of lists with others, they many not revel in that same joy. But you continue to make them! The satisfaction of planning out something and visually seeing all that planning getting crossed off is pleasurable.
13. You look forward to doing things to calm the mind
Long walks. Meditation. Writing. Exercise. A conversation. You enjoy doing things that take your mind out of over-thinking mode. While your mind is active, you find it difficult to sometimes just be and can have the urge to be doing more. It’s helpful to remind yourself that you are in fact a human being and not a human doing. This will allow your mind to take a much deserved break.
14. You analyze people
This includes yourself! You may wonder why people do the things they do. You enjoy people watching because you want to try and figure them out. Public places can be both fascinating and overwhelming to you. To you, someone just doesn’t walk by you. You may have noticed the way they walk or thought about what song they are listening to. If someone is talking to themselves, you might have to remind yourself that they are talking to themselves and not you. Then you wonder why they are talking to themselves in first place.
15. You think critically
Sometimes you see alternative solutions to complex problems. Maybe you have some ideas that nobody has ever thought of before. Sometimes you can sit and stare off in awe at the complexity of life. Easy answers aren’t good enough to you. You want to go deeper. You weigh all of your options, carefully investigating deeper and deeper. Your ability to think critically is a strength you are deeply proud of.
Some of our greatest inventors, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders were all over-thinkers. It can can also be very limiting and even lonely at times.
When you can see both the strengths and limitations of your over-thinking, you can balance your level of over-thinking with more doing. You can even teach someone else who under-thinks!
Take comfort knowing you aren’t the only one who over-thinks and remember these 15 signs you are probably an over-thinker, even if you don’t feel like you are.
But don’t think about it too much.
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