All Posts /

Am I Gaslighting Myself?

Am I Gaslighting Myself?

Editor’s note: Dr. Allison Cook (you may remember her from her book The Best of You) is a therapist and the host of The Best of You podcast. Her forte is helping people recover from and release old hurts, build new health, and forge a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. In her new book, I Shouldn’t Feel This Way, she helps us unravel tangled messes in relationships and in our emotions and make positive decisions going forward. Enjoy this excerpt:


You're conflicted. Trapped in a tangled up knot of emotions. Maybe your parents weren't there for you in the ways you needed, but now, they need your care. You want to be there for them, but you also resent the care you didn’t get from them. Or maybe it's a friend who constantly leans on you, sharing every problem, every crisis, expecting you to be her rock. You want to support her, But you also dread seeing her name pop up on your phone.

Your inner dialogue sounds something like this: “I'm exhausted. Overwhelmed. I can't keep doing this." But then, almost immediately, you counter your own feelings: "You don't really feel that way. You're fine. There’s nothing to feel that way about."

You’re gaslighting yourself and you don’t even realize it. Gaslighting takes an already complicated situation and adds more confusion to it.

We tend to think of gaslighting as one person manipulating another person to make them doubt themselves or invalidate their perception of reality. But we overlook how often we do it to ourselves!

Self-gaslighting occurs when you tell yourself you don’t feel what you really feel.

You try to minimize your own feelings, second-guess your experience, or invalidate your own perceptions. It's that inner voice that tells you that you're overreacting, that what you're feeling isn't valid, or that you're being too sensitive. You end up dismissing legitimate feelings and you prevent yourself from addressing root issues. It's a form of emotional self-sabotage that erodes your confidence, clouds your judgment, and keeps you from making wise decisions.

The good news is that you can learn to stop gaslighting yourself.

Breaking the Cycle

  • The first step to breaking the cycle of self-gaslighting is to recognize the pattern.

Look for the signs: Do you constantly second-guess yourself? Feel guilty for your emotions? Try to rationalize your feelings away? These are signs that you might be trapped in a cycle of self-gaslighting. Naming this pattern without shaming yourself is a huge step toward change. When you notice that you’re trying to talk yourself out of a feeling, name it: “Oh! I’m trying to gaslight myself.” 

Next, practice getting curious about what you feel with compassion. Am I scared? Angry? Upset? I wonder what that’s about. Getting curious is a profound act of noticing, acknowledging, and validating the truth of what you’re thinking and feeling at any given moment. You’re not acting on those feelings. You’re also not trying to fix them or make them go away. You’re simply becoming aware of what you feel, without shame. You’re engaged in a scientifically backed practice I call “minding your mind.” You might think of this work as equivalent to what the apostle Paul wrote: 

Take every thought captive. — 2 Corinthians 10:5

Imagine you’re back in that scenario with a parent or with a friend and you begin to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or tempted to lash out. What if, instead of gaslighting yourself — instead of telling yourself that you don’t really feel the way you do — you simply noticed your feelings with compassion. 

I’m upset. That’s hard.

I’m going through something.

This is really frustrating.

It’s also complicated.

I don’t like feeling this way.

I do feel this way.

God, help me understand what I’m feeling. 

Jesus taught us that when we abide in Him, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). 

When you name what’s hard honestly, in partnership with God’s Spirit, you find freedom.

Instead of deceiving yourself, you align yourself with reality. You begin to work with, instead of against, the emotions you are feeling. You start telling yourself the truth: something happened that is hard. You wish you didn’t care so much, that it didn’t affect you so deeply. But you do. And it does. And naming the reality of how you feel is the first step toward finding a better way through it. You align yourself with God’s Spirit as you spread out the truth-pieces in front of you. You access the power of all that’s kind and good and wise and true.

You stop fighting with yourself. Instead, you start to calm yourself. You slow yourself down. You attune to your mind, your heart, your body. You start noticing what you think and what you feel with a holy, tender curiosity. When you name what’s hard, you paradoxically find peace inside. You become the kind of person who brings real care to yourself and to other people. And you become an oasis of clarity and honesty for a world in desperate need of it. 

Written for Devotionals Daily by Dr. Alison Cook, psychologist, host of The Best of You Podcast, and author of the brand new book, I Shouldn’t Feel This Way: Name What’s Hard, Tame Your Guilt, and Transform Self-Sabotage Into Brave Action.

* * *

Your Turn

Are you gaslighting yourself? Do you talk yourself out of your feelings? Don’t do it! Name what’s really going on inside. Ask God to help! When you name what’s hard, you find peace. ~ Devotionals Daily