When it comes to mental health and trying to improve yourself, everyone talks about diving within and asking yourself questions. “Why do I feel like this?” “Where does this come from?” “Is there a deeper root to this?” and many others.
And what this basically means is that introspection and being self-aware should be the solution to mental health. And that is, in my opinion, somewhat true. Self-awareness is defined as a “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings”, meaning you should have the understanding of why you react and feel the way you do, which in most cases is extremely helpful. Only when you manage to become self-aware, you can actually work on yourself. It can be pretty much summed up as “the first step to solving an issue is to notice the issue”.
I have personally been extremely self-aware in the past years (, and that’s a red flag). And I say “Extremely”. Because not only have I asked myself thousands of questions about myself, but in order to understand how I am acting and reacting, I have tried to understand why and how others are acting and reacting. In a debate, for example, I would become aware that something said to me is a trigger and I would feel that I should get angry or at least react somehow. My next step would be to ask myself why do I want to react, what is the trigger, where does this come from? So far so good. But then I would start asking myself “But why did this person say this? What’s with this phrasing? Is there some past experience attached to this? Trauma?”. And so on.
The second reason why I say “extremely” is because I started questioning the answers I was getting from myself or even questioning the voice asking the questions. The most common example I have stumbled upon when trying to research this has been this: “I’ve given a lot of thought to this fight we’re having and I decide to let go of my ego, be the bigger man and just stop fighting and wrap it up”. Followed by “Wait, isn’t being the bigger man actually the ego talking because that might be making me feel like I’m superior?” “Or what if I say I’ll be the bigger man just because deep inside I’m actually a coward and I hide behind the bigger man label?”, “Am I a coward?” “If I’m a coward then I should learn to speak out for myself so I won’t stop fighting!” “But that means that I have the need to be heard and be right, so that’s the ego fighting right?”. And so on…
I haven’t been in that particular case but I haven’t been far away from it either.
And I felt paralysed and frozen because a process I have relied on for so many years had failed me. And not only had it failed me, but it got me stuck into a loop. There I was in the bathroom at 2 am wondering if the answer is X or Y or Z or X or Y or Z. And at that point, since I’ve always joked about myself being an over-thinker, I wondered, am I overthinking my overthinking?
When have I dived so deep into self-awareness that I started questioning my questioning?
When did I being self-aware turn into extreme overthinking?
I actually took a break from writing this for a few days because I had no idea what the answer is. It took some sleepless days, some tears and some existential and identity crisis to reach a possible answer.
There’s no such thing as “Extreme” overthinking.
Overthinking is something we do as humans because of our survival instinct: we’re trying to stay safe and protect ourselves which is why we have to figure out how to deal with a possible negative outcome. However the real and problematic overthinking, that some call ruminating, begins when overthinking starts interfering with our day to day activities, which is the situation I’ve been going through. And somehow I have managed to combine being self-aware with overthinking and have turned it into what some call “analysis paralysis”.
“When have I dived so deep into self-awareness that I started questioning my questioning?
When did I being self-aware turn into extreme overthinking?”
Anxiety & Fear.
Sometimes I’m crippled by my anxiety and my fears. Being a “problem solver” turns the situation into a need to fix the fear and anxiety. Being “self-aware” turns the situation into a mental journey of trying to figure out where do the feelings come from and why. And sometimes that works out fine: taking a step back and trying to be rational towards a problem increases the chance of actually solving the problem.
However when the problem cannot be solved, or at least not in that particular moment, the mind of a “problem solver” & “over thinker” will keep digging and digging, in search of other possible solutions until mental exhaustion. And then it hit me: refusal of acceptance. I realised that I refuse to accept that some issues have no solution. At least not at that moment. Or maybe they’ll never have a solution and it is what it is.
My mind has never said “It is what it is”, but only “It can’t be! There MUST be some kind of way to solve this!”.
And now, thanks to a little bit of overthinking, I understand that my overthinking is sometimes either fueled by anxiety and obsessions of being prepared for absolutely anything, but sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism: if I just keep thinking about solutions, I don’t have to accept the fact that there is no solution. I don’t have to deal with failing to solve the issue if I didn’t manage to finish solving the issue.
And that’s how being self-aware and willing to improve my mental health turned into overthinking and deteriorating my mental health. Sometimes things just are as they are and some issues don’t really have a solution. Not everything has to be fixed or understood.
Take it easy,
It is what it is!