This article was originally published by All Mental Health, a technology-driven nonprofit with a mission to increase access to cognitive behavioral therapy skills.
Ever feel like everyone is out to get you? Like the person in front of you won’t hold the door open, people aren’t responding to your texts, and even your best friend seems distracted when you hang out?
It’s possible that those things are facts–maybe people really are being cold and distant.
It’s also possible that your brain is playing a trick on you–a trick that we call personalizing.
Personalizing is when you assume that someone’s behavior is a direct, personal reaction to you.
Let’s look at some examples:
What happened: Your friend has been really distant lately. She takes a while to text you back, and said she was busy Friday when you asked to hang out this weekend.
What you think: I must have said something that bothered her. She’s clearly mad at me.
What might also be true: Your friend is really stressed out with homework, and feels too overwhelmed to make weekend plans until her project is done.
What happened: You met someone at a party last weekend and see them in the hallway at school. You’re excited, and wave when they pass by you. But they just keep going.
What you think: Great…I’m so awkward. I thought we got along, but maybe they think they’re too cool for me.
What might also be true: The new friend you met was late for class, and while rushing, didn’t even see you there.
What happened: You were texting with someone you have a crush on, back and forth. But then after your last text, they left you hanging. It’s been over an hour, and you’re starting to stress out.
What you think: My last text was so weird. I shouldn’t have said that. Now I’ve ruined it, and they’re not interested anymore.
What might also be true: They went to the movies with a friend and their phone is on silent.
You get the idea–we think things are about us (in a negative way), and there are other possibilities. Even though it’s easy to understand that when looking at examples, it can be hard to retrain your brain to remember that in the moment.
Luckily, we have a thought challenging technique you can try right now, to start training you brain to think differently. And in a way that ultimately helps you feel better (so you can take a deep breath when someone doesn’t respond).