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Parade Magazine Interview: "Could You Be a Victim of 'Self-Gaslighting'? 5 Signs of the Subtle Form of Self-Sabotage and How To Stop, According to Experts"

medicalgaslighting Mar 20, 2023

Could You Be a Victim of 'Self-Gaslighting'? 5 Signs of the Subtle Form of Self-Sabotage and How To Stop, According to Experts

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It seems like only yesterday that "gaslighting" seeped into our lexicons, but now a new term is emerging: "self-gaslighting."

First, if you've never heard of gaslighting until recently, you aren't alone. Merriam-Webster reported lookups for "gaslighting" spiked 1,740% from 2021 to 2022 and named it the word of the year.

"Gaslighting is when a person intentionally manipulates another person to the point where that person questions their own beliefs, reality, judgment and memories," says Dr. Melissa Geraghty, Psy.D., CEO of Phoenix Rising with Dr. G and a medical gaslighting sensitive trainer. "It is a form of emotional abuse."

Why the sudden interest in a term once reserved for therapy rooms?

"One, during the past three years of COVID, many people were able to step back and realize the toxicity of their workplace and are no longer willing to accept the mental health impact of toxic work cultures and toxic bosses who gaslit," says Dr. Geraghty.

And, over the last several years, we've experienced multiple cultural reckonings. Dr. Geraghty says people in historically marginalized communities, such as Black, Indigenous and disabled, have come forward with stories of how they've been invalidated and neglected. And there's another unsurprising factor in play.

"The use of social media specifically has allowed for language and concepts to be shared widely with relative ease," says Michele Goldman, Psy.D, a psychologist and Hope for Depression Research Foundation media advisor.

Speaking of which, another term, self-gaslighting, is also trending on social media these days. Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony-winning actress Viola Davis recently shared a post on it. The post, originally shared by Real Depression Project, a company that makes journals to help combat depression, walked people through what it means and how to spot it.

"Comment below: How else may someone gaslight themselves? Which points can you relate to the most?" Davis captioned her post.

We asked experts similar questions, plus how people can stop self-gaslighting themselves.

What Is Self-Gaslighting? 

As the name implies, self-gaslighting is gaslighting yourself.

"Self-gaslighting is when a person has been so impacted by their environment and other people gaslighting them that they turn this abuse on to themselves," says Dr. Geraghty.

Why Would Someone Self-Gaslight?

Abuse is a harsh word for something self-inflicted. But experts share that self-gaslighting is often the result of years of being gaslit by others.

"When this is the case, the person self-gaslighting might not even recognize they are engaging in this process," says Dr. Goldman. 

It's because gaslighting has become their normal after years of emotional abuse.

"Self-gaslighting is more common in individuals who grew up in invalidating homes," Dr. Goldman says. "If we are familiar with being invalidated, this results in dismissing our own experiences. It is important to work on decreasing self-gaslighting because the long-term effects might result in anxiety, depression, low self-worth, harmful relationships and more."

Dr. Geraghty agrees.

"You are your own best advocate," Dr. Geraghty says. "If you begin to doubt yourself and not assertively stand up for your boundaries and worth, you may sink into a cycle of feelings of unworthiness that may lead to increased depression and anxiety."

Self-Gaslighting Signs and Examples

Self-gaslighting can take many forms, though it's essentially beating yourself up for things that aren't your fault. Goldman shared several examples.

1. You blame yourself and take on responsibility when it is not yours to take

This may sound like:

  • “If I were more attentive to my partner, maybe they wouldn’t have cheated on me."
  • “I feel like I’m responsible even though I wasn’t here at the time.”

"These examples lead you to internalize things as your fault, and you are creating a chronic state of being blamed for things and treating yourself poorly without just cause," Goldman says.

2. You doubt your own recollection of events or memories

Do you find yourself mentally rewriting history? 

"Questioning your own memories is problematic because, over time, it leads to people questioning your own reality," Dr. Goldman says. "You don’t know what’s real or fake. You start second-guessing yourself and your thoughts [and] perceptions." Common thoughts and phrases might include:

  • "I don’t know if I remember how that happened. Trust someone else instead, not me.”
  • “I remember it happening this way, but if you’re saying it didn’t, then I must be misremembering.” 

3. You tell yourself that things really aren’t *that* bad

This form of self-gaslighting is so common—and concerning.

"Chronic invalidation is harmful," Dr. Goldman says.

Examples include:

  • “Yeah, what happened was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. I know people who have it way worse."
  • “I was in pain, but it’s not that big of a deal. Everyone has stuff going on these days.” 

"Your experiences might have been bad," says Dr. Goldman. "And yes, the experiences of other people might also be bad. Their experiences do not negate your experiences."

4. You have a negative internal dialogue that runs in your head

You have the leading role in your life. And the script is consistently dark. Your most common lines may be:

  • “I’m so stupid compared to everyone else here. They’re all so much better than me.”
  • “I’m not nearly as attractive as they are.”

"Negative self-talk can be exceptionally harmful to thoughts about self and impacts the way we feel about our worth, our lovability [and] our competence," says Dr. Goldman.

5. You invalidate your emotional experiences or believe you feel “too much”

Frequently telling yourself you're overreacting is another form of self-gaslighting. For example:

  • “I’m too sensitive, and I shouldn’t cry as much.”
  • “I reacted in a way that was not appropriate for the situation.”

"This tells you that you are always wrong—that there is something about your experiences that is misaligned with how it “should be," says Dr. Goldman. "The reinforcement of this over time has negative impacts."

How Can I Stop Self-Gaslighting?

Try affirmations. 

"Affirmations are a previously generated positive thought that you have prepared for when you need it," says Dr. Goldman. "You should repeat the affirmation when a negative thought crosses your mind."

Dr. Geraghty says affirmations may look like:

  • "This is racism/ableism/sexism. I have been conditioned by society to minimize my feelings around this. However, my feelings are valid."
  • "I can’t control my feelings and thoughts, but I can control my behavior. What do I need to do right now for self-care?"

Dr. Goldman adds some of her favorites include:

  • “I am good at helping other people."
  • "I matter."
  • "I am enough."
  • "I believe in myself."
  • My emotions are mine and no one else’s.”

If affirmations aren't helping, more help is available.

"In my professional experience, when a person is gaslit, it has often occurred many times over many years, and then they turn that on to themselves and self-gaslight," says Dr. Geraghty. "This is trauma that should be processed with a psychologist or other mental health professional." 


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