The Difference Between Thinking Deeply and Overthinking

An introvert overthinking

Thinking deeply helps you move the needle forward in your decision-making. Overthinking, however, is about being stuck.

As an introvert, I’ve spent a lot of my life inside my head. I often feel the most comfortable there. In the safety of my own mind, I can process and think about things deeply. I can daydream about that book I’d love to write, plan what I’ll say in that important conversation, and plot out the next steps I’d like to take in my career.

Because I spend a lot of my time thinking deeply, I tend to make thoughtful decisions, too.

I’ve often been told that I’m conscientious because I’m usually considerate of other people. You see, when I’m thinking deeply about something that may affect others, I make sure to take them into consideration. I also tend to weigh out my options: I check in with myself before saying “yes” to opportunities and I like to do research before taking action right away.

On the flip side, I’ve also been known to overthink to a point where it makes me feel anxious. Since it’s natural for me to turn an idea over and over in my mind, I can easily fall into unhealthy rumination if I’m not being mindful of it. This is the downside to spending a lot of time in your head.

If you’re a fellow introvert, you can probably relate to a lot of what I’m saying. As introverts, we have this beautiful ability to think deeply. This is an advantage that allows us to make thoughtful decisions and take action that truly aligns with us. However, many of us introverts also have a tendency to overthink, which causes us to feel anxious, stuck, and fearful.

So, while thinking deeply and overthinking may sound similar, they’re actually quite different. Let’s explore how to recognize the difference between thinking deeply and overthinking.

The Difference Between Overthinking and Thinking Deeply

The key difference between overthinking and thinking deeply is the way it makes you feel. Although the two can logically seem very similar, they feel very different.

When you’re overthinking, you likely feel anxious. You may feel scared, shameful, and scattered. It feels uncomfortable in your body, as if you’re a bit frantic and unable to breathe comfortably. On the other hand, thinking deeply is comfortable. You may feel calm, curious, and possibly even excited (depending on what you’re thinking about).

Here’s an example that illustrates the difference between the two.

Let’s say you’re planning a party. (I know, every introvert’s favorite thing to do!) If you’re thinking deeply about party planning, you may be considering the food choices that will work best for your guests. You’re thinking about which guests have food allergies and ensuring you’ll have options that work for them. You’re probably thinking about how you’re going to decorate, what time you’ll have everyone come over, and what you need to buy at the grocery store.

In this scenario, you’re simply considering all of your options in a logical and grounded way. You may even feel excited as you plan this party, envisioning your guests enjoying meaningful conversations while sipping craft cocktails.

Now, let’s say you’re planning this same party but you’re overthinking it. You keep worrying about if the people you’ve invited will get along with each other, if they’ll have fun, or if they’ll even show up at all. You find yourself thinking about the worst possible outcome for this party, envisioning people being disappointed and wanting to leave right away.

In this scenario, you’re obsessing over what could possibly happen and making yourself feel worse the more you think of it. In this state, you’re having trouble deciding what food to make for the party because you feel so frazzled and anxious. You keep ruminating on why it won’t be a good party, so you don’t have space in your mind to consider anything else.

As you can see from these two examples, thinking deeply is more about quietly considering your options. It’s productive and can help you move the needle forward in your decision-making. Overthinking, however, is about being stuck on a certain thought and continuing to obsess over it. It’s not productive, it prevents you from moving forward, and it usually makes you feel worse. 

Why Do We Overthink?

I believe we often get caught up in overthinking for two primary reasons:

  • We’re stuck in fear.
  • We have a lack of trust in ourselves.

Let me explain what I mean by these.

When we’re overthinking every tiny detail, we’re approaching the situation with fear. We’re trying to think about every possible outcome so that we can cover our bases in case the worst scenario happens. We’re just trying to protect ourselves, right? Right. But, there are a couple of problems with this.

First, when we’re so caught up in what we’re afraid of happening, we aren’t paying any attention to what could possibly go right. Because we’re stuck in an anxious loop, we aren’t leaving room in our minds for creative solutions, or hope, or faith. Remember the party planning example?

Secondly, we can’t possibly think of every possible scenario. It’s not only impossible, but it’s also unnecessary. Sure, it’s great to have a game plan in case something goes wrong, but there’s no need for 489 different possible solutions. Instead, come up with 2-3 solutions to ease your mind, and then move on.

A lack of self-trust is another key reason we get stuck in an overthinking loop. When we don’t fully trust ourselves, we don’t believe we’re capable of making a solid decision. We’re constantly overthinking, asking for advice, and mulling over even the smallest decisions because we’re afraid we’ll make the wrong choice.

In my own experience as a highly sensitive introvert, I’ve dealt with a lot of self-trust issues. For many years, I was always second-guessing my own thoughts and opinions. I simply assumed everyone else knew better than me. I was also a chronic overthinker who felt most comfortable ruminating over the worst-case scenario so that I’d be prepared “just in case.”

Over time, I learned that the reason I lacked trust in myself was that throughout my life, I’d often held back my opinions and let the more extroverted people around me take the lead. I assumed that because they were willing to speak up, they knew better than I did. But in doing this my entire life, I strayed from listening to my own voice and personal truth.

For many of us introverts, we learned to abandon our own beliefs because we weren’t the loudest in the room. As a result, we may not feel as comfortable trusting ourselves, which can lead to chronic overthinking. However, there are ways for us to overcome our overthinking habit and begin trusting our own voice and intuition again. 

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How to Overthink Less and Think Deeply More

As introverts, we’re wired to think deeply and thoroughly. This is a gift, but in order for us to use it as such, we have to put an end to our overthinking habit. Here are a few tips to help you overthink less so that you can start thinking deeply more.

  • Meditate. Overthinking is tied to fear and anxiety, and usually the problem is that we’re believing all of the fearful thoughts that are racing through our minds. Meditation helps you to separate from your thoughts and be less affected by them. Here’s a great meditation for overthinking.
  • Tell yourself a new story. When we’re overthinking, we’re usually just repeating a fearful story in our minds over and over again. Why not use that same brain power to imagine an outcome that you’d actually like to see happen?
  • Build your self-trust. One of the most simple ways to start building your self-trust is by keeping the promises you make to yourself. You have to show yourself that you’re trustworthy, right? Start with something small, like committing to drinking 32 oz. of water every day, and then make sure you actually do it. When you follow through on what you say you’re going to do, your self-trust grows. Try it!

Each time we overthink, we’re clouding our minds and leaving little room to think of anything except for what we’re worried about. However, when we do the work to break the habit of overthinking, we create space in our minds to think in a more productive, positive way.

Being able to identify when you’re overthinking — rather than thinking deeply — is an important piece of the puzzle. As soon as you notice yourself in that anxious, overthinking loop, forgive yourself for it and choose to move forward in a way that feels better and more productive.

Doing things like meditating, rewriting the story we tell ourselves, and building our self-trust allows the dust to settle, and the “overthinking clouds” to part. The more we practice this, the more we can tap into our inner guidance and use our ability to think deeply as the gift it truly is.

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