Monday, January 11, 2010

On thinking too much, and other uninformed judgments

Here's something that people tell me a lot, in one form or another, directly or indirectly: You think too much.

I am SO SICK of hearing this. Yes, I'm naturally inclined to analyze. I like to think and plan ahead. I like to consider options and possibilities. I like to be prepared.

BUT. I am not obsessive about it. I am not paranoid. I am actually fairly laid-back. I swear! (And my mother and husband agree!) I don't freak out about every little remote possibility. I don't like to waste time and energy on statistical outliers. I don't feel the need to be prepared for every possible eventuality, and so I don't freak out about the possibility of outrageous scenarios.

But if I know that something IS going to happen, or is LIKELY to happen, or I WANT it to happen... well, yeah. I think about it. I process it. I analyze it. And I try to move forward with as much awareness as possible.

So, yeah. Not everybody would have a pre-conception appointment, or be reading books about childbirth and baby names well before becoming pregnant, or meet with a genetic counselor. Not everybody would do hours of research about the city they're thinking of moving to, down to knowing how many sunny days it gets every year (for the record: Denver gets 300). Not everyone would begin researching dog breeds and rescue programs months before they were in a position to get a dog.

But that doesn't mean that because that's how I like to do things, that there's something WRONG with that, or that it's OK to COMMENT on that in a manner that is AT ALL pejorative. I do plan for things, but only WITHIN REASON. And I am actually remarkably good at adapting to unexpected situations.

There isn't really any one thing that's driving this post--nobody has said anything particularly abrasive to me about this recently. Though I AM still thinking about the way the genetic counselor reacted when she was asking about health conditions that run in my family, and I mentioned that my dad has a hereditary heart condition, but that I had already been tested for it and I don't have it. When I said that I'd already been tested for it... she SMIRKED. Seriously, it was very clear from her face that she thought she had me all figured out as one of those over-the-top, goal-oriented type who has a spreadsheet for every aspect of her life.

But seriously! My dad has a serious heart condition that requires very careful medical management. It would be irresponsible for me NOT to get tested for that condition, ESPECIALLY before trying to get pregnant. And she's a freaking GENETIC COUNSELOR. Her JOB is to work with people who plan ahead. If I weren't the planning type, I WOULDN'T BE THERE.

But it's not just her. People are always saying things to me like "Wow, I can tell you've put a lot of thought into this," or "My goodness, I can see you've really done your research," or "Oh, I can already tell you're going to be a really involved parent." Which SOUND innocuous, in type, and often are innocuous, in person. But SOMETIMES the knowing way they say it, often laced with judgment... well, you know. It gets under my skin.

AND, the thing that annoys me the most is that 95% of the incidents where someone tells me they can tell I've been thinking about something for awhile? Are in response to comments that I made completely off the top of my head without ever having thought about whatever the topic in question is before in my life.

All I'm saying is, yes, I understand that I am analytical, a Planner, but I am actually NOT type A, and even if I WERE, who CARES? Everyone operates differently. I am fully aware of what works for me.

And you know what? Not everyone researches the shit out of the city they're about to move to, but not everyone would move across the country to a state they've never even visited before, either. And you know what else? Denver has turned out to be EXACTLY what we expected based on all that research. So, sometimes it pays off. Certainly, my personality and analytical tendencies have led me to a great place in my life.

So please, let's all just note the difference. Pointing out that I'm different from you? Fine. Being impressed at how just how different we are? Fine. Commenting on how well these tendencies have worked out for me? Great! Asking questions about how I make this sort of thing work? Fabulous. Every comment on this post? Lovely and supportive. But telling me that the way I think is wasteful? Not helpful. Acting judgmental and condescending about my natural inclinations? Quite off-putting. Telling me that another way WORKED FOR YOU and therefore I'M DOING IT WRONG? I will get VERY STABBY.

I assume this applies to other people and any characteristics that are particularly noticeable about them. So, what about you? What traits and qualities of yours often draw comments from others?


  1. Those qualities of yours are exactly why I like to read your writing. Your move to Denver was inspiring to me and makes me think more broadly about what I can do with my life.

    People say things like that to me about researching. I'm prone to opening up google and searching whenever anyone asks me something I don't know the answer to. But I just say that's WHY people ask me questions. Because I find the answers.

  2. I was about to say you've clearly put a lot of thought into this post, but errr, yeah, I'm not going there. =)

    Seriously, though, I get where you're coming from. As someone who is almost a decade older than you, I'm sometimes surprised by how on top of things you are. And by how much planning really brings pure enjoyment to you. There's nothing wrong with that.

    My guess is the people who comment on the planner in you (and I know I'm one of them) are making a bigger statement about what they're lacking or about things they never would've thought about themselves more than they are judging you.

  3. LMAO at Nilsa's smartassery!

    I am a planner too, and people have snickered at me behind my back my entire life about it. I like to have all the information, so I tend to GIVE all the information as well, which makes people think that I am an overly obsessive micromanager.

    To that I say, So what if I am? My life works for me. I will happily make fun of you for not having the information you need while you make fun of me for having too much. It drives me nuts that people will just do as they are told, and this is one of those area where I think that comes into play. Uninformed decisions are, in my opinion, bad decisions. No matter what the outcome.

  4. Oh, this is so well-said. I wish that people could just let each other BE, you know?

    I get comments on my indeciseiveness quite often. I like to get lots and lots of opinions and thoughts before making an important decision, and it's probably annoying to some people. In some ways it's similar to your research, except I like to conduct it live. By bothering everyone I know. :)

    I think you're being awesomely responsible in preparing for pregnancy. It's a BIG undertaking, and one that I think many people don't take seriously enough. I did the pre-conception thing, and I was on prenatals for more than four months before we started trying. It's just good planning.

    I'm with SoMi - people who make these comments are probably insecure about the research they DON'T do. Rock on, Jess!

  5. "Thinking too much" always sounds like an oxymoron to me.

    What people say about me: they mention sarcasm a lot. This was disconcerting at first because I don't mean to be sarcastic. Later I decided it was probably true and I try to curb it now--to think before I comment, or roll my eyes, or whatever.

    But what I find worse is this: I'm often a fly-under-radar type. This is both intentional, sometimes, and unintentional, other times. Either way, I hate it when people call attention to it ("You sure are quiet, aren't you!" "What about you? Don't you have an opinion?")--it sort of defeats the whole FUTR purpose, for one, plus it puts me on the spot.

  6. I totally agree with everything you said in your post. I myself am a neat freak. I like things in their place and I am always one to put things right away when I receive them as gifts, purchase them, whatever. To me, a neat home is an uncluttered mind. But sometimes it's like I'm the butt of a joke about my "anal retentiveness." Jealousy, perhaps? That's how I've come to take it. Those that comment like that WISH they were more like me.

  7. OOOOH INTERESTING. My sister and I were just having a conversation like this, in which both of us were complaining about being told to "smile more". HATE. So we aren't cutesy cheery giggly girls who don't threaten the older men where we work(ed). Know what I mean? Like we aren't fulfilling some sort of Standard For Young Women. (Well, this doesn't happen to me anymore, obvs, but my efforts at being Professional at work were always rewarded with a "Where's that smile!" GAAAHHHH.)

    I am also told I worry/plan for things way far ahead. I also know that NOT planning affects me way more than not planning affects many other people, so I have made my peace with it. We're all different. La la la!

  8. Preach it, sister!

    When I was in teacher's college last year, I was struggling with a similar problem. There I am in a sea of new people (we were in a group of 40 students, and we had identical schedules so we were together all week for classes), and I get "type-casted" on practically the first day. For the duration of my program, I kept hearing, "Oh! I bet you already have this assignment finished!", "Oh! I know you're sooo organized!"

    I was really excited and enthusiastic about teacher's college because I've been wanting to be a teacher my whole life, and I was finally achieving my goal. It's also a career I believe you need to be passionate about so you can best benefit your students. So, YES, I was a hard-worker BUT.... I never have assignments done early! I'm as much of a slacker/average student as everyone else... and yet, somehow I project this image that makes others treat me like a "brown-noser"/"over-achiever" in a condescending sort of manner.

    It made me pretty upset a lot of the time. I mean, I was glad in some ways that I was viewed as organized and prepared and good at what I do -- that's all exactly how I want to be -- but the way they'd speak to me, as if they're judging me for it or as if they 'think they know me so well' -- it all felt a little too "high school drama" and uggggh.

    I've actually never vented about that too much, so I am a little caught up in this moment, LOL!

    Anyway, mostly, I understand! I completely understand! I'm just like you -- yes, I even identify MYSELF as an overthinker/overanxious person (I know I *am*) BUT... in a lot of ways I'm also completely average AND I don't necessarily WANT to be spoken to as if planning and organizing is bad.

    Thank you for this post, I needed it.

  9. I find that sometimes when I am writing a blog post, I don't know as much on the subject as I should if I am going to try to write something about it, so it almost forces me to "research" the topic. You just probably do more research than most people. No biggie. Don't get stabby over silly people! :-)

  10. These things are all reasons I like reading your blog! You take an idea and go through the possibilities logically, and you're always totally open to other people's thoughts - so clearly this way of approaching decisions and choices works for you. And it's interesting and helpful to me to read your thoughts - even if I'm not considering moving cities or having a baby right now, it can be useful in making my own decisions. So thanks for being the way you are, and sharing it with us!

  11. I get the same kinds of "thinking too much" remarks. In fact, I have enough experience with it to say that in general, any comment about someone else that starts with "Wow" or includes "sure have" in the middle is likely to be said in the Wrong Tone.

    Furthermore, I've found that people do tend to associate thinking/analyzing with panicking/freaking, and that's so wrong and unfair.

    Also, I often feel like replying, "Oh dear, I am SO SORRY---I know how much my preferred thought processes impinge upon your life OH WAIT THEY DON'T AT ALL."

    It's probably not necessary to mention that another of my traits that catches people's attention is how I wanted children even when I was younger than the national average, and continue to want them even now that I've surpassed the national average number. That gets remarked upon in everything from a totally pleasant and interested way to a totally offensive and derisive way---and again, most statements starting with "Wow" and containing "sure have" are the wrong tone.

  12. People are always telling me that I'm "so responsible" like that's a bad thing or something. Or, as someone put it once, "you do the things that we all should do but don't. You actually do those things." Including but not limited to making charitable donations, spring cleaning, sending out Christmas cards (almost none of my friends do this), and taking old clothing to goodwill and old eyeglasses to the optometrist. THOSE ARE ALL GOOD THINGS. Why does "responsible" have to have a negative connotation?!

    I'm also A Planner. And I think that's a good thing because usually I'm way more prepared and on top of things than that non planners. So there.

  13. I get these same sort of uniformed judgments (LOVE that description, btw) about these very same characteristics, and it drives me crazy. Like you so eloquently point out in this post, just because people process information in different ways does not make those different methods wrong. Being an analytical researching planner works for me. If it doesn't work for the next person, that's fine. Reminding myself that those uninformed judgments aren't really about me, but about the person espousing the judgments in the first place? Does very little to lessen the hurt of that judgment in the moment.

  14. I'm the opposite of you in a lot of ways, but I get accused of thinking too much as well. My standard response has been, "Maybe you don't think enough."

  15. I get a lot of comments about how I am a perfectionist or try too hard at things - Most often I hear "It doesn't have to be perfect!" in a condescending tone, as if I am some kind of jerk for making a concerted effort at something, for liking things a certain way, for TRYING. Drives me crazy. Worry about me when I'm not obsessing over the Thanksgiving table decor! It's just a part of who I am, and it's something I like doing. Why does it come across as a personal affront to so many people, I have no idea.

  16. I have to say I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time, but it doesn't bother me and it works for me. It takes all kinds, doesn't it? That's probably my trait people comment on the most, or at least my mother does. She wishes I would plan more instead of acting impusively.

  17. I get accused of the same thing frequently, and it drives me crazy! I mentioned a book about a certain subject the other day. I found it helpful, and I thought he might too. He said, "Only you would know about that book." Well, no, not only me. Other people who like to be informed know too. And it was exactly what you were talking about - laced with judgment. I don't understand it! If other people don't like to research things, that's fine, but I do. I like to know what I'm getting into. Oh, I could rant a long time on this. Thank you for making me feel like I'm not alone. :)

  18. I agree with Sally. That thorough analyzing and planning are really admirable. I find it so interesting and inspiring to read how well-organized you seem to be about most things! You seem so much more mature than I am in that respect and I am actually a couple of years older than you.
    Anyway, don't let the haters get you down. Likely your organizational skills just point out to them how unorganized they are, and I think you'll really be going places with your attitude toward planning and organizing. It's not a bad thing, it's a good thing!

  19. It's so strange to think you would be critisized for not being impulsive in your major life decisions, for being prepared, for thinking before acting. These are all good and admirable behaviours. They make you smart and stable and probably richer and healthier.

  20. So fiesty! I love it!

    Your planning and your analysis of things that are important to you are one of the things that make your blog so awesome to read. And it's certainly NOT a bad thing if you research, and consider all options, why shouldn't you? If anybody has an issue with the way YOU want to live YOUR life, they can take a flying leap I say.

    I would LOVE to be as organised as you (I'm just too lazy to be heh). I love reading about you because you have these fantastic ideas, and you have steps to those ideas, and not only are they ideas, they then turn into actions, and it's just awesome to read about. And that was a lot of and's right? heh.

    Seriously, jog on to all of those that dislike your structure, I think it's wicked :)

  21. You DO do a Hell of a Lot of research on everything, admittedly to a point that I'm kind of surprised by. But if that's what makes you feel good, then go for it. No matter what my thoughts are on people's lives, I tend to not give them my opinion because uh, they probably don't care. Not everyone gets that.

  22. I feel EXACTLY like this when people act like there's something wrong with me for being an introvert.

  23. "Wow, I can tell you've put a lot of thought into this," or "My goodness, I can see you've really done your research," or "Oh, I can already tell you're going to be a really involved parent."---- I have to say, with the exception of the "my goodness" these all sound like compliments! At least in type, I agree that in person they could be said in a very condescending way. I've probably even said some of those. Whoops.

  24. "stabby" I like it. Just ignore people. I like the way you are, because well, is who you are. I actually wish I was that prepared for some things.

  25. i can see how that would be totally annoying. nobody's ever said anything like that to me (maybe that's a bad thing?), but i could see it making me stabby too. i don't like judgers!

  26. AGH! That is SO ANNOYING! I mean, damn you for being INFORMED and PREPARED, right?? (Heaven forbid Americans are prepared and intelligent and able to articulate that.)

    My thing is more physical. I am very, very pale. Thus, any time I blush, it's bright red. Anytime I drink, my face turns purple. Even just one drink.

    I'm VERY aware and self conscious about it.

    People know I am self-conscious about it.

    And YET. YET! They INSIST on pointing it out to me when it happens, only making it worse. I can take a joke, but seriously? What if I pointed out to someone who was self-conscious about losing his hair that, oh whoops, isn't that cute that you're balding? Hey have you lost five hairs since we saw you last? I can TELL! Guess you won't have to worry about bad hair days! (Also, I'm with Swistle on the whole "wow" and "sure have" sentence construction.)

    But I'm not mean and not an antagonist so I wouldn't do that ever. EVER. In fact, those thoughts wouldn't even cross my mind, but bring up my red face? I'm gonna kick you in the shins. HARD.

  27. This happens to me *ALL* the time. I've decided it's because I'm awesome and they're all jealous of my awesome life, and therefore defensive about what aspects of my personality got me here. And so they can bite me.

    This happened to me when we were purchasing a washer/dryer this weekend. I walked in, knew exactly what I wanted because I had researched it, and asked the salesperson. She was totally baffled and sort of derisive, as I was trying to make her the easiest commission ever. And so we ditched her and found someone else.

  28. I am similar, and good lord, I get tired of being judged for "overthinking" or "trying to hard" or "being a worrier." UGH. Just let me be me, and you can not plan and screw up and I'll laugh when things are done right.

    KIDDING. But seriously, my planning doesn't ruin anything for anyone else, and I wish people would just let me be! I like things a certain way, and like Elizabeth said, why it bothers others, I'm not really sure.

  29. OMG I had an exboyfriend tell me once to stop analyzing everything. Sure, why don't you tell me to stop breathing, as well. Because the day I stop analyzing is the day I die. It is who I am.

  30. I'm not a planner, though I'm not totally reckless, either. But I tend to "let the cards fall" and to "roll with things" instead of doing lots of research and planning.

    So the way you handle life's decisions is absolutely intriguing to me. I... well. I love it.

    I think if we were ever talking in person, and I said one of those Things Not To Be Said, it would most likely be because I was feeling inferior, with all my planlessness.

  31. I know you wrote this ages ago but I have seriously been thinking about it forever! I finally (sort of) posted about a similar topic. Thanks for the inspiration...