Why Overthinking Kills Your Confidence

By March 9, 2016Confidence, Faith, Women

Why Overthinking

Did you know that every thought that you have physically changes the structure of your brain?

In her book, Who Switched Off My Brain? Dr. Caroline Leaf describes what’s happening in our brains like this:

The surprising truth is that every single thought – whether it is positive or negative – goes through the same cycle when it forms. Thoughts are basically electrical impulses, chemicals and neurons. They look like a tree with branches. As the thoughts grow and become permanent, more branches grow and the connections become stronger.

 She goes on to say:

Proteins are made and used to grow new branches to hold your thoughts, a process called protein synthesis. So, if we don’t get rid of a thought we reinforce it. This is quite phenomenal because science is confirming that we can choose to interfere with protein synthesis by our free will. If you say you ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t,’ this is a decision of your free will and will actually cause protein synthesis and changes in the real estate of your brain.

Every time you have a thought and let it take hold to gain more real estate in your brain, you reinforce that belief. So the way you think about yourself, your abilities and your likelihood of success becomes a physical part of your brain each time you think. You’re making that thought, that structure in your brain, stronger which makes it more powerful. Do you see the implications for building or destroying your confidence?

Overthinking is a primary culprit in destroying our confidence.

Women in general fall into the habit of overthinking. We overthink just about everything at one time or another. And we are always thinking. It’s hard to turn off our minds. It’s a key differentiator between men and women and why men seem to have more confidence than women in general. They don’t overthink things.

Men can think about nothing –  what??

It was perplexing to me when I learned that my husband can actually think about nothing. His mind can be blank. How is that possible? For the longest time I didn’t believe him.

Early in our marriage, we would be driving in the car and after a long bought of silence I would musingly ask him what he was thinking about.

By that time I had already had a variety of thoughts.

What time would we get to our destination? Who else would be there? What would they be wearing? I wonder if Jennifer will be there. I think her new haircut looks amazing. Should I get a new hairstyle? Why is there always road construction but no one is ever actually working on the road? Where are they and what are they doing? Do they have this much road construction in other states? I’m hungry. We should stop to get something to eat. I’m glad I bought these shoes. They’re so cute. I wonder if my husband is thinking about my shoes.

Then I would look over at my husband. He would be gazing out the windshield, silently driving. Obviously, he must have had a million thoughts just as I had. I thought we should chat about it. So I said, “What are you thinking about?” He snaps out of his gaze, “Nothing,” he responds.

Nothing? What do you mean nothing? You have to be thinking about something. How can you think about nothing?! An obvious lie! Were we growing apart? Is he keeping secrets? Why is this happening to us?

It wasn’t until I read the book, Men Are Like Waffles and Women Are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel, that I realized that men actually can think about nothing. Not one thought. I was incredulous. It’s been several years since I read their book but I remember the revelation it produced.

Men’s thinking is similar to the individual squares in your breakfast waffle. They think about one topic at a time, like one waffle square. They can turn it on and off depending on which waffle square they are in. There are empty waffle squares and if they are in one of those, they aren’t thinking about anything. Nothing.at.all. (It still blows my mind.)

Women, on the other hand, think like spaghetti. Every thought relates to every other thought and it’s all intertwined. Something that happened to us this morning will affect us in the evening. We’re not good at turning it off.

thoughts are powerful

Thoughts are powerful.

Our thoughts become our reality.

Our thoughts create firmly held beliefs in our minds regardless of their accuracy.

We act on what we believe to be true. “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

Our interpretations of events form how we see the world and what we believe to be true about ourselves. This can have either a positive or negative, even disasterous impact on our confidence.

What can we learn from waffle thinking that can have a positive effect on our confidence?

Don’t overthink things!

Be disciplined in your thinking. Chop the spaghetti and get into a waffle square.

  • Don’t ruminate on the small stuff (and don’t make the small stuff big stuff). Men don’t do this. You never hear them say, “You know, I think Bob is mad at me. I should have let him off the elevator first. I knew he would be angry about that… Well I never liked him much anyway. So it’s better this way. I wonder what will happen next time we get on the elevator.” That conversation is not going on in any man’s brain. Either address the issue, if there is an issue, or move on.
  • Give yourself a limited time to think about the event. Literally, allow just enough time to process but not over-process. Like a cake in the oven, if you leave those thoughts baking for too long they’re ruined. You may not be able to control the thoughts that come into your mind, but you can control the thoughts that take up residence. (read more here)
  • If you don’t know something to be true then stop wasting time thinking about it. Again, either address it to determine its validity or move on.

All three steps will help you to rebound faster and recover quicker.

Overthinking leaves us stuck and erodes our confidence.

Always work on forward motion. “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5b

Do you find yourself thinking too much? Is there a particular area of your life that you overthink more than others? Leave a comment and get the conversation started because you’re not alone.

In the meantime, get your FREE Personal Leadership Assessment here.

Copyright © 2017 Kaylene Mathews. All rights reserved.

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Kaylene

About Kaylene

Kaylene Mathews, MBA, equips and empowers individuals and groups to gain the clarity they need to achieve their personal and professional best through keynotes, coaching and training services. She authors a weekly blog, and a monthly newsletter. She is currently working on her second book. Her first book is available on Amazon.