It Won’t Happen to Me

Here’s a discussion prompt that I recently posted on the discussion board of an online course: “A couple of things that I find a little surprising are that (1) one in four teens contracts an STD before leaving high school and (2) four in ten babies are born to single mothers. How do you think the personal fable  that occurs during the teen years might relate to this?


While reading the responses, it occurred to me that many of the adults I know must be still operating with the “personal fable” mindset, a view that what happens to them is unique and exceptional AND that they are invulnerable to the risks that affect other people. A teen might feel that he or she can engage in premarital sex because although other might get pregnant, “It won’t happen to me.” Similar thoughts include, “Others might contract an STD, but not me.” Or, “Sure, other people drink, drive, and crash, but not me.”

What about adults? I know adults who persist in smoking, overeating, failing to exercise, drinking, not managing stress, and so forth who continue to believe that nothing will happen to them. Despite information that warns them about cancer and heart disease being leading causes of death, they somehow don’t get the connection between that information and their own lives.

Have you seen evidence of this kind of faulty thinking? Do you think it’s a “grown up” version of the personal fable, or could it be more like cognitive dissonance?

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14 responses to “It Won’t Happen to Me

  1. Wow! This is a very senstive subject, but it does hold true. I do believe many adults carry this insane aspect aroound with them. I had a cousin that thought this very thing and contracted HIV engaging in unprotected sex. She recently died from AIDS because she wasn’t compliant with her medications. Yes I do believe many adults carry that nonsense around that it can’t happen to me because I’m older. We buried my cousin at the age of 32!!!!!

    Sad. I think this behavior relates to many areas of our lives like overeating, overspending (especially with credit cards), smoking, not exercising, and so forth.

  2. There is always people who say or believe that nothing will happen to them but something always happen in the moment they never expect it. You always learn from other people mistakes. Some people do things without thinking of the consequences. And when things go wrong thats when they regret what they did. But there is nothing they could done now they can’t go back in time to redo what they did.

    I see what you mean. A person's life can be changed forever in the choices of one moment.

  3. Everyone thinks that something can’t or won’t happen to them. We’ve all said it. Whether it be something small as I won’t get sick, or something big like I won’t get arrested for doing this. I’ve learned that you should never say never because it can and will happen to you. I had a friend that growing he would always say that he would never smoke, drink, or do drugs. He had his first cigarette at age 11, his first drink at age 13, and started smoking weed at age 15. Now he has no job, is a “D” student, bums money off his parents, and whenever he has free time he smokes weed. It has consumed his life and that’s all he thinks and talks about. It’s sad really to see someone that used to be a good friend, go downhill like that. I tried to be the positive influence, but I had no affect on him apparently. Just remember that it can happen to you. As teenagers we think we’re invincible and that no one and nothing can touch us. Those are the most vulnerable years of our life. That’s when it’ll happen to us when we least expect it.

  4. I have evidence of this in my household. My brother he is 23. I can’t stand the way he drives. Weeving back and forth in trafic, stoping at the last minute. He has the nerve to tell me that he will never get into an accident. He says that there is a difference between good drivers and just plain bad drivers, and I’m a good driver. He also says that if he ever does happen to be in a accident that it won’t be his fault.

  5. Either they don’t think about it, or they figure “it” won’t happen to them. My mother would sometimes say, “If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned,” and although I didn’t always listen to her, she was exactly right.

  6. I think that people sometimes do not think before doing things and they do not worry about the concequences until it is too late.This is an example of personal fabe.

  7. I think that people sometimes do not think before doing things and thay do not worry about the concequences untill it is too late.This is an example of personal fabe.

  8. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Jennifer. I think you’re saying that this behavior is a type of the “personal fable.”

    Tiffani, Thanks for clearing that up. Once I read about this communication scholar, Osmo Wiio) who said that if communication can fail, it will, and if communication cannot fail, it usually does.

  9. I too would like to say that there are many young adults and adults who think that they are invisable to anything happening to them. We are not promised tomorrow nor, are we promised our next breath in this life. In today’s world some think they they are just so fpecial that things will never happen. Well, sorry folks they do! I think that you can learn from any mistake in life and become a stronger person from it.
    Jennifer

  10. This is so true. It’s also true that while we can choose our behavior, we can’t always choose the consequences.

  11. MY POINT OF VIEW IS SIMPLY THIS: IT IS VERY SELFISH FOR ANYONE TO THINK THAT WHEN THEY ARE HAVING A “GOOD TIME” THAT IT CANNOT BRING HARM TO SOMEONE ELSE. WHETHER IT IS DRINKING, HAVING SEX, OR JUST A WILD TIME, THE FACT IS ONE MUST REALIZE THAT THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO EVERY ACTION. POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE, AS INDIVIDUALS WE MUST PUT OTHER PEOPLE IN OUR SHOES/SITUATIONS AND MAYBE WE WILL THEN RETHINK BEFORE WE REACT.

  12. Very interesting! I’m trying to figure out exactly what you mean by the last statement. Do you mean that we’re all safer because he has a laid back attitude or what? I’m a little slow today (It’s Monday after all).

    From what you’ve shared, it seems like these two characters fit more of the personal fable scenario than the cognitive dissonance one. Here’s the definition of the latter right from The World of Psychology (Wood and Wood): “The unpleasant state that can occur when people become aware of inconsistencies between their attitudes or between their attitudes and their behavior.” What do you think?

  13. Well … I have a friend that thinks she can drink and drive anytime. She is an adult with three small children. It is so scary to think that these children could loose their mother over her going out to have a good time. Dont get me wrong, I like to go out occationally and have a drink. But if I have had more than two drinks someone else is driving! I also have a brother with the same mentality, he has wrecked more vehicles than I care to count, all from drinking. He has such a laid back attitude about everything, so it seems not to bother him not to have a drivers licence. Go figure, I guess we are all safer that way!

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