You have sent applications, went through the search, put in the work and just got out of an interview? Congratulations for getting this far! But if you’re anything like me, you might find yourself overthinking. And by overthinking I mean : replaying the whole interaction in your head. Multiple times. In slow motion.
It’s a common experience that we each live with different intensities. In cases like mine, these anxious thoughts get the best of me, making me restless and unable to focus. It becomes a challenge to calm down the internal waves of this anxious tsunami, and plans get blown away by my stormy mind.
I found pushing forward with these unaddressed feelings draining : it often led to mental resistance, poor performances, a loss of conviction and lower self-esteem. In the long run, keeping it bottled up made me lose motivation and confidence. It became detrimental to my mental health.
In order to move forward in a constructive way, I needed to deconstruct the assumption that overthinking was an inevitable part of the process. I had to believe that it was not a forced rite of passage.
In other words, it didn’t have to be this way. I had options.
And thus the quest begins
I believe that we operate under beliefs we are usually unaware of, and our perceptions of things are tainted by the scope of these beliefs. Being confronted to such an intense reaction, and seeing that not everyone seemed this affected, made me wonder if there was something deeper to it.
And so, with the professional help of a psychologist and a shovel, we started digging. A few archeological layers of anxiety below, we found some significant fossils of memories. In my case, and as it turns out, I grew up being taught that no matter how much I did, I could always do more. And so, no matter what I did, it was never enough. In short, “I am not enough” became one of the core unconscious things I was led to believe. So the context of interviews turned out to be incredibly straining, since I had to prove something that was fundamentally contrary to what I believed : that I was qualified, or “enough” for this role.
Because my words/actions didn’t align with my beliefs, my mind tried to reduce the gap by going over the interview to look for signs to confirm that I am, in fact, inadequate and “not good enough”. And I enter an overthinking anxious loop.
It doesn’t have to be that way
Here’s the thing : it doesn’t have to be that way. Talking and writing about it helped me gain awareness of what was at stake. It was a process, and it wasn’t always fun. But as I started gaining awareness of what was going on in my spiraling mind, I also got leverage. Understanding how I functioned and what was going on enabled me to take a step back, placing me as a spectator of my thoughts : I was less likely swept by my emotions and anxiety. It meant I was now in a situation where I could choose how to react instead of being pulled right into the spiraling rabbit hole of my thoughts. Awareness provided me with a window of time before I got sucked in. And that gave me the margin to react.
Documenting the research in a journal, I found out that, to this day, no emotional dump has ever outlived my pen’s ink and, with time, I could write my way out of my anxiety. Because I would write much slower than I would think, my thought process naturally slowed down to my writing pace. The habit stuck to this day. I realized that overthinking is a way to process but while doing so, I was actively rewriting my memories of the event. More often than not, for the worst. My mind was trying to confirm my belief, and in doing so, it would overwrite the good interaction with the bad ones. My good memories were written in sand, bad memories engraved in rocks.
The reason for that differs from one person to another, and if you find yourself in that case you might need professional help since it's impossible to self diagnose.
Reframing your mindset
Identifying a harmful belief can be helpful in order to reduce the gap between your words/actions and that thought. There are 2 ways to go around it: with professional help, you can work on your belief, but it takes time and perseverance; on the other hand, changing your words and actions is easier. You can rephrase what you say to realign with that belief when answering questions. “I believe I can always do more” becomes “I have very high expectations for myself”, “I am never satisfied with what I do, I believe I can do more” turns into “I always see room for improvement and give my best to the task at hand”, “I can’t do anything else when I have an unfinished task because I feel guilty” is now “I stay fully focused on the task at hand and don’t get distracted by other things”. They can also go hand in hand, as rephrasing your sentences also reframes your mindset.
Ultimately, I believe it is important to address and work on any self-harming beliefs we may have; but because it is such a long process, we can find ways to live with it and work around it until then. I like to think of it as treating the symptoms of the cause ( for quick relief and prevention) while working on its roots.
If you find yourself dealing with the same anxious overthinking, I hope you will find solace in knowing that you’re not alone and that you have the freedom and ability to rewrite your story with kindness and humor. From writing and drawing about your thoughts and feelings, to meditating your way out of the spiral and finding peace of mind, there are ways to leave your bad memories in sand and engrave your good memories in rock.