What Is a Personal Fable?

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According to About.com, the term “personal fable” is used to describe an egocentric belief commonly held by adolescents that one is highly unique and unlike any other who has ever walked the Earth. This belief is generally seen as a normal part of adolescent cognitive development, but its downfall is that it sometimes causes teens to take risks because they believe that nothing bad could possibly happen.

Personal fable is also described as the belief that one is so special and that one must be invulnerable. Teens who hold this belief are likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as unprotected sex, experimentation with alcohol and drugs and driving a car without a license. According to About.com, personal fable was first named and described by psychologist David Elkind. He framed it as a belief that rises from the egocentrism, which leads teens to believe that all others should be and are fascinated by them.

According to Southeast Missouri State University, teens experience personal fable in various ways. While some engage in risk-taking behavior because they believe that no harm can come to them, others are of the belief that they are unique in their suffering and problems and that no one could possibly understand them. Teens who experience personal fable in this latter manner tend to isolate themselves because they believe that adults and others are unable to relate to their feelings or help them improve their state of mind.