In this article I will lay the groundwork on how to stop overthinking and how to overcome the influence the voice in your head has on you. I will do this by precisely pointing out how it deceives you and why it is so extremely crucial to detach from it. Really grasping its nature and its consequences is the first step to weakening it. The endgoal is to fully develop a strong and authentic personality, which lets you live and enjoy life to the fullest, without being held back by a twisted sense of reality.
Three of the most common pieces of advice people will give you are ‘stop overthinking’, ‘just be yourself’ and ‘live in the moment’. These three are intrinsically linked together and are rightfully the perhaps most time tested pieces of advice around. However, it is so difficult to truly grasp the meaning of these principles and their importance to a fulfilling life, that most people never get there.
This is mainly due to them sounding so deceptively simple that people don’t stop and give much thought to what they really mean below the surface. After all, one of the rules is to not ‘overthink’. There is however a lot more to them that needs to be uncovered before they can be applied effectively and consistently.
In order to shed some light on this matter and why it is so crucial to understand and use these principles now and not tomorrow or next month, I am creating this series of articles going in depth into their whys and hows.
But before I dive into the main article, let me give you some tidbits:
1. First, the rule is called ‘don’t overthink’ and not ‘don’t think at all, ever’. People trying to meditate themselves into a thoughtless nirvana are simply delusional. It is natural for your brain to have activity.
2. Second, the harm overthinking does to you is severely underrated. It has a direct negative impact on the development of your personality. After years of overthinking you will be a fundamentally worse person than if you hadn’t done so. This impacts every single area of your life from who you date to who your friends are and what kind of job you have. Overcoming this is a lot more crucial than most people comprehend. You need to start now.
So without further ado, lets jump into the article.
1. Being Yourself – What does it mean exactly?
To start, lets look at the end goal of what is supposed to be achieved here. How are these three principles linked together and what do they actually mean?
Essentially, they mean the exact same thing. They describe a state of being in which you are supposedly your most happiest and your most fulfilled. A state in which your mind is not distracting you from the present moment, nor are your fears prohibiting you of being your real, raw self.
In this context being yourself means saying and doing what you intuitively feel, without holding back. There is no layer of thought between your instincts and your actions. No ‘Can I?’ or ‘Should I?’ or ‘What will they think?’. Nothing is popping into your mind before you act. You are just being your raw true self, acting on your instincts and emotions.
This is the most common way of viewing this state, as it is the state that makes us feel most alive. It is usually achieved when socializing, doing sports or being absorbed in a task that consumes you to the exact right degree. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote an entire book about this called ‘Flow’.
Ofcourse it is not possible to always be in that zone. There will certainly be times where circumstances force you to do things that you really don’t want to do. You will likely have these moments every day, for the rest of your days. That’s life and that’s how it is.
While this is to be expected, it is important to understand how the voice in your head, or overthinking, will take the ability to be yourself and live an enjoyable life away from you.
The first way it does this is fairly simple to understand. By being stuck in your head, plaqued by a neverending train of thouhts, you cannot fully enjoy the moments you should be enjoying. But you absolutely need to be able to do so in order to energize yourself and actually make life worth it. Otherwise you are only doing the tough parts without the fun parts and life will slowly but surely, worst of all almost unnoticably, become duller and duller by the day. You will end up dying not really having lived at all.
This is the part that most people are aware of. It is also a relatively simple fix. You might just have a couple of drinks to relax, watch a movie or try your luck at meditation. But It being so easy is also its danger. You can end up living in a mode of constant overthinking most of the time, while telling yourself you can stop that habit at any point in the future and start living your life freely. Unfortunately, settling for this makes you miss the second problem long-term overthinking does to you.
The second problem is subtle. It is easy to dismiss as every single moment where it happens seems so insignificant. But add those moments up and the voice in your head will have led you to live a life way, and I am talking way, below its potential.
2. The voice in your Head – What it is, what it’s not
For the sake of this argument, lets say there are two types of thinking. Intentional and unintentional thinking.
The good type is the intentional one. It is the type of thinking you apply consciously when you are faced with a problem that can be solved with reason. A typical example of these kind of problems are math questions, but they can really be any problem that have a logical solution. If something breaks down in your flat, you apply intentional thinking to look for a solution. If you want to contact a certain person, but you have no direct link to her, you might use intentional thinking to find a chain of people you can get that persons contact details through.
This is the type of thinking that it really pays off to be good at. The better you are at it, the more complex problems you can solve and the more simple life might be to you as a result.
There are two key points to intentional thinking that make it the good, useful type. One is that you have it under control. You can use it when you need it to solve a logical problem and you can stop using it when you don’t.
The other is that it is clearly seperate from your personality. It doesn’t reflect impulsive, negative feedback onto yourself.
As such, it does you no harm. You use it when you need it, you don’t when you don’t. And it has no negative influence on your character.
The second, or bad type of thinking is unintentional, incessant thinking. It’s the type of thinking you can’t control. It controls you. It’s the type that we will refer to as the voice in your head.
Exactly how it develops is not quite clear, but it probably has a lot to do with how you were raised, especially in the early parts of your life.
The key word here is ‘develop’. When people are born they still act largely, or perhaps exclusively, on instinct and emotions. The voice in their head develops as they go through life and receive feedback on their actions, oftentimes from their parents.
The voice might start out as a simple ‘this is good’ or ‘this is bad’ but it can develop into a powerful ‘why am I so stupid?’ or ‘what will people think of me if I do this?’. The danger comes when it develops from a voice of utility that simply tells you not to touch a hot stove, to a voice that reflects everything on to your personality and self esteem. And it becomes even more dangerous when it becomes incessant, adding a layer of thought before everything you do. It’s most dangerous however, and borderline crazy, when you are not at all aware of it, but are blindly driven by it.
The sources of this voice are usually your fears and insecurities. You are afraid of doing something wrong, you are afraid of people thinking badly of you. And the voice in your head grows stronger and stronger in keeping you from doing and saying things that might get you hurt in some kind of way.
So any time you give in to that voice in your head telling you not to do something or not to say something, or perhaps even to feel a certain way about yourself, you are letting your fears and insecurities dictate your life.
What’s particularly tricky about it is that it will try and influence you in the form of excuses that sound so extremely believable. It’s really easy to interpret them as legitimate reasons. That’s why it’s common for people to mistake the voice in their heads with the intentional, perfectly valid way of thinking.
Consequently, the first step to getting over the the influence it has on you is to be able to tell apart its impulsive judgements from the reasonal, intentional thoughts you yourself proactively make.
How does this voice shape the development of your personality?
Your personality develops from experience. Everytime you experience something, you interpret that experience and draw conclusions from it. You adapt your behavior based on these conclusions. If the experience went unfavorable to you, you draw a conclusion about how you can adapt your behavior to make a similar situation go more favorable for you in the future. The worldview that you create is very dependent on how the string of experiences go that you encounter. And your behavior will also be influenced by this a lot. Even what you think and feel about the world will be shaped by your experiences. So it is easy to see how you will be a very different person depending on how the string of experiences that are your life goes.
So experiences and how you interpret them shape your personality. An experience can be interpreted in multiple different ways though, some good and some bad. More importantly, almost any experience is impossible to be interpreted correctly. By experiences I donˋt mean problems that have predictable, logical solutions you can use your intentional thinking to solve. Experiences don’t necessary have a solution or an interpretation, but the voice in your head will try to find one.
And there is the problem. If you are a person that for whatever reason has developed a strong voice in his head, that stems from your insecurities and tries to keep you away from doing and saying things that could hurt you emotionally, then the cycle of interpreting your experiences and adjusting your personality in order to better future similar experiences, will quite simply fuck you up.
Lets say you have a bad experience, but this experience was bad for reasons that are way outside of your control and for reasons that you would simply never know no matter how much you think about it. The best response to an experience like this is to not interpret it at all, since it is had absolutely nothing to do with you.
However, the voice in your head will mis-interpret this experience and reflect it on yourself. It will tell you it went badly becuase you are such a stupid/bad/unlikable/whatever person and you mess everything up. It will tell you that you are person that is bad at whatever the situation you experienced was. You wil learn that if possible avoid an experience like that and if unavoidable, be careful because you wil make a complete ass of yourself.
Now in the future, when you encounter a similar situation and you have at least unknowingly internalized the belief described above, the situation is likely to go just as bad or even worse. And the voice in your head will teld you ‘I told you so. This stuff is not for you. You probably suck at everything else to’
We can call this a downward spiral for the development path of your personality. It will strengthen the voice in your head more and more and simultaneously weaken your personality continuously. And it will all be based on a lie, so to speak. The voice in your head interpreted a situation that was impossible to interpret and falsly reflected it negatively on yourself. You negatively adjust your personality based on this and thus make future situations and their subsequent interpretations a lot worse than they should be.
Compare this to a different scenario. Suppose you simply don’t have that voice in your head, or at least, its not that strong. You have a bad experience but you intuitively know it has nothing to do with your self worth. You know that all conclusions you might make about yourself, while they do seem plausible, might just as well be completely wrong. You intuitively know this and the voice in your head is not there or it is not strong enough to distract you. You go through this experience without making any judgement about yourself. As such you don’t make any adjustments to your personality and your behavior. Your personality is not weakend in the slightest but it is still whole. You intuitively learn that you can go through these situations without feeling bad about yourself and without any negative repercussions for your self esteem. You keep on living your live and your future experienes are not skewed based on wrong adjustments you made about yourself. Instead of iteratively breaking your personality down, life has the effect of slowly but surely strengthen your personality because you go through tough situations unharmed.
I think its clear how being on one path for lets say 10 years will lead to a significantly better and stronger personality than being on the overthinking path for the same amount of time. Here lies the true danger of overthinking, or in other words, being attached to the voice in your head. It will continually break down your personality. And worst of all, it will simply falsely do so. The world view you will have created, the one in which you have low self esteem and are not worth much, is simply an illusion.
Living in this illusion, in which you are going through life believing your an unworthy person, can hardly be called fulfilling. And sooo many people are unknowingly stuck in this. You might know the situation where you meet a person, who by your world view should be no better than you. But this person never built this negative belief system about himself and you can tell his life is way better for it than yours.
This makes overthinking so rediculously dangerous. You think you are trying to make the right decisions but in doing so, you make the exact wrong ones. One after another. And you loose all your confidence.
There is another bad impact from this though. If you are in a situation where you do not need your intentional thinking, like lets say a social situation, it is important to turn of your thoughts completely. Only this way you can truly enjoy yourself in the moment.
Beung attached to the voice in your head means trying to avoid getting hurt. But most situations wouldnt hurt you if you dont have that voice falsly reflecting them on you. So ignore it.
And in any case thats not the right way to learn from getting hurt. You are not supposed to learn to avoid getting hurt ,you are supposed to be able to learn being able to deal with it. And ideally even get stronger from it. But you rob yourself of these opportunities by avoiding them. But everything that can really make you happy can potentially really hurt you. If you only go for things that cant really hurt you, they also can’t really make you happy.
Note:This post is not finished yet. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more!