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Our Cognitive Distortions – Personalization

Reading Time: 3 min

In this material you can read about personalization. We believe, in the face of current epidemiological measures regarding covid-19 it is particularly important to take a look at our thinking mechanisms. We can try and reduce hard feelings caused by our automatic thoughts as much as we can. We hope this matter can help you make a first step toward being mindful about your thinking.

It’s my fault. Is it?

When we talk about personalization, we mean taking something personally that may not be personal. It occurs when you take full personal responsibility for something that you can not entirely control. This kind of disruption to information processing can appear in many situations. It may lead to self-blame or unjustified comparisons.


  • It’s my fault that we fight more since we are both at home.
  • It’s completely my fault that I find it harder to progress through distance learning.
  • Others are better at staying home. The problem must be with me that I can’t enjoy this.

When we are personalizing we literally take everything on ourselves. Even if your partner is in a bad mood or even if something just happens to go wrong. Sometimes we think that we have been intentionally left out because of our person or personality due to this distortion. For example: "it must be my laughter. That’s why they don’t invite me to video chat." In case of personalization, we are all about ourselves, taking responsibility for things we do not really need or expected to. This may even cause an increased level of anxiety. Such thoughts can mistakenly get you to avoid certain events and to change your behavior in a way that is unacceptable to you. It can start a vicious circle where you strive to meet external expectations to a greater extent. Since the measure of taken irresponsibility is irrational, you will never be able to meet the enormous standards you support. But you will go on and try harder and that’s where you get a vicious circle.

You can counter personalization with healthy or realistic control. This distortion is based on the fact that we take responsibility for events, things or consequences that we do not fully have control over. May be there are other influencing factors like chance or someone else’s will that affects the event. So the important thing is that we are not the only causative agents. We don’t have to take the blame for everything.

What can you do if you have personalizing thoughts?

First thing you can do is to observe these thoughts. You may want to write them down on a piece of paper, in your phone, or somewhere else to look at it and later explore them with fresh eyes. Questions to help you during examination:

  • How do I feel about this thought?
  • What evidence do I have for my claim? Is it really completely my fault that I study harder during the distance learning? May others feel the same? Can it be the course materials that are not the best for me? Or is is the fact that the lecturer is not available in a way like before?
  • What is my actual responsibility in the situation?
  • What do i have influence on? How much control do I have over the situation? Can I influence anything at all?

At first it may be hard to even recognise these personalizing thoughts. A thought diary kept nearby can help you with that. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Everyone has cognitive distortions that is just how our mind works. Becoming mindful about it, refuting them is really the change we can do.

Márki Anett Neszta, psychologist