Notes On Finding My Voice and Reclaiming My Power
I don’t personally know a woman who hasn’t been called crazy once, twice, or countless times. Our culture has the tendency to undermine women’s voices and question their ability to root motion and experiences in reality. As women, more often than not, gaslighting pervades our interactions with the world leaving us feeling misunderstood and unheard. We find this prevalent in our homes, relationships, the workplace, and beyond.
So, what is gaslighting? It’s a form of manipulation that causes the victim to question their sanity and sense of reality.
We can experience gaslighting in the workplace when a colleague makes an inappropriate remark. If we express our discomfort with the comment, their response aims to diminish the behavior with statements like, That’s not what I said or you’re completely misinterpreting me.
Gaslighting is also prevalent in media and culture right now as women are coming forward to share their stories of sexual assault. The response from the perpetrator of the assault, often reads as total denial, inability to recall the encounter, or an affront on the victim’s character or sanity.
And, our family, friends, and loved ones can also engage in this type of manipulation and emotional confusion by dismissing our feelings by saying things like, you’re acting crazy or you’re being way too sensitive and dramatic.
Gaslighting was so prevalent in my childhood that mental and emotional manipulation became an accepted norm in most of my relationships from partners to friends to colleagues. I found myself hastily accepting recounts of situations that directly conflicted with my own recollection. I developed the habit of believing the opinions of others more than I trusted my own.
I can recall an instance when I had suspicions surrounding the relationship between an ex and a former friend of mine. No matter how I tried, I could not shake the feeling that they had an inappropriate encounter with one another. I decided to approach my ex, explain how I was feeling, and ask if anything had occurred between them. He said that I was being crazy and letting my insecurities get the best of me. Several months later, that former friend contacted me and confessed she had intercourse with my partner when we first began dating. Even in the face of unquestionable proof, my ex continued to twist the truth and shifted blame to my inability to trust him. I spent many months doubting my intuition because of his unwavering denial, and sadly that only continued as my self-worth diminished.
Over the years, I accepted the stories of others as my own, and in the process I lost power and control over my life. I kept myself tethered to relationships well beyond their expiration date because my understanding of self was attached to people outside of me. This is how gaslighting becomes an effective tactic to control and manipulate. By disrupting someone’s sense of reality, you cause them to question their mental soundness and thus, fracture confidence and trust in themselves.
Thankfully, there was a turning point, when my friends encouraged me to end the unhealthy relationship I was in and do the work to figure out why I was welcoming and accepting manipulation in my life. This level of accountability from my sister friends was invaluable to both my growth and shedding of old habits.
After that relationship ended, I changed how I thought and felt about myself and implemented intentional practices to reconnect with my inner voice, such as journaling, meditation, affirmations and reading resources on healing. Journaling offered a safe space for me to purge and express the feelings I had so often silenced for fear of being ridiculed or dismissed. I was able to unpack why I did not trust my own voice and find a pathway back to solid ground. My meditation practice allowed me to quiet the outside noise and the internal voices that repeated scripts of doubt, mistrust, and not being good enough. Affirmations lifted me up from the place I had fallen.I discarded old thoughts that no longer served me and reclaimed the positive truths about my identity.
Now, I find myself in a loving, supportive relationship with someone who is my partner in every sense of the word. My feelings are protected and acknowledged in a way that makes me feel both heard and seen. When I express myself, I do not fear being attacked or called crazy. I do not leave conversations feeling disoriented, undermined and unsure of myself. We close our discussions with a resolution and promise to be more present and intentional. Choosing to do the work of healing allowed a fulfilling, safe connection to enter my life.
Trusting ourselves is central to navigating conversations and behaviors that seek to undermine our sense of self and autonomy. Once I cultivated a practice of honoring my voice and embracing my right to choose how my life unfolds, an abundance of joyful connections began to seek me. I attracted people who would also honor my choices and hold me accountable when I began to compromise. This work has been so integral in remapping my journey to a place of strengthened resolve where I fully trust myself and my choices. My life and my happiness are now in my control, and surely, we all deserve to hold that kind of peace.