I continue to occasionally suffer from Analysis Paralysis.
Also known as Overthinking Things.
Problem solving should be simple, right? Like most of my dear readers and clients, I’m a smart cookie (everyone has always said so).
Quite capable of figuring things out. Seeing all the angles, multiple possible solutions AND their potential consequences.
Contingency planning extraordinaire.
But sometimes playing the “what if” game just makes us feel anxious, worried and exhausted. Overwhelmed, we either cave and do nothing (and beat ourselves up about THAT) or jump into SOME solution, just to do something (and second guess ourselves for THAT).
Sound familiar? Buckle your seatbelt.
Smart women are perfectionistic
(aka Straight A’s and Exceeds Expectations)
They struggle to see that sometimes there’s such a thing as good enough. They waste enormous amounts of time and energy tweaking blog articles to make them just write. (OOPS – right)
I was trying to start a new cross-stitch project & I hadn’t stitched in probably over 12 years. Understand, I wasn’t gifted with the craft gene. I’m immediately engulfed by feelings of inadequacy just walking into Michaels or Hobby Lobby. For almost 30 minutes I had tried to figure out exactly the best place to start. My highly-skilled friend had observed my self-inflicted suffering and answered countless questions. She finally had enough and in a stern, loud voice said: “Stop overthinking it! Start anywhere! It doesn’t matter where, just start! If you make a mistake, you can always fix it.”
Her comment hit me like a ton of bricks.
I recognized what had been the story of my life.
Smart women are reluctant to ask for help when we truly need objective feedback and support
Because we are usually the ones other people come to for help, we feel vulnerable or weak when we ask. Intellectually, we are aware asking for help isn’t weak, although we sometimes secretly judge other people that way. Have you ever said, “No one else will do it right, or on time, so I might as well do it myself?” (See perfectionism above). We lose perspective and end up being less effective in the long run. We think we’re thinking clearly, but part of us knows we’re not. The logic becomes circular, which leads to…
Smart women are ridiculously self-critical
which contributes to anxiety, depression or addiction, relationship issues and stress-related illnesses
The downside of seeing multiple alternatives is that we worry about things that haven’t happened yet, and feel sad and discouraged as we ruminate on past decisions that may not have turned out so well. We even question the things we did that DID turn out well – in 1987 and in 2004. Our self-esteem starts to crumble and our bodies rebel. Shame and self-judgment become regular companions as a result of our incredibly mean self-talk.
Smart women often honor the intellect more than our feelings and our spirits.
This means we alternately bury our feelings OR allow our feelings to run the show. We get stuck in the heart vs. head battle, where no one wins. Our rational thoughts drown out the whispers of our spirits.
Here’s the problem with being stuck in our heads. As Anne Lamott said, it’s a dangerous neighborhood. And we suffer. Valued for our brains, we come to minimize, even neglect, our bodies and our spirits.
We experience headaches, sleepless nights and a nagging feeling we’re missing out on fun and joy and spontaneity and life.
Intellect as Identity
Growing up, we often received recognition and praise for our brains and academic achievements (even if the cute guys didn’t look at us twice in high school except to ask to copy our homework.) Honestly, I’m still pretty proud of my geekiness. However, we slowly began to weave together the strands of our intellect and sense of self. For some of us, our intellect helped us be perceived as competent and capable in the workplace; 25 years ago it was the domain of Men as authority figures. We still live in a culture that highly values the rational, the logical, and the linear.
We retreat into our intellect because it feels safe, familiar, less risky there.
We can absolutely be well-pleased with our accomplishments, awards and credentials. We must also remember we are so much more than the labels, than our brains. Many, many benefits can be found in our rational mind. But moving into our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s it is time to own and attend to the whole package, sisters. Much happiness and peace are waiting for us when we learn to better manage our thoughts, integrating our minds, bodies and spirits.