Do you constantly find yourself going back and forth trying to determine whether the hurt you feel is real, or if it’s just all “in your head?”
Are you tormented with self-blame, and other negative thoughts about yourself?
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a term you may hear from time to time, particularly regarding circumstances involving manipulation and abuse. Gaslighting is “a form of psychological coercion that manipulates the targeted person to [believe] they are at fault for their mistreatment” (Lambert, 2021).
Being on the receiving end of someone else’s gaslighting can gradually cause a person to gaslight themselves as they internalize the blame and false accusations into negative beliefs about themselves (Lambert, 2021).
It is important to be attentive to the signs that you are viewing yourself in such a light and self-gaslighting, in order to begin taking the steps to move forward from it.
Here are 5 signs you’re gaslighting yourself.
1. Blaming yourself
Do you often have thoughts such as “it’s all my fault,” or “why did I do that to them?”
Gaslighting from other people in which you are constantly blamed can lead to you eventually placing that blame on yourself. You may find that you gradually begin to believe their accusations, and feel that you are always at fault.
The effects of gaslighting can turn you against yourself, which can seep into various aspects of your life. It can have you blaming yourself for interactions with different people (not just the gaslighter in your life) that turn sour, and even mundane incidents in your life that go awry, whether others are involved or not (Lambert, 2021; Mental Health Advocates, 2021; Otis, 2019).
2. Minimizing your own experiences
Regarding the trials and difficult experiences you’ve been through, have you ever thought to yourself that “maybe it wasn’t that bad,” or “maybe it’s all just in my head?” Perhaps you’ve debated with yourself about whether you suffered through “real” trauma, or convinced yourself that you’ve made “too big” a deal out of your experiences.
You may have grown accustomed to thinking of your life in this manner, without realizing that doing so minimizes the hardships you’ve had. If you dwell on thoughts such as these, you are dismissing your own feelings and experiences, even gaslighting yourself (Clayton, 2021; Mental Health Advocates, 2021; Otis, 2019).
3. Excusing others
In the process of minimizing your experience and placing all of the blame on yourself, you might find that you also have a tendency to excuse other people for their insensitive behavior or mistreatment of you.
Perhaps you have found yourself thinking, “they didn’t actually mean what I thought they meant,” or “I know they love me and didn’t mean it like that.” Thoughts along these lines can occur when gaslighters in your life frequently insist that you misinterpreted the hurtful words they’ve thrown at you. Eventually, you might have developed the habit of excusing others in this way all on your own (Clayton, 2021; Mental Health Advocates, 2021; Otis, 2019).
4. Believing you’re too sensitive
Convincing yourself that you’re just “too sensitive” goes hand in hand with constantly excusing others and blaming yourself. You may have gradually picked this up from constantly being told that you are too dramatic, emotional, sensitive, or even crazy—which may have usually occurred as a result of someone refusing to acknowledge that they hurt you.
You may have come to the point where you start thinking to yourself, “I am probably just making too big a deal out of it and being too sensitive,” whenever someone hurts you. While it is true that sometimes a person does mean well, it is also true that sometimes they don’t—and regardless of either, your feelings are always valid (Clayton, 2021; Mental Health Advocates, 2021; Otis, 2019).
5. Negative beliefs about yourself
All of these can lead to the long-term effect of developing negative beliefs about yourself. Constant gaslighting and criticism from others can eventually take its toll on you, causing you to believe the negative things you’ve been told about yourself and question yourself.
Do you ever catch yourself thinking or saying, “There must be something wrong with me,” “I’m not worth believing,” “I’m not enough,” or even, “If I were stronger, I wouldn’t feel this way,” ?
These negative thoughts can then seep into different aspects of your life—relationships, school or work, as you falsely believe you are “defective” or undeserving of genuine love and happiness. This can spiral into more serious mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety—as well as continue to make you vulnerable to gaslighting (Clayton, 2021; Lambert, 2021; Otis, 2019).
Fortunately, it is possible to heal and move forward from self gas-lighting.
Self-gaslighting involves a whole lot of self-blame and negative beliefs about yourself. Learning how to affirm your own experiences and feelings, and improving self-esteem alongside that can be your way out of self-gaslighting.
This may entail a journey of also learning how to identify the tactics and manipulative behavior that the gaslighter/s in your life use on you, as well as learning how to identify which of your beliefs are irrational because of it.
The process may be difficult, but certainly not impossible— and neither is healing.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from abuse, or even on the road to recovery from it, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for proper guidance and healing (Lambert, 2021; Otis, 2019).
Clayton, I. (2021, September 10). What is self-gaslighting? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-sobriety/202109/what-is-self-gaslighting
Lambert, C. (2021, October 25). Self-Gaslighting: The Harm of Being Gaslighted. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-games/202110/self-gaslighting-the-harm-being-gaslighted#:~:text=By%20internalizing%20the%20false%20accusations,coercive%20tactics%20of%20the%20gaslighter
Mental Health Advocates. (2021, September 20). 5 Signs You’re Gaslighting Yourself. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/CUAxPdEvoDC/.
Otis, R. (2019, October 25). What is ‘self-gaslighting’ and how do I unlearn it? Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/unlearning-self-gaslighting