Career Killer: Are You Gaslighting Yourself?

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Gaslighting is a concept known to many as an emotional manipulation tactic aimed at sowing doubt in someone’s perceptions. The term ‘gaslighting’ finds its origins in an older movie where a husband manipulated the gaslight to confuse his wife. Even though the woman detects alterations in the light, he categorically denies everything, attributing her observations to imagination and thereby casting doubts on her sanity.

This is what gaslighting is all about: making you doubt your own thoughts, feelings, and even your own reality. Usually, we think of gaslighting as something other people do to us. But surprisingly, we can do it to ourselves too.

Termed ‘self-gaslighting, it’s a form of internal gaslighting. Our own thoughts and feelings start to question and criticize us, just like someone else might. This can lead to strong self-doubt, similar to what happens with regular gaslighting. As a result, we might start to ignore or reject our own emotions and opinions.

Why would someone do this to themselves when everyone knows gaslighting is bad? Well, many people who do this to themselves don’t even realize they’re doing it. However, there are some signs that can show you’re sabotaging yourself:

  • Mistrust in one’s self and perception.
  • Doubts concerning memory.
  • Conviction of imagining certain scenarios.
  • Self-labeling as oversensitive or hyper-sensitive.
  • Presence of a potent inner critic.
  • Suppression of personal emotions or failing to take them seriously.
  • Neglect of one’s own needs.
  • Crafting excuses for the misbehavior of others.
  • Self-blame.
  • Inability to establish boundaries.
  • Dwelling on the past.

This inner conflict often echoes internally with phrases like: “Well, I’m not sure, perhaps I’m mistaken,” “Maybe I’ve misunderstood the situation,” or “Maybe it didn’t unfold that way. I know I tend to be oversensitive.”

How Does Self-Gaslighting Develop?

Self-gaslighting commonly arises in situations where acknowledging and embracing reality becomes uncomfortable. This phenomenon frequently surfaces in people with traumatic or abusive relationship backgrounds, as well as those with childhood traumas.

For example, if someone had a tough childhood, they might downplay or ignore what happened instead of facing it. This could happen without them even realizing it, because thinking about those experiences can be really hard.

Gaslighting can also happen at work. For example, a boss or coworker might act very differently in public at work than they do in private. This difference in behavior can make you doubt what you think, which is called cognitive dissonance. It happens when you get mixed messages that don’t make sense together.

The Concept of the ‘Inner Team’

The ‘Inner Team’ concept, developed by German psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun, offers insights into recognizing and overcoming self-gaslighting. This concept posits that every individual has a multitude of inner voices or facets that might not always agree.

Here are the five most prominent team members:

  • The inner critic, often fostering self-criticism and inhibiting acknowledgment of achievements.
  • The inner driver, inclined toward heightened stress and perfectionism.
  • The inner avoider, contributing to low self-confidence and apprehension toward novel experiences.
  • The inner catastrophizer, prone to magnifying minor issues into significant hurdles.
  • The people pleaser, wrestling with saying no.

Self-gaslighting doesn’t just make you doubt yourself, but it can also make you feel like you don’t deserve success in your career. This can really hurt your confidence and make you think you don’t deserve praise or rewards at work. It can also stop you from making positive changes. For example, if you convince yourself that a bad job situation isn’t so bad, you might not try to make things better.

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