City Times

Dubai Diaries: How I survived gaslighting

Last updated on May 6, 2021 at 9.55 am

Ordinarily, I do well in the vocabulary department, but once in a while, I tend to get fascinated by certain terms. Recently, a friend re-introduced me to ‘gaslighting’. It is when another person tends to find faults with you to a point where you begin to question yourself. For instance, if you walk up to a colleague asking him to submit the story he was meant to last week, and he turns around, saying, “But you didn’t ask for it the second time. Should have reminded me, na.” The fact that you asked for it before becomes inconsequential, when it shouldn’t be.

So why am I talking about gaslighting out of the blue (and when mental health experts have written reams on it)? Because no matter how evolved or emancipated we may think we are, there is always that someone somewhere in our lives who is consciously or unconsciously gaslighting us.

A few years ago, I had a colleague at my former workplace whose way of appreciating my work was hitting the raw nerve. I was an online editor then and had fixed KPIs attached to my work. Every time, I surpassed the targets that were set for me, he would say, “Well done, but are you sure all this hard work is worth it? This is not leading to any promotion. I hope you know that.”

I am not too invested in people — as, I don’t sit down to psychoanalyse someone and their motivations. What that often means is I am left wondering why X said something and could I actually be making a mistake by putting in effort. For seasoned gaslighters, your self doubt is an asset. If not at workplace, you’re likely to find gaslighters within your social circle.

There is always that certain someone reminding you of how you are failing as a mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, etc. without realising that you are also an individual with emotional needs and limitations. I remember this one time I invited a friend home after doing up my house, and she began faulting the very things dear to me. “The curtains are blah. But I understand that happens when you are working. You just don’t have enough time to think about home.” Once again, my mind veered towards that direction — “I must be really bad at it.”

Doubt is not always bad. If channeled properly, it can allow you to know better, improve yourself and evolve as a person. But the doubt that comes from a place of thinking less of yourself can be toxic. It can puncture the sum total of your life’s experiences into smithereens.

Being self-assured is a much better place to be in than over-confidence that often blocks out good advice and suggestions. Self-assurance allows you to listen to every piece of invalid criticism that comes your way but doesn’t aid your mind in registering it.

The realisation may have come to me at a not-so-young age of 36, but thankfully I now have an answer for every potential gaslighter asking if my efforts are worth it — “Well, absolutely.”