Gaslighting is a very serious psychological manipulation that affects most people. To gaslight someone is to intentionally distort people’s perceptions of the truth and the world around them. This type of manipulation can be received from anyone: friends, family, colleagues, partners, or strangers. From that list family and partners stuck out, didn’t it? It is hard to believe that those who are close to you would do something like this, but it happens.
There are multiple signs you need to recognise to know when someone is gaslighting you:
- Doubt – This is where they will make you doubt your own thoughts by purposely questioning your knowledge of a person, a memory or an event. Have you ever had a friend who would deny something ever happened and claimed you were making stuff up? Their lies can make you reconsider yourself, even when you know that they are lying and you are telling the truth.
- Belittling – To belittle something or someone is to make them, or it, seem invalid and unnecessary. In relation to gaslighting, this is when someone plays down your reaction. So, say your partner has cheated on you and you are shouting at them, they would reply with: “You’re overreacting too much!”
- Spreading rumors – While they might be comforting to your face and act like a shoulder to cry on, they will use the fact that you have opened up to them and told them your secrets to spread rumors about you. This may change people’s perceptions of you or even turn them against you.
- Blaming you – People who gaslight will deny they have done anything wrong and twist stories so that you are to blame. When you may try and discuss what they have done or made you feel, they will turn the conversation back on you to make you responsible. They can be so convincing that you may start to believe that you are the one in the wrong and the one to blame.
Those are just some of the ways that you can be gaslighted by someone, for further reading on this topic take a read of this!
Why do people gaslight?
There are many reasons why people would do so:
- To have control over someone.
- To fuel their narcissism.
- To manipulate someone for their own gain.
- For revenge.
- Sometimes, as sadistic as this may seem, they do it simply because they want to.
As you can see from those example, many reasons stem from controlling and abusive behaviour.
This is very similar to gaslighting, however, instead of people doing it to you, you do it to yourself. For some it may be difficult to comprehend how someone gaslights themselves or why they do it. Sometimes it can be intentional, sometimes people do not know they are doing it.
Here are some signs of self gaslighting:
- Belittling yourself – Instead of someone else telling you that you are overreacting, you tell yourself. You may beat yourself up for reacting a certain way. You are then teaching yourself that it is wrong to act or react a certain way, a way that may be completely acceptable.
- Undermining yourself – Do you ever think of something to say or do and then call yourself stupid for thinking it? Do you ever tell yourself that you cannot do something because you are not enough? Then you are undermining yourself. You may constantly put yourself down, compare yourself to others, and shut yourself away.
- Self-doubt – Much like a gaslighter doubting someone, this is where you change your own perceptions of yourself and the world around you. You may be retelling an order of events but then suddenly doubt whether something happened and whether you are telling the truth. Your brain can then do some weird things and change what actually happened within your memories.
- Blaming yourself – It could be completely impossible for you to be blamed for something yet you might still find a way to tell yourself that you were the cause of something. For example, your partner could be acting differently and you know that you have done nothing wrong, you still may calculate a reason how you are to blame.
These are just some of the ways that you can self gaslight, to learn more take a read of this article.
While you may be reading this and thinking: “Well I do this all the time, it’s fine!” It is not, it is emotionally and mentally unhealthy. One of the main impacts that can happen during this is your mental health deteriorating. It may cause you not to know who you are anymore, thus pushing those around you away. This could have a snowball effect as the sudden loneliness may cause depression, anxiety, paranoia, and other mental health concerns.
Another aspect of your life that self gaslighting affects is your confidence. Telling yourself that you are not good enough, doubting your own memories and taking the blame for things you did not do is going to decrease your confidence levels. So when you are moving to a new place, completing your first day of a new job or making new friends, you may feel incredibly uncomfortable and act very reserved as you do not have the confidence to do things like you used to.
Furthermore, on the subject of making friends, you may attract and befriend the wrong type of people; someone who gaslights. You may think it is acceptable to belittle yourself, so you may befriend someone who belittles you as well. The way you act and treat yourself around others may teach them how they think you want to be treated. On the other hand, depending on who you are, it could have the complete opposite effect and you may develop trust issues. By pushing people away, you can make it harder for the right people to enter your life.
How to overcome it?
Firstly, you need to come to terms with why you are self gaslighting and there may be more than one reason. Perhaps your parents gaslighted you when you were younger and you automatically do it to yourself as that was how you were brought up? Maybe you are a survivor of an abusive relationship? No matter how long you were in that relationship, whatever that other person did to you may stay with you for a while. Much like with parents, you may have been intensely gaslighted by someone that you are used to it and do it to yourself. Instead of a partner, maybe you have an abusive friend?
Furthermore, COVID-19 has taken its toll on many people’s mental health and that could be the reason you are self gaslighting. Many people lost their jobs and were made redundant last year due to businesses having to close, perhaps you were one of them? Losing a job does nothing for your confidence, it may make you feel like you are not worth anything and that you are not good enough to work. Especially when money is involved, blaming oneself may occur very often. Another loss is the friends you have made at work, your mind can easily trick you into thinking you are all alone and the thought of starting at a new place with new people can be daunting.
Then, when you have established the reason(s) as to why you are self gaslighting, you need to come to terms with how you do it. You may only have one of the signs I listed earlier, or you may have multiple. It is important to establish how you are self gaslighting to overcome it. Starting taking notes of the things you do throughout the day that you may think is self gaslighting. For example, take note of any negative or derogatory thoughts you have about yourself over the course of the day, or of any opportunities you had talked yourself out of. Additionally, you could tell close friends and family that you are overcoming it and would appreciate their help pointing out any self gaslighting signs.
Also, not only does reaching out to friends and family help with sign spotting, it will help to reconnect you with those you may have distanced from. While you may have told yourself that ‘no one will want to waste their time’ or ‘you are not worthy of any help’ there are people who will want to help you. As independent and stubborn as you claim to be, you are going to need the help of those close to you on your road to recovery. These people will be able to boost your confidence, your self-worth and help deflect any blame you may inflict upon yourself.
Another way to overcome it is to keep telling yourself positive affirmations throughout the day. If you are constantly making horrible and negative remarks about yourself throughout the day, you are going to get nowhere. Try looking for the positive outcomes from every action you do. For example, you have only written 200 words on your essay today and it is due in a week. Instead of thinking: “Oh no! I have only done 200 words, I am so lazy and not cut out to do a university degree!” Tell yourself that you have done all you were capable of that day, that your mental wellbeing is more important than your degree. Remember that everyone works differently and at different paces, so do not compare yourself to that one classmate who finished the work a week ago.
This article only contains some of the signs to recognise and ways that you can overcome it. If you would like to do more research on self gaslighting, visit these websites: