Friends or Fakes? Recognizing the gas-lighters in your life and turning the tables

A true friend is a true gift. Friends are the
family we get to choose. It’s often our friends that we form the closest bonds
with, who see the best in us, who have our backs through good times and bad.
Unfortunately, not all friends are created equal. In fact, there are even those
friends who may give the appearance of being there for you, yet don’t actually
have your best interests at heart.

If you have a friend whose interactions with you leave you confused,
doubting yourself, or wondering what’s wrong with you, you may be victim to

Gaslighting is a term used to describe a subtle, yet powerful form of
psychological and emotional manipulation that is used against another to
undermine their confidence, perspective and sense of value. You may have heard
the term in reference to unhealthy relationships with partners, spouses or
close family members. However, we’re just as easily susceptible to gaslighting
amongst our peers, and if we aren’t aware of it, can give these fake friends
power over our sense of self.

Gaslighting is not always obvious, because it is often done gradually or
under the radar. Some in your life may be gaslighting you if they are:

  • Constantly
    needing you, and making you feel bad, mean or wrong if you don’t deliver
  • Being highly
    controlling of situations, trying to restrict or dominate your choices
  • Misrepresenting
    or twisting facts to make you question and doubt your account of things.
  • Building you up
    and being kind to you in one moment, then withdrawing attention or criticizing
    you in front of others the next.
  • Causing
    dissonance between you and other friends behind your back, gradually isolating
    you, while being nice to your face.
  • Being
    unaccountable for their unkind actions. They’re always the victim, and you the

Here are 5 effective steps taking back control when you’re being

  1. Read the signs:  Firstly, recognize when something is ‘off’.
    Gas-lighters are good at covering or twisting things, so trust your instincts.
    Listen to your body, does it feel stressed or ‘on guard’ when this person shows
    up? Are you emotionally up and down with this person – needing or seeking their
    approval, then feeling distraught when they ignore you or are hurtful? We all
    want to be liked and accepted, but when you make another’s opinion of you more
    valid than your own, you inadvertently create a situation where people can take
    advantage of you. Start by recognizing that on some level you have allowed
    that. Realize that no one can take your power without your permission. When you
    know it was you who gave it up, you also know it’s you – and only you – who can
    take your power back.
  • Reclaim yourself:  Gaslighting isn’t personal. It’s not
    happening because there is something wrong with you. It’s actually the opposite
    – you have a strength you’ve never acknowledged before. Begin to reclaim
    yourself and know you get to choose what happens next. You can choose not to be
    influenced by or drawn into any further manipulation. Rebuild trust in
    yourself, your perceptions and know that you’ve got this. 
  • Create some distance:  You don’t need to make any rash moves in
    order to change things. In fact, confronting and fighting a gas-lighter rarely
    works, because they thrive off your emotional reactions. Simply stepping back,
    creating a little distance, and being less available can quickly start to make
    a difference!
  • Be the bigger person:  If someone is gossiping about you or
    spreading lies, don’t waste time defending yourself. Your true friends will
    know something isn’t right and will emerge to be there for you. Dignified
    silence and not descending to their level will speak volumes. Move forward,
    keep rising, and be all you can be. Leave those who don’t have your back in the
  • Value yourself:  Self-empowerment is the ultimate key to going
    beyond fake friends. Value and respect yourself and stop looking for external
    validation. Renew your commitment to you. Start a gratitude journal and each
    day write down 3 things you are grateful for about you and what you’ve created.
    Keep increasing your sense of self-worth and reconnect with what you truly want
    in life. Your life is about creating your happiness, not anyone else’s.

people in your social circle are gaslighting you, it’s because they know you
are potent and brilliant, and that you don’t see it. When you claim your
self-worth and embrace your own power, gas-lighters have nothing to exploit or
hold onto. The best way to turn the tables on fake friends is to stop hiding
yourself and turn up the volume. Be you in the world without apology and
inspire the true friends in your life to step up and be all they are, too.

Smriti Goswami is a Business mentor, life coach and certified facilitator of several Access Consciousness® special programs, including Joy of Business, Being You, Right Voice and Access Bars®. She is a certified FAA Commercial Pilot, experienced glider pilot and owner of Mumbai organisation, ArtEscapades.  A committed advocate for women’s empowerment, Smriti offers individual consultations and classes around the world, empowering people to think out of the box and follow their dreams. You can connect with her at

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