It’s hard to notice — and admit — when we’re hurting or sabotaging ourselves, and one of the ways we do so is by self-gaslighting. Let’s talk about it:
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse. It happens gradually in a relationship when someone makes someone else doubt their own perceptions, memories, or sanity. The term “gaslighting” is misused a lot, so if you feel as if you’re being gaslit by your partner, ask yourself: Are they saying things to confuse me? Is it really all in my head? Am I really too crazy or too sensitive?
Unfortunately, we can even gaslight ourselves. Self-gaslighting is denying our own reality. It’s our critical voice. We dismiss our feelings, doubt ourselves and our abilities, downplay our achievements, seek outside validation, criticize ourselves, and so much more.
Why do we self-gaslight?
There are a number of reasons why we gaslight ourselves. Fear of failure, low self-esteem, lack of self-trust, anxiety, imposter syndrome.
Also, if you’ve been in an abusive or toxic relationship and your partner was gaslighting you, you might be more inclined to gaslight yourself too, continuing the cycle.
Signs you might be gaslighting yourself and how you can stop:
Dismissing your own feelings
“I’m being crazy.”
“I’m so sensitive.”
“Maybe it wasn’t that bad.”
“I should be over this by now.”
You’ve said those things to yourself before. You’ve invalidated your own emotions, believing they are unwarranted or irrational. But none of that is true. Your feelings and emotions are justifiable. The anxiety, the jealousy, the frustration — all of these feelings are valid. Getting over something or someone is going to take as long as it needs to — don’t rush your healing and don’t push yourself to get over it when you’re not ready.
When you catch yourself saying these things to yourself, stop. Repeat this until it sinks in: “I am not overreacting. I am not too sensitive. My feelings are valid.”
Second-guessing your memories
As time goes on, certain experiences and conversations can get twisted or forgotten in our minds. Then, we start to doubt our recollections. We question them. We convince ourselves we’re wrong, crazy, or that we made a mistake.
For example, let’s say you get into an argument with a friend. A week or so later, you might not remember everything that was said. Next time that happens, try journaling or writing down what was said in your Notes app. This can help validate your feelings and reassure you of your memories when you start to doubt them.
Another example would be experiencing trauma. In some instances, unfortunately, victims don’t remember what happened to them until months or years later — this is a subconscious defensive mechanism. It’s a complicated way in which our bodies protect us. When we do start to remember, we gaslight ourselves. We think, Did that really happen? Was I being dramatic? Should I have done something differently?
Constantly seeking and relying on external validation
Another sign of self-gaslighting is relying on others for validation. We want people to validate us, our thoughts, opinions, and decisions. We constantly seek reassurance from others.
You might also struggle to make decisions. You don’t trust your own judgment or worth enough. You doubt your ability and second-guess yourself to make the right choice. You might constantly second-guess yourself, fearing that any decision you make will be the wrong one.
Doubting yourself and your abilities
If you frequently undermine your abilities, downplay your achievements, or don’t believe you’re good enough, you might be gaslighting yourself. This can also be looked at as imposter syndrome, which is when you believe you are a fraud. You don’t believe in yourself or believe you deserve the success you have. You feel inadequate. This high-anxiety belief can do real damage to your self-esteem because you don’t believe you’re good enough or worthy of all that you’ve attracted into your life.
Blaming and criticizing yourself for everything
We are our own worst critic. It’s hard to not look at ourselves and notice and nitpick our flaws. Self-love is not easy! But if you often put the blame on yourself or judge yourself too harshly for something that isn’t your fault, you might be gaslighting yourself. You might not actually be the cause of an issue. You don’t need to apologize for something you didn’t do.
Surround yourself with more positive people. Journal. Talk to a mental health professional. And practice positive self-talk: I will no longer make myself the problem. I will no longer apologize for things I don’t need to apologize for. I will no longer doubt my worth. I will love myself and trust myself. I will forgive myself.
If you wonder if your trauma was bad enough to feel as bad as you do … it was.
If you wonder if you deserve support or the things you’ve achieved … you do.
If you wonder if you can recover from a lifetime of gaslighting … you can.Psychology Today