stop telling women that they’re overthinking

I am a person who thinks, who susses out the interrelated meanings and underlying concepts of everything worthy of my deep, dark, whirling mind. When something sparks my relentless curiosity, it is like a rock in my shoe that I cannot shake out until I find it. Occasionally, that rock is smaller and more difficult to find; my thoughts are more pointed and precise.

I’ve been told many times that I am “overthinking” something when my zeal for deep discussion becomes too much to bear. This always rubs me the wrong way as this is simply a more polite way of shrugging me off. I’m not talking about (seemingly) superficial things that one might expect a 20-something girl to overthink, like text messages or the behavioral connotations of the latest Kardashians episode. But it always seems that this stereotypical idea of the young, blonde, uptalking female is confusing and distracting to people who hear my words and do not wish to process them. Rather than listening, offering a counterargument, or engaging in any other form of mutual communication, words are immediately dismissed as “overthinking”.

Women, especially young women, are so often told that they need to stop overthinking things. They are taught that their natural thought process is incorrect and it is simply ‘too much’. The errors of women provide for great comedic fodder, but satire is a very revealing source of our society’s male-dominated perspective. Women and men are conditioned to think feminine traits — strong communication skills, social and communal tendencies— are trivial in nature. Women are told throughout their lives that they have a tendency to ‘overthink’, and this overthinking is a distraction from whatever their ‘real’ priorities should be.

We are told that our thinking must stop somewhere, that our minds are not autonomous enough to follow an independent path. We are obstructed from finding our true purpose, from falling down the rabbitholes of curiosity, because our overthinking is simply a feminine flaw incapable of generating substantive ideas.

‘Overthinking’ implies that what I am saying is trivial and not worthy of a genuine conversation. ‘Overthinking’ is telling someone that their mental energy is misdirected and their priorities are misaligned. Overthinking is patronizing a person, demeaning their thoughts and punishing them for thinking. There is no authoritative stance on the act of thinking, and there is no acceptable way of telling someone their thoughts are invalid.

When I am “overthinking”, what I’m often doing is simply thinking. Thoughts are the origin of progress; humankind would not be where it is today if not for people who ask questions, raise debate, analyze, assess, and criticize. Steve Jobs famously said that creativity is just ‘connecting things’. Today’s overthinking minds are tomorrow’s creators, and by silencing them, you are hindering the progress of humankind. Let us overthink. You might learn a thing or two.

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