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How To Tell If You're Gaslighting Yourself & What To Do Instead

Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
By Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy
December 4, 2020

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, which can occur in romantic relationships, in the workplace, and in parent-child relationships. Less commonly acknowledged, though, is the concept of gaslighting ourselves. 

As part of their free virtual class series, MedCircle conducted a YouTube interview with psychologist and narcissism expert Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., to discuss personality disorders and relationships. After explaining many of the common traits of narcissistic personality disorder—one of which is gaslighting—one viewer raised the question: How can we tell if we're gaslighting ourselves?

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Here's what Durvasula had to say.

Signs you may be gaslighting yourself. 

Gaslighting yourself looks like invalidating your own emotions or questioning your own reality, according to Durvasula. That might sound like any of the common gaslighting phrases we hear (e.g., "You're being too sensitive") but turned around on ourselves. For example:

  • I'm being too sensitive.
  • I'm making too big a deal out of this.
  • Maybe that didn't really happen.
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"Catch yourself," Durvasula says. If those thoughts come to mind, "there's a real strong likelihood you are gaslighting yourself."

She adds, "To say 'I'm being too sensitive' is to judge your own reaction."

What to do about it. 

Instead of continuing to sit with those mistruths—and eventually grow to believe them—break down the situation. To do this, Durvasula recommends asking yourself these four questions: 

  • What is happening here? 
  • What was the stimulus? 
  • How am I reacting to this? 
  • Do I have all of the information?
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Running through these questions can help people learn to be present with themselves. "One of the most sacred parts about yourself is your reality," she says. "Don't let anyone take that away." And yes, that includes your own negative thoughts. 

Instead of judging or questioning your feelings, Durvasula says to simply acknowledge that you are experiencing an emotion and change your response to an 'I am feeling' statement. For example: Instead of saying, I'm being too sensitive, reframe it to I'm feeling hurt now or I'm feeling anxious now.

"Now you've brought yourself back into your reality, and instead of judging your feelings, you're naming your feelings."

The bottom line.

It's not uncommon to question our own feelings, but that doesn't mean it's always healthy. Try to speak to yourself the way you would a friend or a loved one, and rather than invalidating your feelings, invite yourself into your own reality. Bringing awareness to your emotions will help you better process those feelings and learn to trust yourself moving forward. 

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Abby Moore
Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager

Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.