Outfit Post: The myth of overthinking

One stifling hot day this summer, faced with yet another day stuck at home perched in front of the air conditioner, I decided to take my kids to our community pool. I donned my most fetching tankini, slathered myself in sunscreen, and perched at the end of the water, monitoring my brood and trying not to get splashed in the face. At one point, another mom arrived next to me, and we started chatting. She clutched her adorable two week-old daughter to her chest, and as I cooed over her baby, uterus weeping white hot tears of envy, I remarked how lovely it is to have a newborn in the house. She looked me over approvingly, squinted, and said, "Oh you should totally have another baby. You're still young, right? How old are you anyway...29, 30?"

And it was then that my mind took off. First came the complimentary thoughts: Wow, this total stranger thinks I look seven years younger than I actually am! Guess I can ditch my wrinkle cream!!! And, soon after, followed the worry: I'm almost 37, way too old to have another baby. Or am I? What if this is my LAST CHANCE to have another kid? Was this stranger right? Was my weeping uterus trying to tell me something? OH MY GOD I SHOULD HAVE ANOTHER BABY BEFORE I'M TOO OLD TO PICK THE KID UP!!!

I've had similar experiences. My tattoos are frequent sources of confusing conversations with strangers. I've been told that "I must really like pain!" and labeled a "rebel" and "hardcore." These simple remarks have sent me into a tailspin of self-doubt and self-consciousness. Do people think I'm dangerous? Do they fear I engage in risk-taking behavior, like doing drugs and jaywalking and driving too slow in the left-hand lane? Do they think I'm some kind of DEVIANT???

And let's not talk about the comments we all get about weight gain/weight loss.

Like most people, I have a million thoughts and worries, and all million of them jostle for my attention at the exact same time. It is completely irrelevant that a few of them are big worries (my financial situation, my partnership within my marriage) and some more inconsequential (did I remember to turn off the coffee maker this morning?) They all seem equally dramatic and important in my mind.

Dealing with all these worries makes me feel kind of like an air traffic controller most of the time. Each worry is a little blip on the screen, swirling and floating through my brain, with the potential to collide midair and cause a huge flaming mess. For the most part, I've gotten infinitely better at controlling these worries: determining which deserves my immediate attention, which ones I can procrastinate for a later time, and which ones I can ignore completely. But sometimes my management skills erode. I start having more trouble sleeping, and hearing more negative self-talk, and feel increasingly self-conscious and insecure.

My primary cause of excessive worrying comes down to overthinking. I am a master at taking a seemingly simple situation, innocent comment or off-handed remark and turning it into a grave situation equivalent to the Libyan uprising. Like most women, I have a tendency to ruminate. I focus on the things I'm not doing right and the things that are out of my control, examining them repeatedly until they swell in size. And as these negative thoughts take over, I get increasingly overwhelmed.

I was catching up on some blogs when I came across this excellent passage concerning overthinking from The How of Happiness:

Many of us believe that when we feel down, we should try to focus inwardly and evaluate our feelings and our situation in order to attain self-insight and find solutions that might ultimately resolve our problems and relieve unhappiness. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, I, and others have compiled a great deal of evidence challenging this assumption. Numerous studies over the past two decades have shown that to the contrary, overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences: It sustains or worsens sadness, fosters negatively biased thinking, impairs a person’s ability to solve problems, saps motivation, and interferes with concentration and initiative. Moreover, although people have a strong sense that they are gaining insight into themselves and their problems during their ruminations, this is rarely the case. What they do gain is a distorted, pessimistic perspective on their lives.
Once I start paying more attention to my internal cues, I began to do a better job of monitoring overthinking. When I find myself thinking in circles, I try to find an activity that will relax me, such as reading blogs - my favorite emotional comfort food - going for a run, or even doing housework. Or, if it’s evening, I go to bed early with a book. Things really do look better after a good night’s sleep, and often something that had me agitated the night before seems much less worrisome the next morning.

Are you an overthinker? What are some things you tend to ruminate about? Have you found any helpful strategies to keep yourself from overthinking?

(P.S - Yes, my shirt is totes wrinkled near the hem. I had originally belted it, but nixed the belt at the last minute. No Photoshopping or touch-ups here, folks. And, apparently, no ironing either.)

(P.S.S - Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a TIKKR watch and extra band!) 

Vintage thrifted silk shirt; Old Navy shorts; White Mountain sandals; Forever 21 necklaces; Forever 21 pyramid bracelet; vintage thrifted python clutch


  1. I am and always have been an over thinker. I analyze every thing I do and say. Sometimes it is a pain, but sometimes I like that I do it.

    I also love your clutch! So cute!!

  2. Over thinking, I'm guilty of that almost everyday. I love how thought provoking your posts are, and than they are topped off with a fab outfit. Keep up the amazing work love.
    No Guilt Fashion

  3. Ah yes, ruminating, one of my favorite pastimes . . . Fortunately I married a complete non-overthinker so there is some balance in our home.

    I love your jewelry; I've gotten some very cool pieces at F21 too. Have a wonderful day.

  4. I'm so going to send this link to my friend who is a chronic over thinker! :)

  5. I have to double toot your horn - @noguiltfashion said it best - your writing voice is so refreshing!

    Also, this outfit, so simple but lots of great elements. I'm dying over that thrifted silk shirt...It's on my thrift-bucket-list. I've got a crush on that python clutch (dr. seuss).


  6. Wait, so what are you supposed to do instead of ruminating, according to the experts?

    This cracked me up: "Do they fear I engage in risk-taking behavior, like doing drugs and jaywalking and driving too slow in the left-hand lane? Do they think I'm some kind of DEVIANT???"

  7. I am a total overthinker and huge worrier too! People that know me well say that all the time. It kinda sucks too because it's like I can never turn my mind off...I crave relaxation all the time but never seem to quite get there!

  8. Ugh! I am a total over thinker and over analyzer and still have not found a way to beat it. Especially when it is something related to my financial, job or romance situation, I tend to worry and stress myself out to the point of utter exhaustion and sometimes depression. I am trying to get better, reminding myself that thinking about it will often only make it worse, but it is a habit I am struggling to break. And my boyfriend? He is even worse, so there really is no rest in the house.

  9. I overthing EVERYTHING. On one hand I like to hear that I'm not the only one, but on the other hand I hate to think that anyone else's mind is as noisy and indefatigable as mine.
    PS You look great!

  10. Oh I am the Queen of Over-Thinking. It's a constant struggle not to get lost in my own head.

    This blog is great for learning how to untangle the mental script and finding the truths that are lurking in there, especially her stuff on Destuckification: http://www.fluentself.com

  11. I want to say that when I first found your blog and saw your pics, I thought you were about 28. Honestly! And you look great in that outfit, I luuurve your style...
    I am an "overthinker", too; being a control freak, I tend to find faults in my own lack of : planning, foresight,whatever. What do I do to counteract that? What works for me is 1. praying and thanksgiving, 2. singing loudly, 3. going to bed early and reading a good book (I'm with you there, after a good night's sleep, everything looks brighter! Thanks for the inspiration - Lola from Germany

  12. Hi Elissa. If you really are thinking about having another baby, 37 is not too late. I had my daughter when I was 38 and she is such a delight and practically perfect at 26!!!! Best wishes, Eileen

  13. a. this shirt is lovely on you.

    b. i am totes an overthinker. in fact, i've struggled with depression for over eight years, and i only learned to suppress it/deal with it when i stopped thinking so much and started simply being present in the small happy moments. such a true and well written quote! thanks for sharing.

  14. okay i love this outfit!
    i too am an excessive worrier... it drives my husband crazy.
    since i've had my daugther, i think she has kept me so busy, that i simply don't have as much time to worry & over-think.
    it is still hard for me to fall asleep at night because i'm constantly thinking about things, BUT a friend told me to imagine you are erasing your thoughts away in the same way you would erase a chalk board. You just invision it in your mind.
    So sometimes I do that over and over again while i'm trying to sleep & funny enough, it actually works.


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