Last Updated on August 15, 2023 by Angela Vaz
It is a trauma response.
I never knew it at the time, but I did this a lot in my marriage to my ex.
It was a very abusive marriage and I never realized it till much later but I constantly found myself overexplaining my deeds, my thoughts, and my actions to my spouse at the time.
Do you feel like you’re being misunderstood?
I know how incredibly frustrating it is when you’re trying to get your point across, but it seems like they’re not listening or purposefully twisting your words.
And so, you try to overexplain everything, hoping that they’ll get the point.
You try with all your might to lay down points and evidence so that they can see you’re coming from a good place.
You hope they’ll see your perspective.
But in reality, overexplaining yourself can do more harm than good.
In this post, I’m going to talk about how this is not a good thing and how you can stop.
Yes, this post is going to get a little deep and dark – but this is an adult discussion and it’s going to border on the lines of trauma and abuse – so please keep this in mind before reading further.
But before that really quick, get my free guide on how to really reset your life.
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Why do you find yourself in this situation of overexplaining yourself?
Please understand that overexplaining is often a symptom of a much deeper issue.
Do any of these reasons resonate with you?
- You don’t feel safe and you constantly feel the need to justify your actions to the person you’re talking to
- You are gaslighted frequently and you feel the need to clarify the air
- You feel misunderstood and you genuinely want to be accepted by others
- You feel like nobody is listening to you and you don’t feel heard or understood.
Do you feel this way?
You’re not alone and I’ve been in your shoes.
Here are some genuine reasons explaining why I feel we overexplain ourselves:
- Lack of confidence: When we’re not confident in our own opinions or beliefs, we may feel like we have to justify ourselves to gain approval or validation from others. Overexplaining can be a way to of trying to prove ourselves that we’re knowledgeable and informed.
- Fear of conflict: If you constantly fear conflict or you’ve had a past of being around a lot of fights, then overexplaining might be a coping method you use to try to get out of arguments and disagreements. You may overexplain to try to smooth things over.
- Perceived pressure: Sometimes we may feel like we’re under a lot of pressure to give an answer otherwise we might feel like we’re letting someone down. We could also feel pressure when presenting an idea to a group of people because we might want to be taken seriously. This way of thinking also borders on people-pleasing.
Now, regardless of the underlying reason, overexplaining can be a difficult habit to break.
Even after leaving my abusive ex, it took me a long time to realize that I was safe and that I could stop overexplaining myself.
I’d constantly apologize to my friends even if I spilled water on the table or stated an opinion different from others.
Yes, I apologized for having my own beliefs.
These were all habits I had developed to cope with my abuse and I only realized it with time as people who cared about me pointed these out to me.
Please remember that while it’s natural to want to be understood and accepted by others, we don’t need to justify ourselves to be worthy of respect and validation.
In this post, we’ll talk about how to be confident in our own opinions and beliefs and practice active listening so we can communicate with confidence and get straight to the point.
Let’s move on.
How to Stop Overexplaining Yourself – 11 Methods that Worked for Me
Please know that it’s not going to be easy to break this habit.
It might take time, but you’ll notice that your confidence shoots up and you actually feel better about yourself.
Here are the methods that have actually worked for me.
1. Think about how it makes you feel
In order to stop any habit or action, you need to really resonate with the why.
If you want to stop smoking, you need to really feel the pain and know why you want to quit.
This is when it becomes easier to hit those goals.
For instance, I wanted to stop overexplaining because:
- Overexplaining meant my self-worth was dependent on whether other people approved of me
- Overexplaining made me a people-pleaser – I couldn’t stand it if someone didn’t like me.
- It made me lose faith in myself – and lowered my self-esteem.
- I was just not being myself – I’d modify my behavior according to the person in front of me just to be liked. It was exhausting.
- I felt like my defenses were always up
So before you go about trying to stop overexplaining yourself, make a list of reasons why you want to stop.
These reasons really, really need to resonate with you.
2. Trust yourself
Every time you overexplain, think about what you’re overexplaining.
- Are you overexplaining your actions?
- Are you overexplaining your beliefs?
- Are you overexplaining your thoughts?
Now think about why you’re doing this.
If you feel you’re allowed to think the thoughts you think and you’re allowed to feel the way you feel, then why do you feel the need to overexplain?
The first thing you need to do is trust yourself.
As long as you respect yourself and you trust yourself, that’s what matters.
Your beliefs and your opinions are valid.
They aren’t harming anyone else.
So, you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone.
You are enough.
You are valid.
3. Identify your triggers
Is it absolutely necessary for this person to understand what you’re thinking or feeling?
Do you feel like you owe them some explanation?
Is it only with a few people that this is happening? Or does it happen to almost everyone you meet?
When I started this journey and became very aware of my actions, I realized that this behavior stemmed from self-defense.
And it only originated with people I felt unsafe with.
So, if this is the case, reduce your interactions with people you don’t feel safe with.
Reduce your interactions with people who:
- Are genuinely toxic and take away from your peace and happiness
- Corner you, gaslight you, pick on you
- Make you constantly feel like you’re not worth their time
It doesn’t matter if this means you’ll be left without friends.
It’s better to be alone than be with people who make you feel bad about yourself – remember this.
You’ll make new friends, and new relationships, but you’ll never get on that track unless you cut out the weeds first!
Now, if your triggers happen in a group, then ask yourself if there is something you can do to avoid overexplaining.
Is it just 1-2 people that make you feel this way?
If so, work on developing strategies to manage them.
4. Practice active listening
Remember, if you feel like you’re not telling the person the whole story or you’re making the conversation too short and this will lead to questions – that’s okay.
If a person has a doubt, they can always ask a question.
Think more about what people actually want to hear than thinking about what you want to say.
The whole idea of communicating is to listen so both parties are actively listening and communicating.
Make a conscious effort to really listen to what the other person is saying.
Try to understand their view before responding. This will make them feel heard and lower their defenses too.
When both of you have lowered your walls, you are both talking rationally and the purpose of the conversation is no longer to win – it’s to understand where both of you stand.
5. Set boundaries
It is completely and totally alright to say,
- “I understand where you’re coming from, I just beg to differ.”
- “Oh, I see your point of view, but I can’t relate because I have a different one.”
- “I hear you but I am not comfortable discussing this further.”
- “I don’t think we’re making much progress with this topic of communication, is it okay if we talk about something else?”
- “I think we both have different views on this, and that’s okay – let’s just agree to disagree.”
Please understand that it’s okay to not agree with someone else.
I speak to people all the time who have very strong religious or political views.
And I know that it’s okay for them to have their views because I have mine too.
We are adults and mature enough to realize that we have different views.
There is no need to fight or stop talking to each other. We just accept that we have different views and move on to other topics of discussion.
If it genuinely bothers you and you feel like you cannot talk to this person because the views are very close to your heart, then end the conversation politely and move on.
You don’t have to keep being friends with this person if you can’t relate to their views or goals.
For instance, I am pro-love.
I don’t care what anybody says, I feel if two people love each other – they should be allowed to express their feelings in any which way they want to, provided they are not harming anyone else.
So I genuinely cannot be friends with anyone who is homophobic.
And that’s alright. Because this allowed me to make friends who have the same ideas I do.
6. Keep it simple
When presenting an idea or argument, focus on the most important points.
Avoid going off on tangents or getting bogged down in unnecessary details.
Keep your responses concise and to the point.
Remember, people who agree with you will love your argument and be okay with everything you said.
People who don’t, will not.
Either way, one conversation isn’t going to change their minds.
I remember talking to a person who hated dogs and felt they were violent predators.
No amount of discussing this could change their mind, so all the dog owners just stopped talking to this person.
Because someone who has closed their mind to a certain idea cannot be forced to change themselves.
You have to pick your battles and move on.
They’re just not worth it.
7. Practice self-compassion
Please, please, please understand that this habit is hard to break.
Let’s say you were successful for a long time in not overexplaining but you find yourself in a situation where you went down that hole.
Don’t beat yourself up.
Understand that slip-ups happen.
It happens to all of us. And heck yes, it happens to me even now sometimes.
We aren’t perfect – we are human.
Old habits do die hard.
And that’s okay.
Be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace.
It’s alright to make mistakes. Just try again tomorrow.
Progress happens in small, incremental steps – remember that.
8. Spend less time with toxic people
Leaving my abusive relationship changed my life 10X.
I was a coward for years and endured a lot of abuse. I only left him when I discovered he was cheating on me.
But it was the best decision I ever made.
The quality of my life skyrocketed.
I could finally be myself.
- I could wear make-up and do my hair however I wanted without being cussed at.
- I could talk to people and be myself unapologetically.
- I could actually think whatever I was thinking without explaining myself to anyone.
It is so important to surround yourself with positive people.
If you are surrounded by toxic friends or people, leave.
You cannot control the behavior of others, only yours.
Again, it’s okay to be alone till you find the right crowd.
But you’re never going to find the right crowd unless you leave the wrong people first.
Leaving means you have courage and you’re finally taking action.
It will give you the mental space to think and reflect on what is going wrong. It will allow you the space to think about what you want in life.
And when you’re with the right people, you’ll only grow.
9. Be okay with contradictions
You need to be okay with people not having the same opinions as you.
You also need to be okay with people not liking you.
No, nobody is liked by everyone.
You may be the prettiest, most lovely person on this planet – there will still be people who hate you.
There will be people who don’t agree with you.
There will be people who pick on you and can’t stand you.
Be okay with this.
It can feel very hurtful and you may want to try to make things right.
You don’t need to do that.
For every 5 people who hate you, 95 others will adore you and like you.
Focus on the positive and look at the silver lining.
Identify your tribe.
When you are yourself, you will attract people who are just like you. They will want to be close to you and not be able to get enough of your light.
They will find you charming, and funny and won’t be able to get enough of you.
You need to be honest, and be yourself – this is when you’ll find life easier.
It’s not easy to lie, it’s not easy to pretend to be someone else, and trust me when I say that it’s a hard thing to keep up.
Just be yourself – life will be so much easier and more pleasant for you.
So if someone doesn’t agree with you, tough luck.
Just like how you value your opinion, they value theirs.
Live and let live, my friend.
Don’t try to bend over backward to get them to see where you’re coming from – you’re just going to emotionally and mentally exhaust yourself.
10. Celebrate progress
If you feel you had a pleasant and positive experience (no matter how tiny), celebrate it.
Buy yourself a nice little notebook and record your experience.
The idea is to associate this win with positive emotion.
When you remember how peaceful and happy you felt by not overexplaining, your chances of success will increase.
So, take some time to recognize that you are breaking the habit and celebrate each little step forward.
This is going to motivate you to stay on track and continue making progress toward your goal of stopping overexplaining.
11. Seek support
If you are struggling with this habit and you are genuinely doing everything you can but you’re not making much progress – then it’s alright.
Talk to someone you trust like a friend or a family member.
Seek their advice or maybe even talk to a counselor or therapist.
They will help you understand what is stopping you from achieving your goals and give you more clarity. They will help you unlock your strength and give you the tools to overcome this challenge.
A therapist is so beneficial and after seeing one, I was able to understand the underlying issues that were driving my behavior.
So, never hesitate to get extra help – this means you are putting yourself first.
Know that this journey is not going to be easy, but the first step is self-awareness and you’re already there.
So give yourself a big pat on the back and get going.
You’re going to do this.
And if I (a big spineless jellyfish at one point) could do it, then I’m sure you can too!
Here are some posts that you may find helpful:
- 19 benefits of being yourself
- How to let loose and be yourself – 23 easy ways
- How to give yourself grace (when you feel low)
- 29 self-love quotes to heal you right now
- 43 self-love journal prompts that made me fall in love with myself and help me heal
- 7 self-love books every single woman should read
- 7 best books to read after a breakup
- 11 warm and comforting books to read during tough times
- How to rebuild your life after losing everything that matters
- How to go out alone as a woman (safely and comfortably)
- Why does no one understand you? What to do about it?
- 9 reasons why friends come and go (this will make you feel better)
- 33 ways to become a nicer person
- How to stop overanalyzing everything and calm down
- 11 practical ways to stop letting things bother you
- 13 easy ways to be mentally present every day
- 15 Easy Ways to have a Fresh Start in 2023
- 13 genuine ways to make every day count
- 35 honest ways to get your life together
- How to drastically simplify your life