“I think you should stop over-thinking.” – These are words that make the rounds a lot. They do make sense sometimes when they come from people who are genuinely close to you, know you very well to understand when you are spiralling and over-thinking indeed and want to help you. Most of the times these words come from people who have no idea that over-thinking is an illness and just asking people to “Stop over-thinking” is more or less like asking someone with a physical illness to “Stop being sick!” But sometimes, these words also come out as a weapon from people who want to show off that they know everything, have no clue what to say, and still want to win an argument that exists only in their head.
I had these gems of wisdom imparted to me today by someone. My ‘mistake’ was that I made a completely generic, inoffensive suggestion of maybe avoiding politics-related posts in a common WhatsApp group. Something a lot of sensible groups follow as message etiquette these days. I made this suggestion in the politest way possible, by mentioning that the original purpose of the group was something totally different, and maybe it would be nicer to stick to that instead of sharing politics-related posts that could bring in personal feelings and opinions for no reason. I added a sentence to say that it was simply a suggestion that everyone was absolutely free to ignore too. I thought it was a foolproof way of making a suggestion without offending anyone at all. But God! Was I wrong! Because there would always be someone or the other who wants to believe everything is about them, and there is no escape from such people no matter how much you stick to safe grounds!
One person took it rather personally and decided to ‘defend’ her message that was in reply to a politics-based forward message (which I hadn’t even bothered about till then, like with most forward messages). I tried making it clear again that my suggestion was not about her or any other person, but only about sharing content that would keep the group more positive and light-hearted, and as I had already said, it was a generic suggestion that could be accepted or ignored. But oh no! How would logic work when you have already created a non-existent argument in your head and want to somehow win it??? (Despite the fact that no one else even wants an argument.) So, she took out her ultimate weapon – twisting the entire thing to make it look like the one who wrote a harmless suggestion, which wasn’t even all that important, was the problem. And her words were “I think you need to stop over-thinking.” It came with a seemingly sweet smiley, that made it even worse. 😛
Until then, I wasn’t over-thinking. But that sentence actually got me thinking for a long, long time about her and others like her. Her response to a generic, impersonal statement was a personal comment which was uncalled for and inappropriate when said to someone who you aren’t close to. I mean, I would never think it is okay for me to assume that I have the freedom to speak that way to someone else or comment on how or what they should be thinking. Especially since this was a scenario where most of the people in the group, including her, happen to be people I maintain a cordial and workable relationship with at best and nothing more, it was even more irksome. My first thought was “What the hell makes her think that she can overstep the personal boundaries and make a personal comment about me? That’s not a freedom I have given her.” Yes, it looks trivial and something that need not be given much thought to. And yes, I chose to simply reply once again that mine was just a suggestion that could be ignored and there was nothing to over-think about in that. But the truth is that, that sense of entitlement that people show off – that it is okay for them to make it personal every time they want to argue about something – makes me feel nauseated.
In the first place, I feel people could be more mature in not making everything about themselves and taking a common suggestion for what it is and nothing more. And more so, just to prove your point, you cannot resort to attacking someone else personally, subtly or otherwise. While this statement of hers sounds like it is concern, it really isn’t. The underlying message is “You are unnecessarily making a big deal out of nothing and this is all in your head”, thereby degrading the credibility and objectivity of the person and the point he/she made. Maybe such people do not think too much into it before making such imprudent statements. But it is a below-the-belt kind of retort when there is no sensible retort they can think of.
And in this case, something that was put forward as a totally dispassionate suggestion was twisted to look like the product of an over-sensitive, over-thinking mind, thereby changing the entire narrative. Furthermore, when someone has clearly marked personal boundaries and refrain from taking the freedom to give you unsolicited advice or to comment on personal things, it is wrong to cross that line and forcefully exercise that freedom with them. It is only basic decency to respect their boundaries as they do with you.
I did feel bad that I could not say it like this right there, although I had every right to make my boundaries more explicit for my own well-being. However, with people who are hell-bent on imposing lengthy conversations and meaningless arguments, laden with personal advice and suggestions, only because they cannot accept the fact that you said you are not comfortable talking about something, it is easier to simply maintain a distance and not give them too much importance. But with all the lessons from therapy, we are still flawed people who need a vent to our frustration once in a while, aren’t we? Consider this my avenue to do just that! 😀