One of the most important relationships we’ll ever have is the relationship we have with ourselves. Truth is, it can either be healthy or toxic. Determining which one you’re in right now is as simple as listening to your inner dialogue.
This time of year, I do a lot of reflecting on my relationship with myself and take an audit of how far I’ve come. I go back and read my journal entries, which always seem to tell the real truth. It’s a look back not intending to stay in the past but to check in with myself.
After scrolling on Instagram the other day, I came across a post created by the account @innsightful_ that outlined ways that you may be gaslighting yourself, and I felt exposed.
Growth and healing are processes that we go through. There are times you may feel like you are progressing and moving forward. Other times, you feel like you haven’t moved an inch. I’ve experienced these ups and downs throughout my life, and I’ve come to recognize when I’m not showing myself compassion. I’ve been guilty of gaslighting myself more times than I care to admit, but I’m learning how to avoid this toxic trait.
Gaslighting has become a buzz word on social media. It’s emotional abuse. It’s manipulation. It’s a straightforward way of invalidating someone. A misconception is that only narcissists performs gaslighting, but that’s not true. Anyone can gaslight you, and you can gaslight yourself unconsciously.
For example, let’s say that a co-worker says something hurtful. You might recognize that your feelings were hurt, but then you think: “I’m probably just making too big a deal out of it and being too sensitive.” The problem with this is that you jumped from point A to point C without stopping to understand what’s in between. You have a right to feel and express your emotions.
Here are 5 ways that I have gaslighted myself, and you probably have too:
You Make Excuses for Other’s Bad Behavior
Instead of acknowledging someone’s toxic behavior, you blame yourself. We have all done this. I know I have. There are instances in my life where I’ve made so many excuses for people saying something to me that was hurtful or just outright rude. This type of gaslighting deflects from the other person’s behavior and directs it inward. You find yourself excusing what they did and blaming yourself for their actions.
You Invalidate Your Feelings
Every emotional reaction is a valid one. Your feelings should not be discounted or seen as an overreaction. Unfortunately, it’s easy to twist reality to the point where you completely ignore how a situation made you feel. I’ve been guilty of this in my life, including the time I was assaulted by someone I thought was my friend. I invalidated my feelings so completely that I ignored the violation and couldn’t even admit what he had done. I told myself it was just a “bad experience” or not that bad because I knew him.
You Stay in the Past
No one likes a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” moment, but we’ve all been there at some time or another. You question every emotion and action, and then you discount them in the worst ways. Learn to trust your initial reaction to things that happen to you. Listen to your inner voice without overanalyzing every thought. Show yourself compassion. More importantly, remember that you cannot change the past. You can only exist in the present moment.
You Think You’re Too Sensitive
You feel shame for showing any vulnerability, so you suppress your emotions as opposed to feeling them. This can blow up in your face later on. For years, this was how I operated. I believed being vulnerable was a weakness, and I thought I needed to build a wall around my sensitivity. I was constantly telling myself to “suck it up” and keep it moving. It is a lie that vulnerability is a weakness. Your feelings are valid, and there is no such thing as being too sensitive. It’s actually made me stronger to realize this.
You Don’t Trust Yourself
Maybe you spend too much of your time second-guessing yourself, ignoring your inner voice, and not trusting your gut. But how can anyone trust you if you don’t trust yourself? Build a relationship with yourself. I have learned that my intuition has never steered me wrong. But sometimes our life experiences, abusive relationships, and trauma take away the trust we have in ourselves. When it’s all said and done, you know what’s best for you. Trust your voice. You are not being irrational.
You can remove self-gaslighting by working on yourself, facing your past trauma, avoiding questioning your feelings, and beginning to follow your inner voice. It’s not an easy task but can be done. A good starting point is to journal. It’s a safe space to strengthen the relationship with yourself and get in touch with your emotions.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.