How Self-Gaslighting Destroys You

Moon Letters are rambling monthly meditations exploring topics related to self-discovery and personal growth. To have them delivered to your inbox, sign up for the newsletter.

It’s my practice to journal every morning while watching the sunrise. I wake up, go downstairs, and make coffee in the darkness. I watch the sky’s colors change through my fourth-story window. I search for the moon at the southern horizon, hoping to find her visible in the dawn. Then I open my journal and write my thoughts and feelings while the trill of morning birds keeps me company.

It is absolute bliss. I am gentle and aware and totally honest as I scribble whatever comes to mind. Sometimes the pages before me reveal truths I didn’t even know I was concealing. I’m often surprised by the words that spring from my pen; in the light of a new day, my Genius unveils herself.

Here’s a random sampling of what my journaling has uncovered this week:

“To be generous, you must be wealthy in spirit.”

“There’s a difference between doing something to stop feeling bad, and doing something to feel good.”

And finally, “I’ve been lying to myself all my life.”

That last insight came on the heels of a two-hour writing session. I’m not really sure what triggered this clarity; all I know is that it poured out of me like water, and when I read what I’d written, I knew it was true.

Can you actually gaslight yourself? I wondered, growing more and more curious as the seconds passed. I put down my journal, picked up my phone, and typed my question into the search bar. A slew of articles titled “Self-Gaslighting” appeared; I clicked on a few and discovered that yes, I could gaslight myself, and no, I’m not the only one who’s doing it. Turns out that self-gaslighting is modus operandi for more than a few of us.

Some of the lies I’ve told myself are small, inconsequential. Others began innocently enough but snowballed. A few are so mammoth that they keep me from my own happiness, the kind of happiness that’s a birthright.

These lies are defense mechanisms, conclusions I’d come to in order to protect myself from bad things happening. They were told to me by people I loved and trusted who probably thought that they were true. Many were self-created to justify changes I was too scared to make or to force myself to do the “right thing” in the face of guilt and shame.

The more I thought about it, the more all-pervasive my self-gaslighting habit seemed. I promise you I was heartily unaware of it ten days ago, which is a bit embarrassing for someone who’s dedicated a huge chunk of her life to knowing herself. But now that I know, I’m on a quest to stop the madness once and for all.

If you’re reading this and thinking self-gaslighting isn’t something I do, consider the following: have you ever forced yourself to believe something you didn’t because you thought that belief made you “good?” Have you ever concealed aspects of yourself in front of certain people because you knew they wouldn’t approve? Have you ever acted against your integrity because you were afraid that you’d be punished or rejected? Have you ever worked so hard to convince yourself of something you knew to be false because the truth was too painful to admit?

A white lie delivered once can be harmless, but a collection of lies told over and over can destroy you. Why? Because they keep you from knowing who you truly are.  They muddle your mind and your heart and make you vaguely human. They conceal what’s best and brightest about you. In short, they keep you from channeling Genius, the glorious inner light within that’s uniquely yours. 

Genius is the Truth of You. If you’ve unconsciously stifled this Truth by self-gaslighting your whole life, you’ll feel lost, forsaken, disconnected, and dark.

I consult the tarot because I’m confused, unclear, or uncertain about what to do next. When I fully immerse myself in a reading, I come away from it with greater focus and a better sense of what my next step should be.

Tarot has this uncanny way of banishing the lies I wrap myself up in so the Truth of myself may be revealed. Its symbols and images draw a map that leads me back to myself time and time again, which is why tarot is a mainstay in my self-discovery journey. 

Eager to learn more about the role self-gaslighting plays in my experience, I asked the Genius Garden Tarot the following question: “Why do I lie to myself?” As I was shuffling my cards, The World leaped out of the deck.

The World is the card of integration, understanding, and union. It comes to us at the end of the Hero’s Journey, and rewards us with wisdom, connection, purpose, and achievement.

I’ll be honest: it gave me pause. I lie to myself because I don’t want this? I thought. Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been working towards this entire time? Isn’t this the end goal I’ve had in my sights since I was fourteen? Isn’t this my raison d’etre? Why would I lie to myself to keep myself from the very thing I’m constantly seeking? 

One word, Beauty: fear.

Even though I deeply desire it, I am afraid of total integration. I am afraid of transcendent self-actualization. I am afraid of fully embodying my Genius because doing so means I can no longer hide from pain, responsibility, and consequence.

I’d have to own beliefs that others didn’t share. I’d have to show all of myself and risk rejection over and over. I’d have to act with integrity all the time, and I’d have to confront each hard truth the moment it presented itself.

When we’re young and vulnerable, we quickly learn that we have to behave in certain ways to have our needs met. We accept falsehood because we don’t know any better or because we’re afraid that we won’t be taken care of if we don’t. We often continue self-gaslighting into adulthood because we’ve forgotten the truth, or we never learned it in the first place.

If we say “no” to the surfacing of our deep inner knowing, we smother the Genius within us. We remain half-formed, like children who never grew up. We never discover what truly lights us up, and never boldly pursue what we feel to be right and good and true. We live half-lives, lost and confused and suffering.

I want to tell you something, Beauty: you’re strong enough to face your truth. You can accept it and feel it and heal it and work through it. You can reopen the channel to Genius one revelation at a time. It’s never too late to begin the journey. 

Let that journey begin today.

xoxo Jessi

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