Gaslighting: Dimming Your Self Esteem



Vanessa planned to visit a new restaurant with one of her girlfriends, Florence at 6:30 PM. She even left work early to be there on time as agreed upon but sees no sign of Florence when she arrives. At 6:45, she texts Florence but receives no answer. She tries contacting her again 15 minutes later and then 30 minutes later before finally placing her order. She was almost halfway finished her plate of ravioli when Florence walks in at 9 PM. Instead of apologizing when confronted by Vanessa, Florence says, “Why are you looking at me like that? We agreed to meet at 9:30 PM, so technically, I am early.” She says this despite truthfully knowing they were supposed to meet at 6:30 PM.


Vanessa is confused. “Maybe Florence is telling the truth and I’m the one who mixed up the meet time,” she says to herself. She will have to make sure she gets the details correct next time, she tells herself, feeling embarrassed for ordering and eating dinner before her friend arrived at the restaurant. She tells Florence, she’s sorry and Florence accepts her apology. Florence has succeeded in gaslighting Vanessa.


Have you ever watched the movie Gaslight? It was released in the 1940s and it’s where the term gaslight originates from. It is a tactic of manipulation employed by an individual to make another individual seriously doubt their own sense of reality. Through gaslighting, the victim may also question their own perception and memory of events that have taken place. It is the goal of the manipulator that the victim loses their sense of control and self-esteem so the manipulator can gain power over them. This can occur in unhealthy friendships and toxic relationships. Sometimes, the gaslighter might be looking for something tangible or intangible from the gaslightee in the process. There are a variety of mental health conditions that might cause a person to gaslight another individual.


Occasionally, an institution can gaslight those who rely upon it. For instance, a workplace may speak publicly and proudly about the ways in which it is supportive of individuals who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) but have no resources in place to adequately support them. When an individual from the BIPOC community raises a race-related issue to management, they might gaslight the worker, causing them to question their perception and sense of reality as they pertain to the events so that they do not have to deal with race and racism as an employer.


Here are some signs you may be experiencing gaslighting:


1) Do you lack confidence in yourself?


The goal of the manipulator who is gaslighting you is to rob you of your self-esteem and dignity in order for them to control you. If you find yourself unable to make life decisions or if you feel incompetent, you might be a victim of this practice. Negative self-talk that is unkind to you may be an effect of this manipulative behaviour.


2) Toxic behaviour is accepted and might even be encouraged by you


Once you are continuously gaslight in a friendship or relationship, the door is opened for insults, lies and drama multiplied! The worst part of this is that the behaviours might be welcomed by you because of the loss of self esteem. You will find yourself negatively impacted - mentally, spiritually and physically.


3) You struggle making decisions


In the earlier example of the two friends, Florence used gaslighting to make Vanessa question her own sense of reality and eventually, Vanessa complied and accepted a fault that did not belong to her. As a result, Vanessa might wrongfully make decisions. Perhaps, she may even rely on Florence to make personal decisions for her if she continues to be gaslighted by her.


Despite how difficult it may seem, it is certainly possible to deal with the impacts of gaslighting, receive healing and improve your self esteem. I can help!


If you are seeking a new beginning and you need guidance, counselling, and life coaching, speak to me today about starting a New Chapter in your life!


Kevin Ufoegbune