True friends are true treasures – they like you as you are, are there for you through the good and bad times, and you bring out the best in each other. But just like family, co-workers and bosses, not all friends are created equal, and rather than lifting you up, some can leave you feeling confused and a little worse off after being around them. If you’ve ever experienced the latter, you may be experiencing gaslighting and not a friend relationship in your life.
Gaslighting is an increasingly common term used to describe a covert form of manipulation that others use to make you second-guess yourself, doubt your perceptions, and undermine your confidence and sense of value.
Here are 4 signs of gaslighting, and 4 ways to turn the tables on “fake friends” so that you always shine bright.
The hidden (and not so hidden) put-down
Has someone ever said that they’re there for you, but then subtly put you down in front of others? Perhaps they’ve shared information you gave them in confidence with others in a way that is not respectful of you. They may cover up a criticism by praising you also or dismiss their breach of trust by telling you that you are oversensitive or misheard things if you confront them about it, so that you doubt yourself or feel bad about bringing it up.
That sinking feeling
Our bodies will often acknowledge things are not as they should be long before we do. In our minds, we don’t want to imagine that people who are supposed to care about us, would deliberately do things to hurt us, so we’ll shut out our cognitive awareness of it for as long as possible. Thankfully, our bodies don’t have the same filters! If you get a sinking feeling or it feels like there’s a rock in your stomach when a certain person comes around, it might be time to ask yourself, “What’s that about?”
Isolation from others
Another common element of gaslighting behaviours is trying to socially isolate you from others, often by saying things behind your back to create doubt about your integrity or state of mind. This will often show up as a sense of separation or that something is, “not quite right” between you and other people you have in common with this friend.
Constant confusion and doubt
We create confusion and doubt when our ideal about someone doesn’t match the reality. When we care about someone, we’ll often refuse to perceive them in a less than positive way, even if the evidence is to the contrary. If you are looking for excuses for gaslighting behaviour, you’ll do it your own expense.
If you are constantly thinking, “Did they really say that to me? Did I do something to upset them? Was I imagining it? They’re my friend, why would they want to hurt me?” you are doing exactly what the gas-lighter wants – doubting and judging you.
Acknowledge what is happening and when
A true friend will treat you with regards. They will be honouring of you and anything you tell them. They will look for ways to lift you up, not bring you down. Gas-lighters are experts at twisting and turning facts to make you feel like the villain and in the wrong. If you have a person in your life who is using criticism to undermine you, win an argument or make personal attacks or comments – subtle or otherwise – this isn’t friendly behaviour. It may help to keep a diary. Note what they are saying or doing that is confusing to you and ask is what they are doing honouring or dishonouring of you?
Trust your instincts
If something doesn’t feel right in your interactions with someone, no matter how close they are supposed to be with you, don’t excuse or explain it away. Ask yourself: “What’s actually going on here?”
Spend time with someone fun to be around, who sees you for yourself, so you can see the difference and regain your own perspective about things. Notice when it feels good to be around someone and when it doesn’t. If there are certain people that keep making you uncomfortable, don’t let it undermine your confidence, just trust your instincts that something is up.
Value Yourself First and Foremost
A lot of what occurs with gaslighting in our lives depends on us. That doesn’t mean you are responsible for another’s’ choices or actions. It is about your own sense of self-worth: when you are not sure about yourself, you’ll allow other people to walk over you. Gas-lighters appear so sure of themselves, that you’ll believe them just because you aren’t as certain. If you don’t value you, it’s easy for them to trigger that doubt in you.
Are you willing to believe in you no matter what? To trust you, value you, and have your own back, even if no one else does? When you are, gas-lighters will fall by the wayside.
Recognize It’s Not About You
A gas-lighter doesn’t do what they do because of you – they do it because of them. It’s truly not personal and has nothing to do with you. If anything, it’s an acknowledgement. They see you as more powerful than them, and don’t want you to know or believe your own value.
Your greatest weapon is to out-create them and keep rising in your own life. You don’t have to fight them, descend to their level or confront them to move on, you can just go beyond them! Step back from being involved in their life and get on with yours.
The End of Gaslighting
The day you decide to be there for you, everything changes. Value you, be the voice of support for yourself in your way of thinking and functioning, and don’t worry about what others think. Get on with creating your wonderful life! Not everyone is going to like you and support you, and that’s fine. Just make sure that the ones you call friends, are the ones who will!
This guest post was authored by Smriti Goswami
Smriti Goswami is a Business mentor, life coach and certified facilitator of several Access Consciousness® special programs, including Joy of Business, Being You, Right Voice and Access Bars®. She is a certified FAA Commercial Pilot, experienced glider pilot and owner of Mumbai organisation, ArtEscapades. A committed advocate for women’s empowerment, Smriti offers individual consultations and classes around the world, empowering people to think out of the box and follow their dreams. You can connect with her at www.smritigoswami.com