Do you sometimes feel like your own worst enemy?
You may be gaslighting yourself without even realizing it.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which one person manipulates another in order to make them doubt their own reality and sanity.
It happens in relationships, but it can also happen when we are our own worst critics; you can actually gaslight YOURSELF, and you’d be surprised how often you may be doing this.
Here are five ways that you might be gaslighting yourself — and how to stop it:
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You criticize everything about yourself
Do you constantly pick apart every aspect of who you are? Even when people give you compliments, do you immediately dismiss them? This type of self-criticism can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and other negative feelings. To stop gaslighting yourself, it’s important to practice self-compassion, accept compliments (and internally not shift them to critical judgments), be kind to yourself with your internal self-talk, and work to focus on celebrating the positive things about you. This can help counteract the impacts of your self-gaslighting.
You compare yourself to others
We all do this from time to time, but constantly comparing yourself to others can be incredibly damaging. It’s impossible for everyone to be the same and make the same decisions. To stop gaslighting yourself with comparisons, focus on being proud of your unique qualities instead of worrying about how they stack up against someone else’s.
You deny that something is wrong
Do you ever find yourself saying “I’m fine” even when you’re really not? Gaslighting yourself by denying your own emotions and perceptions can be a way of avoiding vulnerability and opening up to others. Instead, it’s important to acknowledge when something is wrong or right. Ignoring or downplaying things by being “fine” can build resentment and more internal criticism. You also miss out on allowing another person to actually hear your perspective and provide a response to what you are feeling or needing.
You invalidate your emotions
Do you ever find yourself pushing away any strong or negative emotions? You may be gaslighting yourself by ignoring or invalidating your emotions. This self-gaslighting can lead to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Ways you may be gaslighting your emotions are when you try to talk down your feelings with internal self-talk such as “stop being so sensitive,” “I’m clearly overreacting,” and “everyone else is fine with this; why can’t I be?” To stop gaslighting yourself in this way, try mindfulness practices that help you sit with what you are feeling, observe what is going on for you, and turn your feelings to validate them. Without validation, the emotions you are trying to avoid will only get stronger. Think of it the same as when a friend talks to you about their struggles and feelings, and you provide a comforting and validating place for them, do the same for your feelings. If you were to talk to them the way you dismiss your own feelings, the friendship might not last very long!
You expect perfection
Are you constantly striving for perfection in everything that you do? We all want our best work to be recognized, but gaslighting yourself by expecting perfection can make it difficult actually to finish projects and take risks. To stop gaslighting yourself in this way, it’s important to focus on progress instead of perfection and celebrate even small wins. Breaking down bigger goals into smaller, more achievable steps and celebrating those wins is a great way to build momentum and break the pressure of perfectionism.
Gaslighting yourself can be a damaging habit, but the good news is that it’s never too late to become aware of our behaviors and make positive changes. With mindfulness practices, therapy, and self-compassion, we can learn how to recognize when gaslighting ourselves is happening — and how to stop it.
With these tips in mind, you can learn how to give yourself the love and care that you need — without gaslighting yourself in the process. Say no to self-gaslighting!
- Unexpected Ways You May be Gaslighting Yourself
- Are You Gaslighting Yourself?
- What is Self-Gaslighting and How Do I Unlearn It?
Lindsey Ferris, MS, LMFTA, Washington State