BY BECKY BOESEN
I recently had a miserable conversation with a person who was polite and jovial enough on the outside, while subtly infusing their dialogue with words that couldn't be mistaken for anything other than, well...a takedown. A leveling of sorts. "Squarsh" is not a word, but this was definitely a squarshing. At first, it seemed to come out of no where. I was blindsided and frankly, it sucked. Instead of calling it out, I let it slide...and then, it began to fester. When I relayed the events to a smart, practical person, she said, "Just because someone says something about you, doesn't mean it's true, Becky."
That simple sentence felt like some weird revelation. Um, push pause, please. I stopped my anxious rattling long enough to actually revisit the conversation in my brain, and doing so made me realize how shitty the situation had been and how hurt I was by the events that had transpired. Like, the-last-kid-chosen-for-the-team-kind-of-hurt, where the world's most powerful magnets pull hard on the corners of your mouth and instead of throwing the baseball, you feel like you've swallowed it. But, no tears! To get through it, you simply say something mildly self-deprecating and amusing and then you hate yourself for somehow participating in the whole debacle as both the victim and a bystander. WHO EVEN KNEW THAT WAS A THING?!!! Then you get angry, because angry is hurt's bodyguard. And now, you're stressed out, anxious, and confused.
Or...was I? Confused, I mean?
No. I was lied to about a subject I can confidently say I know more about than anyone else in the world: Me.
It wasn't accurate, what the other person said about me. It wasn't at all true. It was far from fact. And they knew it and I knew it, and I think at the time they even knew that I knew it, which made it even worse, because that leads me to believe it only could have been said for one reason: To gaslight me.
Gaslighting is a bully's way of gaining power by making someone else question their reality. It's insidious, and if my experience as a 44 year old person counts for anything, I'd say it's also ridiculously commonplace in adult interactions. People who are targets for those who gaslight can usually be sure they're doing something right, as that's exactly what threatens the perp. Where victims of gaslighting sometimes lose our way is when we take on the bully's thoughts as our own thoughts instead of catching them with a "nope."
Yikes. Ooops. Ouch.
This is a real vulnerable place for me, and I don't mind sharing that I have too often allowed my thoughts and peace to be stolen by someone who didn't have my best interests at heart. I don't always catch these things in the moment because maybe I've heard them a little too often. An old boss. A shitty ex-friend. A medical "professional".
I can compare it to a time when I broke my leg, and then walked on it for 3 days before realizing how bad it was. I actually needed surgery to repair the break...however, I suffer from chronic physical pain, and so I didn't quite notice how bad things were.
The older I get, the more I notice.
Therefore, I'm working on changing my response to gaslighting. *cue victorious sounding French horns or something*
Recently, I've started working on my response to gaslighting and developed a greater understanding of my own power in gaslighting situations. It's nearly impossible to be gaslit if you refuse to believe another person's lie about you.
How cool is that?
How easier said than done is that?
How worth the effort is that?
Pretty darn worth it, because the minute we let someone else tell us who we are rather than taking ownership of our own uniqueness and power in the world, we lose not only our ability to fulfill our purpose, but also the moments that make life so damn wonderful. I want to enjoy:
It's sometimes said, "We become what we're told."
Tell yourself this:
You. Are. Wonderful.
"Just because someone says something doesn't make it true."
Kiss the liars goodbye. Evict them out of that beautiful brain of yours! You may not be able to eliminate contact, but you can trust your ability to discern the truth from a lie.
I'm going to keep working hard at this.
There's simply too much goodness out there for anything less.