People aren’t easy to manipulate if they’re self-assured and confident.
That’s why manipulators like to soften their victims up by slowly chipping away at their self-worth.
And they’re quite good at it!
You might not even realize them doing it until it’s too late and your mental health is already down the drain.
You need to be aware of their tactics if you’re to protect yourself.
Here are 10 ways that manipulators slowly chip away at your self-worth.
1) They gaslight you
“You’re not thinking straight.”
“Do you really think I can do that to you?!”
One of the ways manipulators gain control over you is by making you doubt your own perception of reality.
After all, what if you’re actually just being paranoid? What if you’re actually just not thinking straight?
The scary thing is that some people are so good at gaslighting that you won’t even suspect that they’re doing it.
How does this affect your self-worth?
Well, having your judgment and clarity of mind doubted all the time will eventually destroy your trust in yourself.
2) They belittle your accomplishments
Manipulators might act nice and seem well-meaning, but they always want you to see them as someone above you.
The last thing they want is to have you feeling good about yourself.
Because then you might just end up feeling like you’re worth SOMETHING.
They don’t want that because then it makes it harder for them to play with your emotions and control you.
That’s why even if you won an award or hit a milestone you’ve been chasing after for years, they’ll act like it’s not a big deal at all.
They’d say things like “Congrats, now it’s time to do more!” or “You’re just getting started!”
This might seem alright at first.
But the longer this goes on, the more their attitude will chip at your self-worth. It leaves you feeling like you’re simply never doing enough.
3) They make you feel like their needs are more important than yours
When you’re dealing with a narcissist, it can feel like you and your needs are always second priority.
They’d guilt-trip you to cancel your dinner date just so that you can keep them company.
They don’t pay attention to you even when you’re sharing something important about your life. Instead, they’ll find a way to make the conversation about them again.
And if they’re someone close to you—or at the very least, someone you need to interact with often—this can easily end up ruining your self-worth.
They might even end up convincing you that your needs aren’t important at all!
It’s tragic, but it happens more often than people realize.
4) They highlight your flaws
It doesn’t matter to them that you did things right nine times out of ten. They’ll take that one time you failed and hyperfixate on it!
They’ll keep reminding you of that mistake until your dying day.
It doesn’t matter even if your flaws are things you honestly have no control over, like say, if you’re just painfully shy or if you’re diagnosed with a mental illness.
They’ll make you feel bad for it nonetheless!
They usually do this when they want to manipulate you.
“You make mistakes! You should always consult me from now on.”
Or “You’re always so shy. Join my workshop so you can improve yourself. You’ll never find dates if you stay that way.”
5) They question your decisions
It’s not easy having someone say things like “Are you sure?” or “But isn’t that a stupid move?” every time you make a decision on your own.
They aren’t afraid of weaponizing your past mistakes to really drive their point home. It doesn’t matter even if you’ve gotten better since then.
“Remember the time you defended your ex? Well, you’re doing it again with your partner!”
Over time it will eventually lead to you wondering if you’re actually capable of making good decisions.
This is something that can still affect you even if you know what kind of person they are, sadly.
6) They make you feel unworthy of love
Manipulators use “love” to gain control.
They’ll bombard you with love if you did something good (in other words, if you’re being useful to them).
And they’ll withhold love if you “stand in their way” or don’t support them.
If they’re your parent, partner, or friend, it could make you feel like you’re the kind of person who doesn’t deserve unconditional love.
And this will have a negative impact on your self-esteem. This could even gravitate you to other manipulators because you think it’s a normal dynamic.
7) They make you feel like you have to be useful to be worthy
This is related to feeling unworthy of love.
Manipulators are awesome when you’re useful to them. They’d praise you and make you the happiest person on earth.
But if you say “no” to their favors, or if you go against their wishes, they’d give you the cold shoulder and make you feel useless.
This will make you feel like you always have to contribute something to others so people will consider you worthy.
You’ll feel uncomfortable (and insecure) when you’re not earning much, when you’re resting, when you’re not pleasing other people.
8) They make you think others don’t like you
Manipulators love drama. They especially love getting their hands dirty with triangulation and gossip because it lets them get dirt on other people.
And they might try winning your loyalty by telling you the “bad things” others have been saying about you.
For example, let’s say you have a friend named Allen, and they want you to stop talking with him.
They’ll probably approach you saying something like “I wouldn’t trust Allen if I were you. They once told me that they think your work is just so-so.”
Are they actually telling the truth? Maybe. But it’s also possible that they took your friend out of context, and that Allen was actually praising how fast your work has gone from “so-so” to “excellent”.
9) They dismiss your ideas and opinions
Another way manipulators attack your self-esteem is by making you feel like you’re dumb or that you don’t make sense.
When you come offering your ideas, they’ll be more than happy to dismiss them out of the bat and laugh at you.
And when you share your opinions on something, they’ll mock you and tell you that you’re naïve.
They deliberately want you to feel shame!
And shame has such a huge impact on our psyche that it’s even been linked to self-harming behavior.
Unfortunately, manipulators don’t care about the harm they do to you. They only care about keeping you weak and easy to manipulate.
And by drilling in your head that you’re not smart or creative or sensible, they’re doing exactly that.
10) They make you feel stupid for manipulating you
Now, there are times when we’re aware that someone’s already manipulating us…and yet, we have no choice but to stay with them because we depend on them or we simply want to keep the peace.
And knowing we’re being controlled and toyed over and over again can just make us feel we actually deserve it.
After all, if we really think we deserve better, we should have cut them off eons ago.
This is another way they chip away at your self-worth.
The fact that you recognize that you’re being manipulated can make you feel powerless—like you’re just a punching bag or doormat that has no other purpose but to serve the manipulator.
How to protect your self-worth:
- Keep interactions as short as possible.
- Remind yourself over and over again that you’re not the problem.
- Their goal is to make you feel bad—and your goal is to not let that happen.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
- Boost your self-esteem daily with these quick confidence-boosting techniques.
- Learn to stand up to manipulative people.
- Don’t try to argue with them. They’ll pull you down even more.
- Try not to take things personally. If they correct you, let them.
- Consider their opinions as nothing but that—opinions.
- Have an exit plan. One day, you’ll be able to cut them out of your life.
The thing with manipulators is that they get you before you learn how to read them and fight back.
That’s why figuring them out isn’t easy.
By the time you start figuring out what they’ve been doing to you, the damage has been done.
So if you can spot any of these ten habits, then you’ve probably been manipulated for a while already.
Don’t be afraid to cut them off if you can. And most importantly, take the time to look at yourself and heal.
Build up your own sense of self-worth again because trust me—you’re not who your manipulator is trying to make you believe you are!