How to Break Away from Self-Gaslighting Tendencies

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that causes the victim to doubt their memory, perception, and or emotions. Most of the time, those who gaslight others do so to undermine their feelings and manipulate the victim into believing a false reality that benefits the abuser. However, with self-gaslighting, your inner-voice becomes your own tormentor. Constantly belittling your feelings creates a world of hurt that can feel overwhelming. It’s necessary to notice the signs of self-gaslighting and recognize if you are doing it to yourself. Of course, it’s normal to have some self-doubt – it’s actually healthy. However, there comes a time when normal self-doubt transforms into a destructive mindset in which you constantly minimize your feelings. 

Self-gaslighting can involve frequently thinking: 

Photo by Terry Swirchak

“I’m too dramatic and sensitive.”

“Maybe it’s all in my head, and I’m being crazy?”

“I’m too much to handle; there’s something wrong with me.”

“They love me, so they didn’t mean it in that way.”

“If I love them, then shouldn’t I do what they want me to?” 

If this sounds familiar, take a deep breath and remember that your feelings are valid and you have every right to express them. Unlearning these harmful tendencies requires work and dedication, and the first step is to acknowledge the origin of your thoughts. Once you have done that, start taking the appropriate measures to help you no longer fall victim to your feelings. 

Step 1: Ask yourself if this is truly your own opinion of yourself.

Oftentimes, we absorb the opinions of others even when they contradict our truth. We begin convincing ourselves that the way others have perceived us is who we truly are. As explained by clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD, these harmful thoughts usually do not come out of the blue. These feelings are often heard by others and then internalized. It’s essential to identify the origin of these thoughts so you can separate yourself from them and begin figuring out if this is you speaking or someone else’s opinion.

Step 2: Determine if you would ever speak to a loved one in that way.

When you start invalidating your feelings, think of someone you genuinely love and care for. Now imagine your scenario is theirs. What would you tell them? And would you tell them what you are saying to yourself? If your answer is no, then you shouldn’t say it to yourself either. You deserve to use the love and care you give to others on yourself too. 

Step 3: Remember that you are not your thoughts.

You can use mindful awareness to turn away from your negative thoughts. For example, say, “I acknowledge I’m having this thought, and I’m letting it go without judgment.” Dr. Daramus also says if it becomes too overwhelming, you can say it out loud and command yourself to let go and stop invalidating your feelings. 

Your feelings are valid. Your experiences are real. Do not listen to others attempting to invalidate how you feel. There is nothing wrong with you. You will always be enough. It can be scary to accept the reality, but be proud of yourself for taking the time to read this and be in tune with your thoughts.