The Reason Why You're Always Up At Night Wondering 'What If'

by Ashley Grates

It's 3am; you're wide awake, tossing and turning in your bed in an attempt to fall asleep.

What are you thinking about? Where is your mind wandering off to?

I know for some people, myself included, my mind wanders to the small or large filing cabinet labeled, "what if," which I keep buried in the back of my mind.

What if I didn't push you to the point of no return that one night over a year ago? What if I didn't text you when I had a little too much to drink last weekend? What if I didn't react that way? What if I ate that donut yesterday?

If "what ifs" could kill, how many of us would survive?

Don't get me wrong; there are some things that are inevitable, out of our control and happen in order to help us grow. It's not the situation itself; it's the thought of what we could have done to change the outcome that slowly kills us.

Sadly, that's life. You win; you lose; you break, and you overthink until you can't think anymore. What would the value of happiness be if you didn't experience the sadness that allows you to appreciate it?

As we grow older, it's important to realize you cannot control everything that happens to you; you can only take it as a lesson learned and apply it to your life.

So, maybe the next time you're out, you don't drunk dial that person in hopes he or she will answer and everything will be okay.

Maybe you will stop beating yourself up over what you could've, should've or would've said in the moment when you had the chance. Maybe you find peace and move on.

Maybe you will replace all of your "what ifs" with "oh well."

Late-night "what if" thoughts stem from a number of different factors, but self-doubt and regret are two of the biggest culprits.


The self-doubt we have is what drives us to insanity.

Society is partly to blame. Without these "societal rules," double standards and fairytale endings, maybe we could take everything for what it actually is and move on.

We are taught to think we aren't good enough, pretty enough or smart enough. We are taught no one will like us unless we look a certain way or act a certain way. This is why society has f*cked us all up.

Although there will always be someone who is better than you in every aspect of life, it is up to you to shine through your self-doubt and live a life you're happy with.

Once you realize you are not the one to blame, and life just happened to take over, you will be at ease.


Regret comes in many shapes and forms. Living without regret is much easier said than done.

I have never met a person who has #NoRagrets. Everyone regrets something he or she has done in the past, even if it was something as small as not tipping the bartender.

You have to accept the fact that you regret things and keep those things in the past. Making peace with your regrets is what sets you free -- at least according to self-help books.

The problem with "what if" is, usually, by the time these thoughts surface, it's too late.

Most of the "what ifs" our minds dwell on come about because we held back. We didn't say what we wanted to say in that moment, and now, we can't stop thinking about what would've happened if we did.

We get held back from sharing our true feelings because maybe we were embarrassed or unsure of how the other person would respond.

At the end of the day, it's simple: We held back. We didn't say what we wanted to say, and now, we might never have the chance to.

Unfortunately, there is no solution for the "what ifs" that fill our minds at 3am.

However, you must tell yourself what has passed has passed, and there's nothing you can do to change it.

Remember, life doesn't throw anything at you that you cannot handle. Every "what if" you think is not an opportunity to throw yourself a pity party, but rather, an opportunity to grow, learn and better yourself for the future.

Through all the "what ifs," I guess I am thankful because everything I have encountered and experienced thus far in my life has made me the person I am today, and I couldn't imagine being anyone else.

...Unless I could be Anna Kendrick; I would be okay with that.