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.

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 perpetrator.

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

  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 dust.
  • 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.

If 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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    As soon as I read this, I reflect so much about my life. This happened to me. I have many friends who are like this but when I let them go, I felt the liberty that I deserved!

  12. Dan says:

    One key to a successful split with a gaslighter is to make it fast, ideally in a single conversation. Tell them it’s not working and the relationship is over, and say it in a straightforward, calm, and direct voice.

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