It’s normal and healthy to question your own judgment sometimes. Nobody is perfect when it comes to decision-making, so it’s wise to consult with others and consider alternative perspectives. But when does self-questioning evolve into anxiety-inducing self-doubt?

A lot of different factors can lead to chronic self-doubt, but one major contributor is a toxic relationship where gaslighting is the norm. Gaslighting occurs when someone attempts to deceive you into believing that what you’ve seen, experienced, heard, or felt isn’t true. It’s essentially saying, “That never happened, you’re just imagining things!”
This isn’t the same thing as correcting a misunderstanding or attempting to explain a different perspective on an issue. Gaslighting is when someone knowingly lies about reality. Often people will gaslight to avoid taking responsibility for a wrongdoing. To distract from their behaviors, they claim that others are crazy or delusional.
Gaslighting can happen in any relationship – whether with a romantic partner, parent, friend, boss, or even system within society itself. But the more often it occurs in the relationship, the more likely the person on the receiving end will begin to experience self-doubt. This is because gaslighting plays on our natural instinct to check and make sure we’re doing the right thing. When someone else is constantly questioning you, it’s easy to begin second-guessing everything you do!

That’s when gaslighting gets internalized. Pretty soon, the person doing the gaslighting doesn’t even have to be around anymore for the self-doubt to persist, because you begin gaslighting yourself:

                “Was that person rude? No, I’m probably being too sensitive again.”

                “I don’t think this career is right for me. Of course, I’m probably just

                 taking things too seriously.”

                “I shouldn’t feel this way. Why do I always have to be so dramatic?”

The messages you end up telling yourself are that you’re not capable, not good enough, and not trustworthy. But even if you’ve experienced gaslighting, you’re not doomed to remain stuck in self-doubt forever. Part of healing is learning how to trust your gut again.
Here are some steps you can take to rebuild trust in yourself:
1.       If you catch yourself gaslighting your own experience, ask yourself, “where did I first learn this message?”
2.       Think about times in your life when you’ve made decisions for yourself that turned out well.
3.       Follow through on your word to yourself. For example, if you tell yourself you’re going to take a break after a busy day, make sure you take a break.
4.       Listen to your body’s needs. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Stay hydrated. Check your energy levels and get good rest.
5.       Check with people you trust to see if they agree with your judgment. The words of people who are validating can help replace the words of the person gaslighting.

For more information about gaslighting, read this article on Psychology Today: