3 Signs You Might Be Gaslighting Yourself, According to a Therapist

illustration of a woman looking into a mirror
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When we talk about gaslighting, we normally talk about it in the context of romantic relationships, families or even workplaces. But did you know that there’s a chance you’re gaslighting yourself? Yep. We checked in with clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Smith for three signs you might accidentally be sabotaging your own happiness. She tells us that if you can relate to these three signs, then you are doing a bully’s job for them. “Gaslighting has a devastating impact on mental health,” she notes. “But what if you are engaging in those same behaviors toward yourself?” She notes that people who are most likely to gaslight themselves have already experienced gaslighting at the hands of another person in a past relationship, adding that, “we can internalize the voice of that abuser so that it becomes the way we speak to ourselves in our own mind.” She warns that this pattern can last long after we have escaped the situation and continue to have a damaging impact on your wellbeing. The first step in healing, she emphasizes, is recognizing the signs below.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Julie Smith is a clinical psychologist, best-selling author and viral TikTok educator, whose Calm content series, “Overcoming Stress and Anxiety,” is a great resource for folks managing high stress or acute anxiety, or struggling with gaslighting themselves and looking to build confidence in their life.

3 Ways You Might Be Gaslighting Yourself

1. You Blame Yourself for Everything…

…but you make excuses for other people’s behavior. Do you find yourself explaining away anyone else’s mistakes while holding yourself to a completely different standard? This is a sign you could be gaslighting yourself, per Dr. Smith. She explains, “If you make a mistake, you think it says something fundamental about who you are as a person and use it to justify self-punishment and self-loathing.” Remind yourself of how you’d treat another person in the same scenario and give yourself the same grace.

2. You Never Trust Your Own Judgement

“But you see the opinions of others as a much more credible source,” Dr. Smith notes, adding that it feels like you live in an almost constant state of self-doubt and look to other people for clarity and reassurance.

3. You Invalidate or Ignore Your Own Feelings

Dr. Smith tells us that people who are gaslighting themselves often come to believe that they are oversensitive or overreacting. “So, you don’t know which emotions to listen to anymore.”

A Final Word

“The first and most important step to beginning to turn this around is by getting familiar with these signs and not spotting them when they happen,” Dr. Smith explains. “A good place to start is by journaling and writing down the details of when you notice you have behaved in this way toward yourself. Reflecting on it in hindsight on a regular basis builds awareness so that, soon you will start noticing those things in the moment, as they happen.” This, she says, is when you get to choose whether you go with it or break the cycle. “Doing this with the guidance of a therapist is most ideal. But for those who don’t have access to therapy, starting to work on it with journaling is a great place to start.”

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...