You know that narcissists hurt people in many ways. They lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate to meet their needs. They consistently engage in these toxic patterns without any true regard for how they impact other people.
Narcissistic projection occurs when the narcissist can’t handle certain feelings or experiences. It happens more often than you probably realize, and they use projection to transfer their relationship crimes onto you. Let’s get into how it all works.
What Is Narcissistic Projection?
Projection is a primitive defense mechanism people use to protect themselves. When someone projects, they unconsciously transfer their undesirable traits or emotions onto someone else.
Most people project from time to time. For example, someone might not like a particular coworker. But instead of admitting this to themselves, they automatically convince themselves that it’s the coworker who doesn’t like them. Or, a bully might feel insecure about how they look, but they pick on someone else to avoid painful introspection.
Narcissistic projection is a destructive form of projection that often combines gaslighting, lying, and emotional abuse. It’s confusing, and it can sometimes come out of nowhere.
But their outrageous reaction is a response to a narcissistic injury. They rage at you because they can’t handle feeling uncomfortable, unloved, or unworthy. And when they make a mistake, they can’t take personal accountability for their actions. As a result, any time you confront or even challenge their behavior, you’ll likely receive their projection.
They Accuse You of Cheating
Blaming you for being unfaithful (even when you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong) is a classic sign of narcissistic projection. If you hear this claim often, be warned. Your partner is probably cheating on you. If they haven’t already, they’re likely close to it.
Sometimes, this is a form of guilt transference. Even though they will never admit it, the narcissist knows they did something wrong. And so, to avoid sitting with that painful feeling, they throw it back onto you.
Other times, they will accuse you of harming them simply want to test your loyalty time and time again. They want you to comfort and reassure them that you will never leave. After all, even though the narcissist presents as overly confident, they rely on their narcissistic supply to ensure them of their worth.
Unfortunately, it’s never enough. Even if you promise your loyalty a million times, they will still find ways to challenge it. They don’t accept things at face value, and they want you to consistently prove how much you care about the relationship.
They Tell You You Have an Addiction
Maybe you enjoy the occasional glass of wine after work. Or, you shop online a little too often when you can’t sleep at night.
We all have vices, but the narcissist loves to accuse people of having full-blown addictions or “problems” when they disagree with certain behaviors. Often, these accusations allow them to avoid taking responsibility for their own bad habits.
Furthermore, many narcissists have their own addiction problems. But, of course, they will rarely admit the severity of theirs issue. Instead, they will usually minimize, rationalize, or flat-out deny what they’re doing.
And even if your issues are nothing close to addiction, the narcissist will probably exaggerate them. You may even start questioning yourself, wondering if they know something about you that you don’t. It can be embarrassing and confusing, especially if they share their concerns with other people in your life.
They Call You a Bad Parent
You love your children, and you would do anything to nurture or protect them. You’ve never claimed to be perfect, but you do your best at parenting.
And yet, the narcissist will always have some kind of issue with what you do. No matter how much you try, something will always be wrong or just not good enough.
Narcissistic parents are overly judgmental, critical, and resentful- they blame their parents and children for everything that goes wrong in their lives. Instead of considering how they can change their behavior, they attack other people.
And so, the narcissist will question your choices and make passive-aggressive comments about your behaviors. They will also try to pit your children against you- especially if you are no longer in a relationship together.
Of course, this projection is a form of absolving them from personal accountability. Narcissistic parents cause immense damage to their families. At a core level, they can’t even love their children properly. But if you ask them directly, they will often think they’re the best- and most selfless- parents in the world.
They Blame You For Money Problems
Narcissists often use financial abuse to control their partners. Financial abuse can be extreme, such as completely restricting access to money or bank information. But it can also be much less obvious.
For example, a narcissist might encourage you to quit your job to focus on your passion (so they can be the primary breadwinner and have more “say” over the spending). Or, they might make frequent comments about what you buy, making you feel guilty and unsure of your choices.
Either way, if money problems emerge, they won’t take responsibility for them. Instead, it will be your fault for spending so much money, not earning enough, or failing to care about your financial health.
They Assume Others Hate Them
It’s a misconception that narcissists believe everyone adores them. In fact, most of them see the world as extremes- everything is either perfect, or it’s a failure. They love someone, or they hate them. There is very little tolerance for anything that lies in between.
So, at even a hint of tension, they will instantly assume someone is out to get to them. That’s why they often present as so distrustful and even paranoid. They rarely trust other people, and they tend to believe that even their loved ones will turn against them.
This type of projection explains why so many narcissists cut people off without seeming to think much about it. When they perceive someone could threaten their ego, they remove themselves as quickly as possible.
They Focus Excessively on Your Appearance
Narcissists feel entitled to have whatever they want. Therefore, they often want their partners to look their absolute best.
But they usually have double standards, and their standards are also impossibly unrealistic. For example, they might expect you to stay a size zero without any evidence of gray hair or wrinkles. But they might parade around with a noticeable belly and clear signs of aging.
At the same time, they will also use your appearance against you. If they believe you’re getting too much attention, they will try to control how you look, what you wear, and how you take care of your body. Some narcissists will blatantly sabotage their partners in this way.
No matter the exact circumstances, the rules are clear. They are allowed to criticize how you look. But if you even mention they change their shirt, eat a little healthier, or get a haircut, all hell will break loose.
They Call You (or Others) Narcissistic
Narcissists love to be the victims in their own lives. They will be quick to label other people with diagnoses or mental health conditions. If they know about narcissism, they may throw that term onto you or someone else.
At the same time, some narcissists recognize themselves as having narcissistic traits. Of course, having this insight doesn’t automatically translate to change. Narcissists with higher levels of self-awareness may justify their negative characteristics. Or, they might blame someone or something else for causing them to be this way.
They Blame You for Not Caring About Them
You’re acting so selfish. You don’t take my needs into consideration. You know I’m struggling, and you don’t even seem to care.
This is one of the universal signs of narcissism. Almost every narcissist uses this form of narcissistic projection to induce guilt.
If a narcissist senses you have any doubts about the relationship, they will use it against you. And if you take it a step further and actually end things, you can expect them to accuse you of giving up, never caring, or hurting them just like everyone else. They will put you in a vicious lose-lose cycle, and they know this cycle can lure you right back to them.
Of course, this projection is simply a mirror of their own issues. They don’t genuinely care about you as a person. Instead, they care about what you offer them.
Narcissistic projection often becomes more evident and dangerous over time. In a new relationship, you might be so distracted by the love-bombing that you don’t see the warning signs.
But be careful. The projection may happen slowly, but it quickly ramps up once the devaluing stage first begins. If you feel like you’re constantly being blamed, attacked, or questioned, don’t assume that you’re just a bad person! You deserve respect in your relationship, and the narcissist is unable to give you that.
The good news is that once you learn to stop internalizing the narcissist’s projections, you begin to see that the narcissist is nowhere near as powerful as they once seemed. And the narcissist will have no choice but to shrivel up like the witch in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy accidentally threw water on her.
Personally, when I left my last toxic relationship several years ago, I forced myself to be alone for almost two years. During this period, I did lots of healing work that I outline in The Break Free Program. I surrendered and accepted that I hadn’t been willing to walk away when red flags began popping up. I learned my coping schemas and discovered how to overcome my triggers. I did energy healing, both alone at home and also through energy healing practitioners. I overcame the financial PTSD that I’d developed from losing my finances and being forced to start over.
These are the same steps you can take.
Develop effective ways to break free from narcissistic abuse and finally regain your power and sense of dignity back!
This nurturing program is therapist-approved and includes a wonderful private community that assists and supports all people detaching and healing from narcissistic abuse, no matter who the narcissist is (such as a family member, spouse, partner, friend, etc.) and regardless of the circumstances involved.
I look forward to your questions and comments!