If you’re reading this article, you have likely established that you show acts of gaslighting towards yourself. I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point, but doing it regularly can significantly impact personal relationships and mental health.
Self gaslighting is a covert and destructive form of emotional abuse within an individual’s mind.
This article will provide 8 practical steps to help you recognize, challenge, and stop self gaslighting, allowing you to prioritize your well-being and embrace self-validation.
Table of Contents
What is Self Gaslighting?
Self Gaslighting stems from the concept of gaslighting, which involves manipulating someone’s perception of reality.
Self gaslighting involves internalizing these manipulative tactics and perpetuating them within oneself.
Unlike gaslighting in a relationship, self-gaslighting occurs within an individual’s mind.
It is a form of emotional abuse where individuals internalize gaslighting tactics, subjecting themselves to harmful effects.
According to Dr Julie Smith, a clinical psychologist, self gaslighting mainly includes always blaming yourself, never trusting your judgement, and invalidating your feelings.
This self-imposed manipulation can stem from various factors, including negative experiences, trauma responses, societal pressures, and even abusive behavior within personal relationships, particularly romantic ones.
According to Beste Güneysu Şeker, a clinical psychologist “Cognitive processes play an important role in self gaslighting. Even in situations that we see with our own eyes in gaslighting, there is a situation of approaching with suspicion. It will cause us to doubt our own truths and reality.”
Cognitive distortions such as overgeneralization, selective filtering, and personalization can distort one’s perception of reality. Negative self-talk and internalized negative beliefs can reinforce the process of self-aggrandizement, further perpetuating self-doubt and lowering self-worth.”
Are you still wondering what gaslighting looks like in personal relationships? Click here to find out.
Types of Self Gaslighting
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of self gaslighting is crucial for understanding its impact, from abusive behaviour to emotional dysregulation and a self-sabotaging mindset. Some common types include:
1. Doubting Your Perceptions and Memories
Have you ever thought about distressing experiences negatively, even though you weren’t at fault? Chances are, you play out negative scripts in your head.
Playing out negative scripts in your head stems from doubting your perceptions and memories.
Moreover, it involves questioning the accuracy and validity of your experiences and memories, even when evidence supports them.
This self-doubt can stem from the following:
- A history of emotional abuse or chronic gaslighting in relationships.
- An adverse childhood experience, or traumatic event
- Severe childhood trauma
The concept of gaslighting, which refers to manipulative tactics used to undermine someone’s sense of reality, can be internalized and result in self gaslighting.
Individuals who engage in self gaslighting may constantly second-guess themselves. According to Dr. Julie Smith (1) ‘You live in an almost constant state of self-doubt and look at other people for clarity.’
2. Minimizing Your Emotions and Experiences
Individuals downplay or dismiss the intensity or significance of their emotions and experiences.
This often stems from a desire to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions or to maintain a sense of control.
Individuals engaging in self gaslighting may invalidate their emotions, believing they are unwarranted or invalid, leading to suppressed emotions or denying oneself the opportunity to process and address them.
Beste Güneysu Şeker also highlights that: “At the same time, sociocultural factors can negatively contribute to individuals’ minimizing their emotions and experiences. At this point, it is possible to talk about the stoic philosophy. In this philosophy, keeping concepts such as moral values and justice at the forefront may cause psychological pressure on the individual.”
Beste also notes that “At the same time, social norms and expectations of society, such as the fear of being perceived as weak, can directly affect the individual to belittle or suppress their emotions.”
3. Self-Blaming and Taking on Excessive Responsibility
This one can be fairly difficult to recognize because it often happens automatically in your brain. However, taking the blame where there is no fault is a trauma response. It’s for a reason people always say: ‘no harm, no foul.’
People who engage in self gaslighting often blame themselves for negative experiences or outcomes, even when they are not at fault.
This self-blaming behavior can be a trauma response to past experiences of emotional abuse or adverse childhood experiences and often leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-worth.
‘You blame yourself for everything. You make excuses for other people’s behaviour, but if you make a mistake, you believe it says something fundamental about who you are as a person.’ Dr. Julie Smith (1)
4. Neglecting Personal Boundaries and Needs
This often occurs in the context of personal relationships, including romantic relationships characterized by abusive behavior.
Individuals engaging in self gaslighting may disregard their boundaries, allowing others to overstep or violate them.
They may also neglect their own needs, placing the needs of others above their well-being.
This self-neglect pattern can lead to resentment, dissatisfaction, and a loss of self-identity.
5. Self-Sabotaging Mindset
Unfortunately, this is one of the most harmful types of self gaslighting. We get you, though; it’s hard to feel worthy when you feel you’re not good enough. Working toward a better self is difficult.
Individuals engage in behaviors and thought patterns that undermine their success, happiness, and personal growth.
A self-sabotaging mindset often makes them believe they are unworthy of success or happiness and may fear failure or rejection.
Self-sabotaging behavior can manifest as procrastination, self-doubt, self-sabotaging relationships, or destructive behavior that reinforces negative self-beliefs.
6. Distorting Reality and Self-Image
A common sign of self gaslighting is creating a negative perception of themselves and their reality. They distort their reality as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from further emotional pain or to conform to societal expectations.
They may internalize negative messages from past experiences of trauma or emotional abuse, leading to a distorted self-image and a belief that they are unworthy or incompetent.
7. Ignoring Intuition
Ever got those butterflies, where your body tells you to ‘just do it’? Well, according to research, it’s likely you’ll do what’s morally right.
However, if you disregard their gut feelings and inner knowing, you dismiss their intuition as unreliable or unfounded, relying instead on external validation or logic.
Ignoring intuition can occur when individuals have internalized the belief that their perceptions and instincts are flawed or invalid.
‘You never trust in your own judgement. But you see the opinions of other people as a much more credible source.’ Dr. Julie Smith (1)
This is a common sign of gaslighting, where individuals isolate themselves from social interactions, avoiding potential judgment or rejection.
They may feel insecure about their perceptions and experiences, leading them to believe others will not understand or validate their feelings.
Self-isolation can perpetuate feelings of loneliness, eroding self-esteem and confidence in reality. Moreover, it significantly impacts your ability to have a bonding experience with your peers.
Causes of Self Gaslighting
There are several underlying causes of self gaslighting. Understanding these factors is crucial in breaking the cycle. These causes include:
1. Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
Individuals with low self-esteem and self-worth are more prone to self gaslighting. They doubt their perceptions, memories, and experiences when they have a negative self-perception.
2. Past Traumatic Experiences
Emotional abuse or trauma can significantly impact an individual’s tendency towards self gaslighting. These negative experiences can create internalized negative scripts and beliefs that undermine reality.
3. Internalizing Societal Expectations and Norms
Imagine you’re sitting at a bustling coffee shop, surrounded by people going about their day. As you sip your latte, you can’t help but notice how everyone seems to conform to societal expectations. People meticulously curate their online presence, presenting a flawless facade to the world. You catch yourself doing the same, filtering your authenticity.
It’s as if society has handed you an unwritten rulebook, and you’ve internalized its demands. The fear of judgment looms over you, triggering a subtle self gaslighting. You suppress your true thoughts and emotions, desperately trying to fit into the mold society has created.
4. Fear of Confrontation and Conflict
Picture this: You’re in a team meeting, surrounded by colleagues with differing opinions. The topic at hand sparks a heated debate, but you find yourself staying silent. Deep down, you know you have a valuable perspective to contribute, but the fear of confrontation holds you back.
You see others voicing their thoughts confidently, but you hesitate. At that moment, self gaslighting creeps in. You prioritize maintaining a harmonious atmosphere over expressing your discomfort and needs. Doubt seeps in, and you begin blaming yourself for not speaking up, wondering if your voice truly matters.
5. Perfectionism and Self-Criticism
Imagine a driven individual striving for excellence in every aspect of their life. They meticulously craft their work, continuously seeking flawlessness. But with every accomplishment, the bar for success is raised higher.
The pursuit of perfection becomes a burden, leading to self-doubt and a relentless cycle of self-criticism. As they analyze their every move, their mind becomes a breeding ground for self gaslighting. They question their abilities, berating themselves for not meeting impossible standards.
6. External Criticism and Invalidating Environments
Imagine a teenager growing up in a household where criticism and invalidation are the norm. Every day, their efforts are met with disapproval, and their feelings are dismissed. Their environment becomes a breeding ground for self gaslighting.
They start questioning their worth and abilities, doubting their perceptions of reality. The constant stream of criticism from others distorts their self-image, leaving them with a nagging voice inside, constantly second-guessing their every move.
7. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Life can sometimes become overwhelming, and we all develop ways to cope. Picture someone resorting to excessive work hours or throwing themselves into countless projects, constantly seeking distraction from their inner turmoil.
Beste Güneysu Şeker also highlights that: “Unhealthy coping mechanisms may provide a temporary relief or a sense of control in the individual, but eventually the self-gaslighting process will begin to negatively affect the individual’s life. If we give some examples of these mechanisms; We can talk about emotional avoidance, withdrawal from social environments, effort to prove oneself, substance abuse and self-medication.
“The most damaging coping mechanisms we have mentioned are substance use and self-medication. An individual may turn to alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behaviors to numb painful feelings or disconnect from reality.”
“Since cognitive processes will be negatively affected in this process, it will take longer for the person to get out of the situation they are in and will negatively affect the healing process. In such cases, the continuation of the treatment process in clinical settings will also prevent self-harm.”
These coping mechanisms offer solace for a while, providing a temporary escape from emotional distress. However, they inadvertently become the triggers for self gaslighting. As individuals lose themselves in these unhealthy patterns, they question their motives and intentions, blaming themselves for their inability to handle their emotions healthier.
8. Complex Emotions and Emotional Dysregulation
Imagine someone standing at the edge of a raging ocean, waves crashing around them. Their emotions are just as turbulent, ebbing and flowing unpredictably. They struggle to make sense of their intense feelings, often leaving them overwhelmed.
In the midst of this emotional storm, self gaslighting sneaks in. They begin doubting the validity of their emotional responses, questioning if they are overreacting or if their emotions are even valid. The inability to regulate their emotions compounds the internal battle, heightening their vulnerability to self gaslighting.
9. Bonding Experience
In some cases, self gaslighting can develop due to bonding experiences with others who engage in gaslighting behaviour.
These individuals may have been involved in abusive relationships or have been exposed to chronic gaslighting.
8 Steps to Stop Self Gaslighting
1. Recognize and Acknowledge
Have you ever felt like your accomplishments were just a stroke of luck or not a big deal, even when others praised your efforts? Recognizing and acknowledging these self-doubt, self-blame, and invalidation patterns is the first step to overcoming self gaslighting.
We’ve found an excellent post with the following questions to ask yourself:
- How has gaslighting helped me in the past? Did it help me to survive or cope?
- How is gaslighting harming me? Does it serve me anymore?
- How can I learn to practice self-compassion? What can I start saying to myself that is encouraging, kind and supportive?
2. Challenge Negative Self-Talk
Have you ever found yourself berating and labeling yourself as a failure after making a mistake? It’s time to challenge those negative self-talk moments. Instead of letting these thoughts take control, replace them with self-compassionate and empowering affirmations. Remember, everyone makes mistakes, and they provide opportunities for learning and growth.
3. Validate Your Emotions and Experiences
Have you ever dismissed your emotions as unwarranted or judge yourself for feeling overwhelmed? Practice self-kindness by validating your own emotions and experiences without judgment. Your feelings are real and deserving of attention. Find healthy and constructive ways to experience and express your emotions, whether through talking to a supportive friend or engaging in a creative outlet.
According to Beste Güneysu Şeker “Empathy is one of the most important components in this period when the discovery of emotions is made. Providing a safe and empathetic environment in which the individual’s experiences are accepted, validated and normalized can make it easier to resist the self-gaslighting process.”
“At the same time, you can consider psychological support. Therapists can actively listen and offer alternative perspectives, helping the individual to challenge the schemas created by self-gaslighting.”
4. Cultivate Self-Awareness
Have you ever caught yourself downplaying your achievements or questioning your worth? Cultivating self-awareness through mindfulness practices can help you break free from self gaslighting.
Take a moment to pay attention to your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Notice when self gaslighting occurs. When you catch yourself in the act, consciously interrupt the cycle by reminding yourself of your value and the validity of your reality.
For instance, challenge the belief of “I’m not good enough” by listing your accomplishments and recognising your strengths.
5. Challenge Distorted Beliefs
Have you ever compared yourself to others and believed you’ll never measure up? It’s time to challenge those distorted beliefs. Replace negative beliefs with positive and empowering ones.
Remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and you have strengths and qualities that make you special. Surround yourself with positive influences like books, podcasts, or supportive friends. Seek resources that promote self-acceptance and self-empowerment.
6. Establish Healthy Boundaries
In a world filled with demands and expectations, losing sight of your needs and boundaries is easy.
But imagine a life where you prioritize your well-being and protect yourself from situations that trigger self gaslighting. Establishing healthy boundaries creates a personal sanctuary—a space where your needs and self-worth come first.
Learn to say no when necessary, communicate your limits, and embrace the empowering feeling of taking control of your life.
7. Practice Self-Care
Amidst life’s daily chaos, nourishing your mind, body, and soul is crucial. Self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a lifeline. Imagine indulging in activities that bring you joy, recharging your energy, and cultivating self-compassion.
Whether it’s immersing yourself in a soothing bubble bath, embarking on a peaceful nature walk, practicing mindfulness, or diving into a creative outlet, self-care is an act of self-love that fuels your inner fire. Prioritize yourself, embrace guilt-free moments of rejuvenation, and witness its transformative power on your overall well-being.
Click here to read this inspiring article on Unlocking Your True Self
8. Build a Support Network
Imagine a tribe of supportive, understanding individuals who cheer you on and validate your experiences. Building a strong support network is not just a luxury—it’s a lifeline for overcoming self gaslighting.
Surround yourself with those who uplift you, believe in your potential, and provide a safe space for open sharing. Trusted friends, family members, or support groups can be your anchors during challenging times, reminding you that you are not alone. You can unite strengths and amplify resilience, creating a community where growth and empowerment thrive.
Beste Güneysu Şeker expresses that: “In this process, it may be beneficial to participate in supportive group therapy processes, which are part of therapeutic support, or to support groups with people who have experienced similar traumas.
The Benefit of Group Therapy
Beste emphasises that “Sharing the experiences of people who have gone through the same process, giving examples from their own lives and feeling that they are not alone provides a sense of belonging in group therapy. Moreover, it supports peer approval and positive communication skills.
“The studies carried out confirm that group therapy is there to strengthen the communication skills within the group, with the result that it will begin to shape the external life of the individual after a while.”
Improving yourself and your relationships require so much work. If group therapy isn’t really your thing, you can click here to read about the benefits of individual therapy.
Self gaslighting can profoundly impact our well-being, personal growth, and relationships. Understanding the patterns, consequences, and effective strategies is essential to break free from this harmful cycle. Doing so can help you reclaim your self-belief, prioritize self-validation, and nurture a positive mindset.
Remember, you are deserving of validation, self-compassion, and self-empowerment. It’s time to prioritize self-validation and embrace the power of self-acceptance. Each step you take towards acknowledging your worth and honoring your emotions brings you closer to a future filled with personal growth, resilience, and authenticity.
Do you want to read someone else’s experience with gaslighting, we suggest you read this article: I’ve Been Gaslighting Myself For Years And Didn’t Know It