3 Mental Shifts I Made to Stop Overthinking in Relationships

For most of my early twenties, I was socially anxious.

I’ve always had remarkable emotional depth and sensitivity, but I was raw and didn’t know how to carry myself back then.

If my emotional capabilities were my power, I hadn’t yet realised they were powerful, and I didn’t know how to use them to my advantage.

As a result, I overthought every social interaction and felt painfully stressed about holding a romantic relationship together. Well, I hardly could hold any romantic relationship together since my anxious attachment style had sucked all the confidence and positivity out of me.

It also didn’t help that I was young with no money and professional achievements. I wasn’t sure about my place in the world, which made it hard to define my place in a relationship.

See, all these factors contributed to me being an insecure, emotionally overwhelming person who never quite got anything right. I felt helpless towards my inner working.

Luckily, adulthood happened. I started to make money, work on myself externally and internally, and expand my horizon in many ways. I became more self-assured and in control of my emotions.

Finally, I recognised my power.

Through therapy, reading, and trial and error, I’ve managed to rewire my brain in a way that works for me — not against me.

I’ve learned communication skills that nurture the right connections and turn weak ties into beneficial relationships. I’m no longer anxious about people; on the contrary, I have fun socialising and become the rock others can lean on.

Here are the three mindset shifts I made to get here.

Mindset shift 1

Old Mindset: Something must be wrong!

New Mindset: Nothing is wrong unless stated or proven otherwise.

The anxious me had a default assumption that something must be going wrong, either in my life or in my relationships.

I analysed the past obsessively and worried if I had said something terrible. I stressed out about every little thing that didn’t fit my mental script of how a social interaction should go.

Emotional intelligence and sensitivity are wonderful qualities, but it’s dangerous when they’re used to feed into anxiety.

The thing is, I wasn’t interacting with the people in front of me; I was interacting with the thoughts in my head. Those thoughts were powerful, addictive, and self-fulfilling.

Now that I’ve learned to draw internal boundaries, I can use emotional intelligence and sensitivity to build my relationships instead of sabotaging myself. I have become lighter and more present. As I go about my daily life, I assume nothing is wrong unless I have facts to believe otherwise.

This mindset shift allows me to stop reacting prematurely to unfounded worries, causing the worries to become a reality.

As I go about my daily life, I assume nothing is wrong unless I have facts to believe otherwise.

Mindset shift 2

Old Mindset: Ask myself if I did something wrong.

New Mindset: Ask myself and the other person if something is going on with them.

In the past, whenever an interaction went off my mental script, I would think it was my fault.

For example, if I was texting with someone, and they suddenly stopped replying, I would think I had offended them somehow. If someone missed my emails, I would even think they hated me.

The longer their silence went on, the more anxious I felt, and the more likely I would act impulsively to ease my anxiety quickly. The outcome was nothing but broken relationships and soul-crushing regrets.

Now, I turn this mindset on its head.

When something unexpected happens in a relationship, I know I’m solid, so I ask whether there’s any problem with the other person. I don’t assume their behaviour is about me. It’s about them, and I give them the time and space they need to sort themselves out.

Meanwhile, I focus on my life and use positive energy to check up on them when appropriate. I also make sure the next time we interact, I communicate how their behaviour makes me feel and what I’m not willing to accept should our relationship continue.

Mindset shift 3

Old Mindset: People can see things I don’t notice about myself and think negatively of me.

New Mindset: People don’t actively think about me, and it’s okay to take things at face value.

I used to be worried that people could see right through me — even things I didn’t notice about myself — and box me as insecure and desperate. Worse, I thought what if they were right?

I would look at a simple “Hey” text I sent and imagine myself as the other person disapproving of it. I suddenly felt ashamed for saying anything in the first place, which then led me to act needily and push the other person away for real. The anxiety felt endless.

Now, I’ve set up a mental reminder that most people do not actively think about me or assume the worst about me. Even if they do, it’s out of my control. And what’s more, most people take things at face value and so should I.

I might have concerns about my interactions with someone, but I keep them to myself and give them no weight unless the other person acknowledges the same and wants to discuss it.

Most importantly, I’ve stopped looking at myself through other people’s eyes and fixating on what I might do wrong.

Instead, I focus my positive energy and attention on the other person — when I reach out to them, it’s because I care about them and want to know if they’re okay, not because I need them to give me their validation.

Tips on how to maintain these mindset shifts

I know when it comes to mindset shifts, it’s always easier said than done.

I was aware of “the right mindsets” a long time ago, but only until recently could I internalise them and turn them into my daily reality.

As I reflect, I’ve concluded that you need a strong foundation inside out to maintain these mindset shifts and avoid slipping back into the anxious person’s mode.

Here are a few tips — and be warned, it’s a long journey:

1. Draw a hard line.

The moment you decide that you want to rewire your brain and turn your life around, you need to draw boundaries with your past and with the people who refuse to accept the new you.

If there’s a relationship with a history of triggering your anxiety, you need to remove it from your life — at least for now, when you implement your internal changes.

It would help if you give yourself permission to become an emotionally secure and healthy person and make it your number one priority to override any anxious tendency out of habits.

2. Build self-esteem.

To stop directing negative energy toward yourself and start focusing your attention on the world around you, you need to have healthy self-esteem. You need to believe that you’re okay and good enough.

Even if a relationship goes wrong and someone you care about points fingers at you, you need to understand, love, and respect yourself enough not to take everything they say personally and make decisions that protect your well-being.

Some practical ways to increase self-esteem include investing in your education, working out, practice drawing external boundaries, and playing to your strengths.

3. Learn to be present.

One of the best (and most obvious) ways to stop obsessing about the past is to learn to be present.

Being present is how you move along with your life when someone stops investing in your relationship. It’s how you interact with the physical world instead of the obsessive thoughts in your head.

Being present requires regular practice. One common way you could do it is through meditation. Playing sports, especially with a team, or learning a new practical skill would be useful too.

4. Use your closest relationship as a blueprint.

If you’re close to someone — anyone at all — you can use your relationship with them as a blueprint of how you should think and act with other people.

With family and close friends, you can be true to yourself, and you don’t overthink past interactions. It allows them to get to know you and build intimacy with you.

In contrast, anxiety closes you up and poses a challenge for other people when interacting with you, and not everyone will be willing or equipped to take up this challenge, especially if they don’t know you well.

Next time you feel anxious in a new relationship, ask yourself what you would do and what the healthy way to think is, imagining this person was someone close and dear to you.

Be patient with yourself if you can’t act accordingly just yet. It will come with time and practice. For now, stay conscious of your anxiety — it provides you with great insights into yourself and your needs.

5. Strengthen your relationship with yourself.

At the centre of it all is the relationship with yourself.

I understand not everyone has close and loving relationships around them to lean on. Not everyone has access to therapy. But no matter who you are, you have you.

Your relationship with yourself can act as the blueprint for all other relationships in your life. When it’s mature enough, it will give you the key to your power.

Validate your own feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Be kind to yourself.

No matter who you are, you have you.

Key takeaways

Here’s a recap of the three mindset shifts I made to stop overthinking in relationships:

  1. I assume nothing is wrong unless stated or proven otherwise.

  2. If someone acts strange or in any way that hurts my feelings, instead of thinking it’s my fault without evidence, I ask whether something is going on with the other person.

  3. I remind myself that people don’t actively think about me and I take things at face value unless asked otherwise.

To maintain these mindset shifts, here are the five things I’ve been doing:

  • Draw a hard line with my old mindsets.

  • Build strong self-esteem.

  • Learn to be present.

  • Build a robust inner circle/support system.

  • Strengthen my relationship with myself.

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