Life Coaching Tip: As I continue shining light on the sinister traps that can hold many women back from fully embracing their dreams and desires, this article’s focus is on the “Self-Gaslighting Trap”. I am committed to my mission of setting you free from your primal brain’s attempts to keep you feeling stuck – so stay with me here. Awareness is always the first step towards change!
Are you familiar with the term “gaslighting”?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that uses manipulation and minimization to make a person question their understanding of reality. It’s a way to exert control over another by making them feel self-conscious, confused, and a little bananas.
As a young woman, I remember calling my girlfriends and regularly asking the question, “Am I crazy?” I was in an abusive relationship that made me completely doubt myself and my own perceptions. At the time, my jerk boyfriend would do or say something abusive, and then deny it completely.
“That never happened,” he’d say. “You’re out of your mind!”
I couldn’t grasp what was happening. It just didn’t make any sense to the point that I began questioning my own sanity.
(Fortunately, with the support of a good therapist and a lot of work, I was eventually able to kick that jackass to the curb:)
Gaslighting happens in romantic relationships—and it also happens in other circumstances too—such as with family, social relationships, the doctor’s office, and in the workplace.
Sadly, one reason the victimizing of women through gaslighting is so common is because many of us were conditioned from an early age not to trust ourselves. The patriarchy teaches us to distrust our own emotions, intuition, and insights.
Gaslighting can sound something like this:
- “You’re too emotional.”
- “You aren’t making any sense.”
- “It’s not that bad. Other people have it worse.”
- “You should have known how I’d react.”
- “I’m sorry you think I hurt you.”
- “I did that because I care about you.”
- “I think the stress is getting to you. You keep forgetting things.”
- “You don’t really feel that way.”
As I am writing this, a memory came up for me of a time when gaslighting unexpectantly sent me reeling.
It was several years ago, when my children were teenagers, and we were on a family trip to New York City. It had been a long couple of days, and we stopped at an Irish Pub for lunch on our last day in the city to catch a bite to eat and plan our afternoon excursions.
After a lengthy discussion, we decided on a plan together to go shopping and afterwards, take a stroll through Central Park. So, once decided, I went for a bathroom break while we waited for our server to bring out our lunch.
Once back from the restroom, my husband and one of our daughters told me they wanted to completely change our plans—an idea that was clearly upsetting our other daughter—and I began to get emotional. I was exhausted and tired of the negotiations. I felt frustrated, but I didn’t want to seem unreasonable.
And although I tried to hold back my tears, they still welled up in my eyes and ran down my cheeks. It seemed the more I tried to conceal them, the faster they flowed.
It was about then that the server boldly approached, holding a glass of champagne.
“Oh, no, no!” she announced loudly. “No one is allowed to cry in this pub! Come on, smile mom—what could be so terrible to make you cry? Here’s a glass of champagne to make you feel better!”
I was mortified, and my throat became dry with my embarrassment.
Although it makes me giggle now, at the time, it did not. Thanks to my parched throat, my words came out sounding a little like Linda Blair in the “Exorcist” as I told her to back away from our table. We went back and forth like this for a few moments before she finally heeded my warning and retreated.
But here’s the thing, it wasn’t just the server’s opinion of me that I was being too emotional and shouldn’t be crying that embarrassed me—it was MY OWN judgement of myself that brought on the most shame.
I felt silly and ungrateful—a privileged women on vacation crying over something so stupid.
I was self-gaslighting.
In my head, it sounded like: “I’m being too sensitive. I’m totally overreacting.”
“I’m making a big deal out of nothing.”
The root of these thoughts goes back to early conditioning: I can’t trust myself and my own feelings. I’m being dramatic or attention seeking.
Unfortunately, I know I’m not the only one. Self-gaslighting is another trap that many women fall into—another trick of our subconscious minds to hold us back.
Over the years, I have witnessed my clients self-gaslight by minimizing their pain (both emotionally and physically), staying in abusive personal and workplace situations, and lowering their expectations of themselves and others.
Self-gaslighting is when we pick up the torch and use it against ourselves. It’s when we buy into the years of conditioning, shame ourselves, and discount or minimize our own feelings, thoughts, and desires.
Self-gaslighting is a harmful mindset that makes us question ourselves, as well as our dreams and desires. It hits our self-confidence hard because we start to believe we don’t deserve to uplevel our lives. It also prevents us from implementing positive change.
After all, if we don’t believe our situation is that bad, we won’t attempt to change it, right?
Do you recognize yourself here?
Are you your own worst critic? Do you often doubt and question yourself—your sanity, abilities, desires, and/or memory?
If so, then know, you can break free from this self-destructive trap!
Here’s where you can start:
- Increase your awareness: When you notice self-judgement and doubt coming up for you, ask yourself: “Whose opinion is this really?” Recognize where these thoughts originated (such as a parent, romantic partner, boss, etc.), and remind yourself that these thoughts are optional. They are not facts and you do not have to accept them as truths. You get to decide!!!
- Affirm your emotions: There are no “right” or “wrong” feelings. Acknowledge that ALL your emotions are valid—including, but not limited to, anger, sadness, frustration, irritation, discontent, resentment, fury, happiness, joy, delight, pleasure, excitement—and you have every right to feel them without judgement or shame!
- Practice validating your emotions and experiences: When you find yourself saying things like, “Maybe I am being too sensitive,” practice reframing these thoughts in your mind. Trust and respect your emotions—what are your feelings trying to tell you? And, practice reporting your experiences to yourself as the news. If your work colleague unfairly snaps at you, remind yourself on your way home: “She snapped at me. This is the truth.” It might feel ridiculous at first, but it will help you silence your inner critic who wants to tell you that you must be imagining or embellishing things. Over time, this practice will help you stay clear of the “Gaslighting Trap”!
- Get support! Mindset work is not a “one and done” kind of practice. When you are setting new goals and making changes in your life, it’s only natural for you to feel uneasy or overwhelmed during the process. As a seasoned life coach, I can absolutely help you with that! Connect with me here: https://calendly.com/movingforwardlifecoaching/lifecoachingconsultation?month=2023-04