Our relationship is the most important one we’ll ever have.
From a healthy self-relationship, we can cultivate healthy relationships with others. Likewise, if one’s self-relationship is unhealthy, one’s relationships with others are likely also unhealthy.
In this article, we’ll explore the nature of self-gaslighting, self-destructive behavior and thought patterns that jeopardize one’s self-relationship and overall sense of health and well-being.
What are the common signs that you’re gaslighting yourself? Read on for some advice on how to stop this self-destructive behavior.
What is gaslighting?
The term gaslighting refers to a manipulative behavior in which one person plants seeds of doubt in another.
Such doubt is not a healthy kind of doubt where one offers constructive criticism with care. Instead, the gaslighter wants the victim to doubt themselves for the former’s gain.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and is a big sign that the relationship between two people is unhealthy.
What is self gaslighting?
Gaslighting isn’t exclusive to toxic or abusive relationships – one can gaslight themselves.
Self-gaslighting is a symptom of an unhealthy relationship with oneself in which doubt and the inner critic take over and make you feel like you’re wrong for feeling a certain way.
Signs you’re gaslighting yourself
If you suspect that you may be experiencing gaslighting from yourself, check out the most common signs of this unhealthy behavior below.
1. You invalidate your own feelings
Every emotion and feeling you experience is inherently valid, including all your negative emotions and thoughts.
These experiences are uncomfortable, and it’s normal to be averse to them, but self-acceptance is the only way to live a happy and healthy life.
If you don’t accept your feelings as they come and allow them to exist but instead deny or invalidate them, you’re gaslighting yourself.
There may be an inner voice (probably not entirely yours, but more on that later) that tells you your feelings are wrong or that there’s something wrong with you for having them.
2. You make excuses for others’ abusive behavior
If you have ever been in a relationship with a toxic or abusive partner, they may have gaslighted you at some point.
However, being in such a relationship can make you gaslight yourself.
If you find yourself making excuses for a partner’s nasty comments, aggressive behavior, or general mistreatment of you, that’s a sign that your inner voice is a gaslighter.
Nobody has the right to treat you poorly, whether they’re a romantic partner, a friend, or a family member. If you allow them to do so, it may be because you don’t believe you’re worthy of better treatment.
Such a belief is deep self-gaslighting and should be overcome as soon as possible to keep your physical, mental, and emotional health in check.
3. You don’t trust yourself
You may be gaslighting yourself if you lack self-trust and feel riddled with self-doubt.
You don’t trust your judgment and can’t rely on your inner voice to guide you because it’s destructive rather than constructive. You lack self confidence because you believe you’ll fail anyway.
The less you trust yourself, the more likely you will experience trust issues in your relationships. Your lack of self-trust may leave you feeling insecure and prevent you from living the life you truly want to live.
4. You downplay your achievements
People who gaslight themselves often don’t allow themselves to experience the joy and happiness of personal achievements and success.
Their self esteem has taken a dive such that they believe their achievements are not too big a deal and may even refuse compliments.
Of course, it’s good to avoid being cocky about one’s success – no one likes a braggart – but it’s equally important to feel confident about your abilities and be happy about your success.
Downplaying your achievements and successes is a major sign of gaslighting, so if you find yourself engaging in these self-gaslighting thoughts, it may be time to seek positive change.
How to stop gaslighting yourself
Stop putting yourself down. You are stronger, better than you thought yourself to be.
1. Identify the source of your self-gaslighting thoughts
Earlier, we mentioned the destructive inner voice that invalidates your feelings and tells you that you’re wrong for having them.
We’ve mentioned that the voice may not be entirely yours, but what does that mean?
As human beings, we’re susceptible to influence and persuasion.
Sometimes we absorb the perspectives, opinions, and judgments of others and take them on as our own.
Such is especially common in childhood when a parent or caregiver is judgmental or critical.
One learns to think like the parent as a means of getting closer to them but ends up carrying that parent’s judgments, doubts, and tendency to invalidate feelings into their adult life, where they wreak havoc.
Replace unhealthy thoughts
So, to stop gaslighting yourself, it’s essential to identify to whom that destructive and over-critical inner voice belongs.
Are those self-gaslighting thoughts your own, or did you learn them from someone else? Did you have an overly-critical parent, a narcissist in the household when growing up, or a romantic partner to whom you were attached but who criticized you for everything?
Identifying the source of your self-doubt and tendencies to self-gaslight can help you step back from your thoughts and realize that you don’t have to think that way about yourself.
Over time, you can learn to replace those conditioned thinking patterns with healthy, original, and constructive beliefs about yourself.
2. Share your feelings with your friends
Good friends can be life-changing.
Strong friendships are as crucial as intimate romantic relationships and family when maintaining and protecting your well-being.
If you constantly gaslight yourself by invalidating your feelings, convincing yourself that you’re always wrong, or holding back on sharing your opinions because you think they’re ‘stupid’ or ‘worthless,’ reach out to friends who love you.
Good friends will offer space for you to have whatever thoughts and feelings come your way and will help you explore them without judgment or criticism.
They’ll help you recognize that you’re a good person and that you don’t need to be so hard on yourself.
3. Practice self-compassion
Self-compassion is the radical act of loving yourself.
When you practice self-compassion, you offer the same care, love, kindness, and forgiveness that you would provide to a best friend going through a hard time.
The more compassionate you are to yourself, the more you become your own best friend, and this shift is often noticeable to others.
To practice self-compassion, remember that you’re a human being and inherently flawed. You won’t always do things perfectly, and you won’t feel happy all the time.
With self-compassion, you accept that truth and love and forgive yourself anyway.
Kristin Neff is a thought-leader on self-compassion and offers a wealth of resources on her site. Spiritual practitioners Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield are self-compassion pioneers and provide talks and meditations to help cultivate more compassion in your self-relationship.
4. Develop mindfulness
Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent years.
Wellness practitioners always encourage us to practice mindfulness in our daily lives, and for a good reason.
But what is mindfulness? Mindfulness pioneer and practitioner Jon Kabat Zinn explain that mindfulness is ‘the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.’
How does mindfulness help with self-gaslighting?
The more mindful you are of your own reality – from your thoughts, feelings, and emotions – the less likely you are to be controlled by them.
The negative thoughts and inner voice associated with self-gaslighting can be incredibly powerful and make you believe they’re true.
With mindfulness practice, you realize that you are not your thoughts but the awareness behind them. Knowing this, it becomes much easier to detach your self-view from the thoughts in your mind.
Mindfulness is not about emptying the mind or losing all negative thoughts. Instead, it’s about recognizing and accepting them as they come, then compassionately letting go of those thoughts that don’t serve you.
Consider the signs of self-gaslighting outlined earlier, and be honest with yourself.
Do you constantly doubt yourself? Do you invalidate your own feelings? Do you believe that you’re wrong for feeling certain emotions?
All these are signs that your self-relationship is not as healthy as it can be.
Self-gaslighting is often a learned behavior, but that’s good news. Since it’s a learned behavior, it can be unlearned.
It may take time, patience, practice, self-care, and plenty of support from friends, family members, and therapists or counselors, but it’s entirely possible.
Hopefully, you’ve recognized some destructive behaviors in yourself from reading this article and feel inspired to make a positive change.
If you don’t believe you’re capable of that change now, just practice patience.
You can’t fix your relationship with yourself overnight, but with patience and consistency, you may very well wake up one day and realize how inherently valid and worthy you really are.