How Overthinking Could be Damaging Your Career
Careers in Depth
How Overthinking Could be Damaging Your Career
Careers in Depth

What is overthinking?

Overthinking is the name given to the process of going over something again and again in your mind, analysing simple situations or events, which you often have no control over, until you have lost all sense of proportion and you become stuck in a recurring pattern of worry while also not really finding are solution or conclusion to your thoughts.

Of course, it’s normal for people to sometimes dwell on a problem but if you're thinking about everyday situations too much for too long and it is beginning to stop you from enjoying work or life in general, then you may want to confront the issue and address the cause of your tendency to overthink.


How do I know if overthinking?

Overthinking can be common for people who are good problem-solvers or perfectionists but struggle to distance themselves from work in their leisure time. Research by University of Michigan psychology professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema also found that those between 25-35 tend to suffer the effects of overthinking more than their older co-workers and women are more likely to overthink than men. However, people from all backgrounds, ages and gender can be prone to overthinking.

Here are some signs that you may be an overthinker and how it could be damaging to your career:

You constantly relive embarrassing moments or mistakes in your head

Obsessing over past mistakes can limit your potential at work. It can be damaging to your self-confidence to keep dwelling on how you ‘messed up’ or embarrassed yourself, making you reluctant to volunteer for a new challenge or take on a piece of work that puts you in the limelight for fear of failure. It could even stop you from putting yourself forward for a promotion. You need to remember that your past doesn't define your future and everyone makes mistakes on occasion, so you shouldn’t give yourself such a hard time. Instead of thinking negatively about these past situations, you can try to use these experiences as an opportunity to grow by using them as sources of learning towards finding ways to prevent them from happening again and remember, if it was something small or a long time ago, you're probably the only person who remembers it anyway.


You're obsessed with what your boss or co-workers think of you

Everyone wants to be highly thought of at work so it’s natural to want good working relationships; however, if you find yourself obsessing over what people think of you all the time this can be a clear sign that you are an overthinker. It can help to remember that people are often just busy or focussed on their own tasks at work which can make them appear brash or unfriendly but most of the time it would be unlikely to have anything to do with you personally. Try not to let others’ comments or behaviour affect you negatively as this can damage relationships as you may also appear to others to be negative, suspicious or off-hand yourself.

You take perfectionism to the extreme

Perfectionism isn’t always a bad thing as it is obviously important that you aim to do the best job you can in any work task or project but spending vast quantities of your day ‘over-editing’ because you don’t trust your own instincts wastes time and effort making you less productive in the long run.

You feel like you’re not good enough for your job

Overthinking can make you feel like you aren’t good at your job, lowering your self-esteem and confidence. This can lead to stress and anxiety which is also associated with imposter syndrome where you believe that you have somehow reached your position by luck and you are not really entitled to your job.


What can I do about it?

Just acknowledging that you have a problem with overthinking is a great start. You need to remember that you are not alone and that this is a recognised issue for many people.

Speak to trusted colleagues - A good way to build better working relationships and ease the concerns in your mind, is to ask neutral parties whether they think the same as you about how people perceive you in the workplace. Chances are they will tell you that you are imagining any negativity and you can stop worrying about it so much.

Explore if you are aligned to your career - Perhaps you worry too much because you don’t feel confident or comfortable in the role you do as it isn’t where your passions lie and you just don’t enjoy your work. This lack of enjoyment of your work may lead to stressful overthinking as you may feel you “should” like what you do and then feel as if “at fault” for not enjoying it especially when other colleagues may enjoy the same area of work as yours. Addressing this issue and considering a change of direction can give you the confidence boost you need to relieve yourself of constant negative thought patterns.

Try to find the cause – Sometimes a major life event such as a new relationship or a bereavement can have a knock-on effect to other parts of your life such as your career. They can be the cause of low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in your abilities and decisions. Recognising this can help you to realise that overthinking things at work is a by-product of something else which is causing you stress or anxiety, which in turn, will help you gain some perspective.

Practice mindfulness or relaxation techniques – Finding ways to relax and switch off can help you to stop obsessing about work all the time when you are away from your desk. Encourage yourself to think positively about all the good things that have happened each day before lodging on the negative ones.

Other useful reading:

If you think you may be headed down the wrong career path or you want to discuss how to develop your career and what might be holding you back, contact Careers in Depth today and find out how we can help you.


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