Think about the last time someone forgot to call you back. Can you remember an agonizing period of time waiting for someone to respond to your text message? Did you assume they must be mad at you when you did nothing wrong? If yes, you’ve fallen prey of personalization -- which is the tendency to relate everything back to ourselves. Basically, you automatically made it your fault without considering that sometimes things are out of your control.
“For people who are anxious, when something doesn’t go just the way it was intended, the thought that follows is “What did I do wrong?” In personalization, the thoughts are similar “What did I do to offend that person? How is it my fault? Oh no, now that person doesn’t like me and it’s my fault.” (ocanxietycenter)
Personalization is a cognitive distortion, that convinces our mind that something is not true. Despite their inaccuracy, these thoughts are “rational” imposters and can seem very accurate to oneself, which makes it difficult to be self-aware. “It’s my fault thinking” is the cause of stress and anxiety for a lot of people. I always tell my clients the way we think and respond to situations is often automatic, it takes practice to change those automatic responses -- just like everything else in life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great way to squash personalization and receive help for other cognitive distortions. Regardless, I’m sure you’ll still find relief when your phone rings, or, your text message dings, and you find out it was not your fault to begin with? But who wants to go through all that worry over and over again?!