Projection: It’s Not You, It’s Them But What You Think and How You React is About You.

Sometimes it’s better to admit we simply cannot control how others treat us. Hard as we may, we cannot always change how people are. The same is true when we just have to accept that others may intentionally and even unconsciously project on us. What is projection? How does it affect you? And what does your reaction to it say about you?

What is projection?

Projection in psychology is the method by which people apply to others or see in others their own negative or unwanted traits, thoughts, or emotions. For instance, those who are, consciously or unconsciously, bitter or angry may believe that it is the other person who has ill feelings toward them. 

The concept is most frequently used as a defensive mechanism. An individual who projects shifts the blame to others to ignore the problem or to make believe that nothing is wrong with them.

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), an Austrian psychoanalyst, introduced the idea to psychology by adopting the term “projection” from neurology, where it described neurons’ innate ability to convey stimuli from one level of the nervous system to another.

Those with a weak sense of self or limited emotional intelligence are most likely to use projection as a defense mechanism. They store suppressed feelings of fear or embarrassment

Low self-esteem and inferiority complexes increase the likelihood of projecting because they make other people feel less valuable or even unworthy in their eyes to feel superior.

However, those who can admit their flaws and mistakes are less prone to project. One does not feel the need to project if they are able to acknowledge and experience a variety of emotions, whether happy or bad, without self-judgment.

Instances of Projection

Someone may be projecting on you if they have an abnormally strong reaction to something you say or if there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation for it. It can be a signal projection if you stand back and notice that their reaction doesn’t match your behavior. 

Here are some examples of projection:

At Home:

A cheating husband or wife may become a jealous spouse. They are accusing their partner of not paying them enough attention or justifying their cheating behavior. He or she may even resort to accusing their spouse of the same behavior.

Parents who are constantly pressuring their children to do better in life due to their own failures. They believe their own children are making the same bad decisions they have made.

Projection at home

At Work:

An employee slacking off may accuse other coworkers of the same bad behavior. 

A boss may accuse a subordinate of slacking at work when it’s them who is slacking off. 

Projection at work


A piece of gossip may perceive that others are doing the same to him or her.

A bully may also be a victim themselves.

Since the act of projection entails hiding undesirable aspects of oneself from conscious awareness, it can be challenging to recognize in most people. What’s damaging is that it could become a habit. 

The good news is that there are things you can do to start the change process if you believe you are projecting. It is a process that requires total honesty with yourself and the range of your emotions, therefore it won’t happen overnight.

Recognizing when you are projecting yourself is the first and most crucial thing you can do. The best tool for change is awareness. When you become aware of the times you judge or accuse someone else, the defense system naturally begins to deteriorate.


What You Think & How You React to Projection

Although it’s helpful to know when you are being projected on it’s even more telling how you respond. Do you readily accept what others say about you to be true? Or do you automatically reject what others are saying negatively about you? 

If you trust or value this person’s viewpoint, you might be tempted to believe what they are saying about you. Do you suddenly feel confused and start to question everything about yourself and your being? Or are you confident enough about yourself not to get bothered?

Having enough self-awareness helps you not get swayed. Having a poor sense of self can make the blow harder when you just believe everything other people are saying about you. This can make you fall victim to other people’s manipulative behavior (such as narcissists), projection, and even gaslighting.

What You Think & How You React to Projection

Chance for Self-Reflection

To use what other people are saying negatively about you to your advantage you can always step back and think about what the person is accusing you of). If they are projecting on you you’ll probably discover that what they’re saying isn’t grounded in facts.

While others’ projections can be entirely unreasonable, it says a lot when you still take time to do some reflection. Even while the projection of another person may not have anything to do with you, it provides an opportunity for you to reflect on your strength of character.

When as a wife you are being accused by your husband as difficult and as a nagger, you just cannot accept it and feel bad. Reflect on your own behavior. You may only be open about your needs. 

Perhaps you can be the bigger person and try to understand your husband even better. He may be having a rough time and is projecting on you. Or perhaps there’s a certain level of truth in what he is saying and you can tone down your voice. Whatever helps.

When It’s Better To Just Walk Away

When someone projects onto you, you could feel confused and hurt. But if you know yourself and know that there’s no truth to what is being said to you, then you should not be offended. 

Keep in mind that this individual is reflecting their own perception of themselves, not yours. How you react to other people’s projections can show how well you know yourself and how patient and understanding you can be of other people. They may just be going through something.

But keep in mind that you should choose your battles. Sometimes changing other people or how they treat you is beyond your power. Sometimes this the best thing to do is just to walk away and remember that it has nothing to do with you, and if you’re feeling up for it, wish them well from a distance.