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It won’t happen to me! I will not get it! I am not at high risk!

Unfortunately, this is an idea we have been probably feeding ourselves over and over since COVID-19 has been declared as a pandemic by WHO. These thoughts or justifications that we fool ourselves with, can be harmful when it comes to protecting ourselves and others from catching the virus.

In the world of social psychology, this concept is termed as a personal fable. A personal fable is when we tend to believe that something will not happen to us even though it is happening to others. This makes us feel invincible, special and unique. We believe that whatever happens will not affect us. Therefore, we have the false hope to not catch the coronavirus. This is not a new term. We exhibit these thoughts and behaviours as we go around living our life. If you think and reflect a bit, we can quickly realise that we have various personal fables; be it for sex, drinking, drugs, speeding etc. More often than not, we take it for granted that we are engaging in risky behaviour.

Weirdly enough, having a personal fable can be protective in a sense. It can help dilute our anxiety and worries but it most definitely does not protect us from contracting the virus. It does quite the opposite actually. It can lead to more reckless behaviour such as not washing our hands, not practising social distance and staying constantly outdoors rather than in our homes. Therefore, believing that we will not catch the virus can increase our chances of getting it due to our behaviour. This also increases the chances of carrying the virus and spreading it further around when we are trying to limit and contain its spread.

The element of personal fable is usually experienced during adolescence when adolescents are still experimenting and exploring their identities. However, we are seeing a lot of people with personal fable beliefs. People are still going out to our beaches rather than staying safe inside. But why? Having a personal fable can be a reason to explain this behaviour. We are not realising the harm we are doing, just because we believe that we cannot get the virus.

In summary, having a personal fable can be risky but it is quite normal to have it too. However, it is important to be aware of the personal fable we created as to stop ourselves from falling into its trap and be more realistic with our thoughts and behaviour. This can be done by asking ourselves: Are we following the rules? Are we listening to reliable information? How are we staying realistic?

Therefore, I end this blog by encouraging you to think and reflect a bit about your behaviour and how thinking that you will not get coronavirus can actually lead to behaviour that can increase your chances of getting it or spreading it further.

Danica Cassar has graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at the University of Malta and is currently reading for a Masters of Science in Health Psychology at the University of Bath.