How to Tell if Someone is Projecting onto You: 3 Key Signs

Psychological projection is a mechanism or defense technique that most people subconsciously use to deal with emotions or bad feelings. It involves projecting difficult or undesirable feelings onto another person, instead of admitting or dealing with such feelings. A classic example of psychological projection is when you hate on a person only to realize that they had a vendetta against you. Luckily, there are tons of ways of how to tell if someone is projecting onto you and put an end to such a coping mechanism.

how to tell if someone is projecting onto you

Psychological Projection Explained

This theory was coined by Sigmund Fred, the famous psychologist from Australia who is commonly known as the “father of psychoanalysis”. As such, when a person projects onto you, we can say that they are doing “Freudian projection” or “psychological projection”. When he was having sessions with his patients, Sigmund realized that some patients would often accuse other people, say their spouses, of feelings that they were exhibiting.

Another classic example of projection is when a woman who has been consistently unfaithful to her husband accuses the husband of cheating on her. Or when a person who can’t resist the urge to steal things proceeds to project those feelings onto other people. It’s not uncommon to find a hardcore thief fearing that her luggage is going to be stolen or that they’re going to be shortchanged when they buy something.

Oftentimes, projection is not necessarily dramatic or even identifiable. One instance of projection that we can all relate to is when we come across people we don’t like but then we have to interact with them on a polite level. For example, Jane resents her sister-in-law for being overly close to her husband. Jane knows that she has to act nice to her sister-in-law, for the sake of her husband.

After some time, Jane starts to notice that her sister-in-law doesn’t like her either. So much that whenever there’s a family gathering, there’s tension between Jane and her sister-in-law, where they both feel (albeit subconsciously), that either of them is being snippy, especially when Jane’s husband is around. As you can see, both Jane and her sister-in-law have projected their feelings of resentment onto each other.

There are many reasons why we project, but the most common ones are denial, distortion, passive aggression, repression, sublimation, dissociation, and such jokes.

Now, on to how to tell if someone is projecting onto you. We are going to look at three key signs that you can’t afford to ignore. Read on.

Signs That Someone is Projecting onto You

Selective Hearing

When you talk to them, they choose what to hear and what not to hear. They’ll take pieces and bits of your words and distorts the original meanings to form something different, at least to fit what they’re used to hearing.

If you are the pretty chill types, they might still perceive you as the high-maintenance types because those are the kinds of people they’re used to. For example, regardless of the number of times you say that you are feeling fine, a person who’s projecting onto you will still insist that you are not fine. Do you get the idea?

They See You as an Amalgamation of Their Past

This is especially true for modern couples, whereby a partner thinks that all members of the opposite sex are all the same. Let us talk in simpler terms, can we? Well, first of all, every one of us has their unique abilities that define our true selves, right?

people talking over drinks

If your partner is projecting their past relationships onto you, they don’t see you as a unique person with different and unique qualities. Instead, they see you as a pure amalgamation of every other person they’ve dated previously.

After that, they have gotten into the behavior of generalizing everything and everyone. You will hear them say that “all men are the same” or “all girls are jealous”. They create their interpretation of you in their minds that is different from who you feel you are. Worse still, they proceed to use the interpretations and assumptions they have of you and acts on them.

Treating All Arguments in the Same Way

Anytime you argue with them, you realize that they default to the same reaction for every argument, automatically. Maybe they could just shut down immediately or they can start assuming that they know exactly what you are going to say. Whatever the argument is, they have decided that they already know the outcome because they have already argued with many other people in the past.

However, we are different and that’s why we all treat disagreements and arguments differently. Instead of yelling or getting vindictive, you can choose to be a reasonable person who wants to arrest a situation calmly. Unfortunately, this won’t matter a lot because they already have a presumption that you’re a crazy fellow, which is just but one sign that they’re projecting onto you.

Other Ways of How to Tell if Someone is Projecting onto You

They Expect a Repetition of History

While they are interested in you or even have fallen in love with you, they still hold on to the belief that this relationship will eventually be like their past engagements. They seem to have unresolved issues with their exes, and that stuff is bleeding through to this relationship. If they were cheated on before ending their past relationship, you will realize that they’re exhibiting insecurities about the possibility of you cheating on them, when in reality, that is something you can only dream of.


If they have been particularly hurt or traumatized by other people, for example, their previous partner, they are likely to overreact in case you say something that hits that nerve. In psychology circles, that is referred to as “triggers”. In simpler terms, it’s a natural human reaction by humans, which can potentially ruin relationships in record time. You can help them deal with this reaction and avert the risk of it happening again, but then again, you may not be able to help them through.

They Keep Talking About Their Exes

Naturally, it does not harm talking about your past relationships. It’s even healthy to talk about your exes, but up to a certain level, that is. You see, it helps to understand where you and your significant other have come from, right? This way, you get a chance to clearly understand what other people have experienced in the past, so that you may be able to treat them even better.

But then, your conversations with them shouldn’t have to revolve around their exes all the time. If you realize that they keep referencing their exes a bit too often, then that means that there’s something about their past engagements that they are preoccupied with.

They Have Put Up a Wall

The best part of a relationship should be the feeling of being their closest friends, right? That means that there should be open lines of communication. At times, however, partners will allow each other to draw closer to each other, regardless of the months, they have spent together or how often they sleep together.

If you sense that they’re somewhat emotionally hard to reach, it means that they’re either emotionally detached or that they aren’t willing to let you into a certain point in their heart. Truth be told, all of us have some sorts of walls inside our hearts, but the most important thing is what we decide to do with those walls. If they are not into helping you to tear down their walls, be sure that they will without a doubt be going to project their past onto you.


We can’t afford to omit negativity and insecurities from the list if how to tell if someone is projecting onto you. 

Insecurities in relationships manifest themselves in the form of negativity. Things will be fine until a point when they get overly mad about everything on earth. You end up taking the blame for things you know nothing about. Other times, you find negative vibes thrown your way despite you having positive energy and good intentions that can benefit your relationship. If this happens more often, then you should start getting worried because it may end up creating unhealthy situations for you and your engagement.

They Offend You Because They Care

At times, they say things that put you down and then go ahead to “suggest” a variety of ways you can use to “change”. If this rings true for you, note that you can’t stop them from projecting onto you, so have them work on themselves first.

They Feel That They Want to Be Alone

Sometimes, they will begin to feel that they don’t deserve you, maybe because they are traumatized by their childhood abuse or harassment. This may have impacted their feeling for self-worth or self-esteem, which makes them feel that they don’t need to be with you, for no present reason. If they are feeling unworthy of your love, sit them down and try to figure out where that problem could be emanating from.

two women talking

Now, there you have a hint of how to tell if someone is projecting onto you. Of course, if you can’t rebuild what is broken, then it’s important to walk away. Call it quits right and then when you feel that someone is continually breaching your trust. 

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