Let’s talk about something we’ve all been guilty of at some point: Projection.
It’s that sneaky thing we unconsciously do where we take our own mess — those underlying doubts, insecurities, and fears — and place them onto people around us. It happens so often, and yet, we rarely catch ourselves in the act because we don’t usually realise it’s what we’re doing.
Getting Real about Projection
A friend comes to you with a business idea. She’s lit up, excited, and she reels off her plans. Then you say, “Are you sure this is the right time for you. Is this something you can handle? Do you have the time, money, skills, and qualifications?”
Another example: You find yourself constantly criticising someone in your life for specific traits they have. If you were to sit with yourself honestly, you realise they are traits that secretly bug you about yourself, or you fear you have, too.
These are classic manifestations of projection, where you unconsciously attribute your own feelings, thoughts, or flaws onto others. It’s a mechanism to protect yourself from confronting and dealing with your own vulnerabilities because it’s easier to see flaws in others than to acknowledge them within ourselves.
Spotting Your Mess
Breaking free from projection starts with a reality check. It’s where you get real, get honest, and give yourself permission to explore what’s really going on for you. You can start to spot projection in:
- Excessive negativity: Are you constantly pointing out flaws in others or seeing the glass as half empty?
- Sudden outbursts: Do you find yourself reacting intensely to others’ behaviour, even when it seems unimportant?
- Casting blame: Do you accuse others of your own shortcomings?
- Always playing devil’s advocate: Do you automatically doubt others’ dreams and ambitions?
These are sure signs of projection, and is a great starting place to be able to start working on your projection habit.
Practical Tips to Break Free from Projection
How do we break this projection cycle? Here are 7 practical tips to stop projecting your mess, so you can break free from the grip of projection:
- Notice what you’re feeling: Projection is rooted in emotion, so check in with your body and notice what you’re feeling. Ask yourself, “What emotions am I experiencing right now?”
Let’s go back to that business example. Instead of shooting down your friend’s ideas, take a moment to look inward.
- What about this idea scares you so much?
- What is it about what your friend is sharing that’s making you uncomfortable?
- What’s holding you back?
- Check your reactions: Pause when feeling intense negative emotions towards someone. Ask yourself: “Is this reaction truly about them, or is it something deeper within me?” Are your words coming from a place of genuine concern or as they steeped in your own internal chaos?
- Embrace self-compassion: Self-criticism is the fuel for projection. Instead of judging yourself for having messy emotions, practice kindness and understanding. Acknowledge your vulnerabilities and accept them as part of being human.
- Bring mindful moments in your day: Incorporate mindfulness into your routine. Being present in the moment helps you catch projection in real-time. Journaling and deep breathing exercises can enhance your awareness of your thoughts and feelings. A bit of meditation or deep breathing can keep you grounded and stop your mind from taking a detour into projection town.
- Get feedback from friends: Ask friends you love and trust for some honest feedback. An outside perspective can reveal patterns you don’t see or notice.
- Communicate authentically: Encourage open, respectful and empathetic communication in your relationships. Share your concerns openly, and be sure to avoid making them about the other person.
- Seek professional help: If projection persists and significantly impacts your life, consider getting some support to identify your patterns and work on rewriting them.
Breaking free from projection is about self-awareness and owning your stuff, and it’s important that you’re patient with yourself and celebrate even small victories, my lovely.
If you’re knee-deep in projection and itching for some support to move away from this pattern, book a coaching session. Together, we’ll peel back the layers of projection, and open yourself up to a world of greater self-acceptance.