Do you feel attacked when other people project their fears onto you without knowing you?
Today’s question is from somebody who wants to stay anonymous. A couple of weeks ago we asked a question in our groups about the personal development industry. One of our valued members reached out after conversation ensued around that topic and they asked me to clarify something. The person asked to stay anonymous, and of course we are happy to facilitate this because most of our work is around confidentiality, and people doing what’s right for them. That’s all good!
This is what they said:
Merja, I have been a client of yours for a couple of years now. My life has gone from an uncontrollable mess to a space where I feel like I am a captain of my own ship now. One thing that still keeps coming up is projection. Recently, when you asked a question on what people hate about the personal development industry, I felt like some were taking shots at you by saying things like "the personal development industry is a system of preying on vulnerable people" and that all that these teachers want is money. I got upset, because you have helped me so much, and felt hurt that they were potentially projecting their insecurities onto you. I felt like they were not seeing you as the person that you actually are. Did you feel that those were personal attacks on you?
This is a great question because this is a challenging topic. In general, when you’re a professional person you’re being paid for what you do, and that kind of capacity comes with a certain amount of responsibility to try and be as open about all of these things as we possibly can. I really want to thank you for this question because it’s not an easy question to ask, especially when you’re feeling triggered and you might also be worried that you’re projecting onto other people around what they’re saying. I had to go back to read the comments once more to make sure I had not missed anything.
To answer your question in this context: I personally didn’t feel like these were personal attacks toward me for a couple of reasons. 1. Because these people don't know me in real life, they don’t know what I do, they don’t know who I am. They don’t have the power to offend me because they don’t know who I am so their perception is their own and that’s completely ok, and
2. I don’t know these people either. Because I don't personally know them, I have no idea whether or not they are projecting. Perhaps this has actually been their experience with the industry.
I have never been shy to say that these things are going on in our industry. I see it all the time. I see people being taken advantage of, especially when they’re feeling vulnerable, and many teachers become very narcissistic over time if they haven’t already been narcissistic beforehand in order to get that attention. I believe that all of us, whether we’re working with mentors, or coaches, or teachers, should vet those people carefully before we start working with them, especially if you have a person in your life who is influencing you. If we take an average of the 5 people in your life that influence you the most, you become that person yourself. It’s very important that we all thank the people that we do end up working with. That vetting process, in and of itself, will help you, or anybody, who might be struggling with this challenge of feeling like they’re being taken advantage of.
Recently, LisaPayne, our managing partner, interviewed me on a video called “Merja- WTF is wrong with you?”. The video, for me, was an awkward attempt to shed a little light on who I am and what I do, and for you guys to get to know me. I think the video shows that I’m naturally an initiating person. But I’m also a very tender person and those two things are not often associated with one another. The perception is that either you’re a go-getter, an initiator, and that you’re tough and good to go, OR you’re tender and you should be receiving and passive. Of course, because I’ve always been a contradiction in many ways, most people who see one side of me assume that that’s all there is. That’s fine, that’s each person's prerogative. And it’s true of all of us that we make those assumptions according to what we ourselves see.
In your case, you the person asking the question, regarding your perceived criticism of me- if you feel that’s the case, asking clarifying questions is very powerful, and you may have found out that the people making these comments had only had those kinds of experiences with this industry, but that they were otherwise a loving, trusting and open person.
I think you have raised a great point and have given us all a fantastic opportunity to ask ourselves “Where do I project? What don't I already know about what's in front of me?” You might be afraid that you’ve projected something onto these people, and maybe you have. Maybe you haven’t. But what has created a lot of value for everybody is that you’ve opened up the floor for these questions. Your question is acting as a beautiful catalyst for so many for our growth, and I want to thank you so much for it.
Thank you for your work with me, thank YOU for trusting us with your personal growth and thank you for simply being you, imperfectly perfect, as we all are. You are a true inspiration.
I hope you all have a good day and I’ll talk to you soon!
I’m Merja Sumiloff. I’m the Personality Decoder and I show my clients and people who come to me how to heal and grow your relationships without massive disruption to your day-to-day life.