It’s so uncomfortable when someone projects their own expectations, inner demons, or unmet needs on you.
You can tell when it’s happening because…
~ They accuse you of having bad intentions without caring to hear your side of the story.
~ They suddenly and drastically change their behavior towards you, and you have no idea why.
~ They put you high on a pedestal (which they will soon knock you off of).
~ They passionately argue a case against you, but their eyes have a faraway look or they’re not even looking at you at all.
~ They’re overly fawning or being overly aggressive with you on social media.
If you teach, heal, lead, support, or otherwise help others…
…there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with people projecting their stuff on you.
When this happens, the REAL you ceases to exist in that person’s eyes. They’ve overlayed an unrealistically positive OR an unfairly negative persona onto you.
They’re convinced they know who you are even when they don’t.
If you’ve had this experience, you know how crappy it feels – whether you’re being idealized OR maligned. Both scenarios are ungrounded and feel harmful – sometimes even dangerous.
The truth is, we’re all human. None of us can help projecting onto others to some extent.
But it becomes a problem when someone’s invested MORE in their projection than they are in finding out what’s true or really getting to know you.
When this is the case, they might want to rally others to their side with another good victim story. Or they might want a hero to pin their hopes on and a scapegoat to blame when things don’t work out.
And when someone refuses to see your humanity, it opens the door for them to justify all sorts of unkind words and acts.
I’ve had my fair share of being projected on over the years.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. You may remind them of their mother, sister, ex-BFF who hurt them (e.g., rejected them, betrayed them, neglected them). And now they’ll read into your words and actions, and accuse you of doing the same. All you can do in response is get support from trusted allies and be self-reflective to understand your part in things. Then own what’s yours, release what’s not, and let them work out the rest.
2. If you’re seen as someone wise or any kind of authority figure, people will tend to hold you to a standard of behavior much higher than what they expect of themselves. Don’t let yourself believe you have to be perfect just because others expect you to be. Accept your humanness and your vulnerability, and do your best to act from a place of integrity and self-love that feels right to you.
3. Notice how riled up you feel when a particular projection comes at you. If you get hijacked by anger or fear, and feel more upset than seems fitting for the circumstances, it’s likely you’re being triggered by old hurts from your past. Consider exploring ancestral work, somatic work, or even journaling to get to the bottom of why you’re so bothered.
While journaling, you could ask yourself: What feels familiar? What role are you being put in and does that feel familiar? What’s in the way of handling the situation the way you really want to?
Once you clear the root cause of your intense reaction, it’s so much easier to navigate whatever interpersonal dynamics you may need to handle.
4. If someone repeatedly insists on asserting their negative story about you, let yourself release that person to the outer orbit of your world – or avoid them entirely. It’s negative for your soul to keep having to defend / protect yourself or prove your good heart.
5. Be ruthless when it comes to your inner circle. You can’t control the whole world, but you can discern who has access to your mind and heart. Make sure the people closest to you are ones who can be accountable and self-responsible for their own needs, emotions, expectations, etc. and speak to you in a way that’s respectful and reflects that.
>> What’s an example from your life where someone projected their own issues on to you? Comment below and let me know! We may have similar stories 😉