Cognitive distortions: overcoming personalization for moms and dads

Thank you for joining Stay-in-Bed Mom Blog (SIBMB) for an ongoing positive self-talk series. Self-love starts with positive self-talk. We’ll continue to discuss cognitive distortions, or unhelpful thinking styles, through the lens of parenthood. Last time we discussed overcoming labeling and mislabeling. A little cognitive distortion here, a little exaggeration there isn’t going to affect your mental state in the short term. However, if your negative thinking becomes chronic, then your mental health will undoubtedly suffer.

What are personalization statements? You literally take everything personally or assign blame to yourself without any logical reason. Everything others do or say has something to do with you. A person who experiences this kind of thinking will also compare themselves to others, trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.

What’s an example of personalization? “We were late to the playdate and caused everyone to have a bad time. If only I had pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

What does personalization look like in your mom or dad life? If you fall prey to this cognitive distortion, you may also compare yourself or your kids to others to determine who is “better”. For example, “All the kids at the playdate “played nice” and shared, but not mine!”

How can personalization be harmful? You may hold other people responsible for your emotional pain. Conversely, you may take on the “blame” for every problem — even those clearly outside your own control.

Am I personalizing in my daily life? You may be if… you catch yourself believing you are the cause for happenings in your life…

  • You are the reason a friend didn’t enjoy a moms night out. (more minor)
  • You are the cause for every moodiness and irritation in people around you. (more severe)

Do…use the 3 Cs!

  1. Categorize the negative, self defeating thought. Identify the unwanted thought or thinking pattern (e.g. all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filter, disqualifying the positive, jumping to conclusions – mind reading and fortune telling, magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization, emotional reasoning, should statements, labeling and mislabeling, personalization, etc.). Write it in a thought journal.
  2. Challenge the thought. Look at what you wrote down. Review your thought journal and look for signs of disqualifying the positive. Reframe the undesired thought. Ask yourself how someone else would view your thought. Is this really true?
  3. Change the thought. Replace your thought with a positive or an optimistically realistic one. Believe you can create a different outcome in the future. A single negative event doesn’t hold true forever.

What can I do to overcome personalization? Establish a gratitude practice (e.g. journaling). Note one to five personal strengths or aspects about yourself and your life that make you happy to be alive. Moreover, separate a person’s actions or behaviors from who they are as person.

Photo by Tanya Gupta on


A Final Thought – From the Pillow

I’m not good enough. Scratch that thought! I AM mom (or dad) enough. 

So keep talking back to your brain.

What strategies have worked for you for overcoming personalization?

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