Wow. This hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had always been praised for my positive attitude, my bulldog determination, my ability to overlook a bad situation and get my job done with a smile...
I had gotten so accustomed to being gaslighted, that I didn't even recognize it.
I was using toxic positivity as a coping mechanism for being mistreated at work. I was intercepting negative energy on a weekly basis, and actually felt PROUD of my ability to let it roll off me like water off a duck's back. I had trained my exterior to be unphased by the chaotic work environment, and instead of addressing it - I flicked on the switch of constant positivity.
Having the ability to compartmentalize should NOT be a reason to allow yourself to be mistreated or disrespected.
Like a horse wearing self-imposed blinders, I allowed my constant positivity to shield me from a toxic workplace and gaslighting boss.
What does gaslighting mean, exactly?
Does any of the above sound familiar?
If you find yourself having an emotional reaction to the phrases above, or can hear the phrases being said in a certain person's voice - there's a good chance that there's a narcissist gaslighting you.
"The world of the narcissist is all about good/bad, superior/inferior, and right/wrong. Narcissists have to be the best, the most right, and the most competent; do everything their way; own everything; and control everyone...
They believe they should be perfect, you should be perfect, events should happen exactly as expected, and life should play out precisely as they envision it...
Narcissists always have a storyline in mind about what each "character" in their interaction should be saying and doing. When you don't behave as expected, they become quite upset and unsettled... They demand that you say and do exactly what they have in mind so they can reach their desired conclusion. You are a character in their internal play, not a real person with your own thoughts and feelings."
From article: Signs You're Dealing with a Narcissist
Gaslighting in the Workplace
When you are experiencing a toxic work environment, it's like there's a cloud of smoke entering your office. You may not notice it at first, or even if you do you may think it's not a big deal.
But unless you create a boundary, the smoke will continue to pour in.
Left unchecked, the smoke will continue to overpower the room and begin to fill your eyes, your lungs... eventually, you won't even recognize the smoke. It will have become a part of you.
You may even begin to defend the smoke, argue its benefits, as though you have Stockholm Syndrome - amazing what we'll do to protect what is familiar, isn't it?
Another way gaslighting can feel is like the fable of the frog in hot water...
- If you put a frog into boiling water, it will jump out.
- If the frog is placed in lukewarm water and the temparature is slowly increased, the frog will sit blissfully unaware until it is cooked to death.
Note this is a fable, not a fact. No frogs were harmed in the making of this post ;)
Positivity & the "Attitude of Gratitude""Some people could be given an entire field of roses and see only thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and only see the wildflower in it.
Perception is a key component of gratitude.
And gratitude is a key component of joy."
Before we move on, let me clarify: I'm not here to recommend you trade your positivity for pessimism. I'm not here to tell you that everyone else is the problem. I believe in the power of MINDSET, being the best version of yourself, and choosing happiness."A negative mindset will never give you a positive lifestyle."
I believe we have full power over our emotions, and the fact we have complete control over our mind's focus is one of the greatest gifts humanity has been given.
Having an "attitude of gratitude" is an incredibly powerful mindset - just be careful it doesn't create justifications for why it's okay to be mistreated.
The choice of focusing on gratitude in moments of frustration or desparation is an AMAZING power, there's always something to find gratitude for & smile about."I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."
BUT... if happiness isn't felt through & through to your core - if you're glossing over problems, feeling a major disconnect, and bearing your way through something...
Consider making a change!!! Take off the rose colored glasses for a minute, and see how many red flags you were missing. Many of our problems are solvable, but for some reason we often feel "stuck" for one reason or another and will stand on hot coals.
Look deeply at the things holding you back from feeling true joy, and ask yourself - "what can I do to improve this?"
Setting Boundaries in the Workplace
If you would like to overcome someone who is gaslighting you, establishing boundaries is an important first step.
They are used to you conforming, so it will feel different for them at first. They may push back, they may try to gaslight you into submission.
If that happens, here are a few simple reminders:
What do boundaries feel like?
- It is not my job to fix others.
- It is okay if others get angry.
- It is okay to say no.
- It is not my job to take responsibility for others.
- I don't have to anticipate the needs of others.
- It is my job to make me happy.
- Nobody has to agree with me.
- I have a right to my own feelings.
- I am enough.
I said it before & I'll say it again...
If you find yourself having an emotional reaction to the above, there's a good chance that there's a narcissist gaslighting you.
When I first saw that list of what boundaries feel like, I literally felt my heart race. I immediately began to do some mental gymnastics - "this isn't true!" was my knee-jerk reaction.
Then I sat with the list, and reflected upon each one.
Considered how I felt when I accepted it as fact, and how I felt when I accepted the opposite as fact.
You know what? If you do the same, I bet you'll also find that the feelings of peace, joy, contentedness... All come from accepting those boundaries as true.
I made a screenshot of that list my computer background image for an entire year. Every day, I reminded myself of these 9 boundaries. Every day I paid attention to when those boundaries were pushed.
Self Advocacy in the Workplace
In order to clear the smoke from a toxic work environment, you must become your best self advocate.
Nobody is going to hand you your best life on a silver platter. You are the dictator of how you are allowed to be treated - nobody else.
This might be hard to hear, but if you are being manipulated or belittled by someone... To some degree, you allowed it to happen.
It may not have been noticeable - it may have happened slowly, like an undetectable carbon monoxide leak. Like a frog in hot water, with the heat slowly rising.
But if you look back, there were moments you unconsciously consented to be treated this way. There were moments where instead of standing up for yourself, you brushed it off... reinforcing that their behavior was okay, and repeating the cycle again.
There were moments where your constant positivity blinded you from putting your foot down and saying, "I do not accept being treated this way."
The good news is, it's never too late.
What is Self Advocacy?"Self-advocacy occurrs any time people speak or act on their own behalf to improve their quality of life, effect personal change, or correct inequalities.
Self-advocacy is referred to as the ability to articulate one’s needs and make informed decisions about the supports necessary to meet those needs."
The time is NOW...
Use the list of boundaries above, or create your own. Think about your past interactions with the person who is gaslighting you.
- What boundaries of yours have been overstepped?
- Have you made those boundaries clear before?
- Will you promise to yourself if your boundaries are pushed, you will self advocate?
This post was written on February 3, 2020.
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