Why do narcissists accuse you of what they’re doing?

Narcissists are known for being a difficult group of people, but sometimes, their behavior can be downright confusing. One thing that can be confusing for others is when the narcissist accuses other people of things the narcissist is doing.

For instance, the narcissist may be a known cheater, but somehow, they dare to accuse their partner of cheating. This behavior is perplexing and frustrating because it’s unquestionably bold. 

Why do narcissists act this way? There are plenty of answers to this question. 

Projection: A core behavior of narcissists 

It turns out that narcissists love to accuse others of the things narcissists themselves are doing. This phenomenon, known as projection, is a common defense mechanism. 

Understanding why narcissists do this can prepare you to interact more effectively with them, without losing your sanity. 

Understanding Projection

Projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which people accuse others of their own unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Projecting undesirable traits onto others allows people to avoid facing their own flaws.

So, projection can be a way for people to maintain a positive self-image. This is especially important for narcissists who have fragile self-esteem. 

Reasons narcissists use projection

We’ve established why narcissists accuse you of what they’re doing: they’re projecting their negative behavior onto you. This occurs for several reasons, and we’ll discuss them below in more detail. 

#1 Defense against shame 

Narcissists present as overly confident because of their grandiosity, but underneath this exterior is fragile ego that crumbles at the slightest sign of threat or criticism. 

Given their fragility, narcissists are prone to deep shame when one of their flaws is brought to their attention. Projecting onto others can help narcissists to avoid the intense shame that comes from acknowledging their imperfections. 

See also  The Difference between Borderline and Narcissistic Personalities

Externalizing their flaws by attributing them to others is also a way for the narcissist to avoid the internal conflict and self-loathing they experience when they admit that they have faults.

#2 Maintaining control 

Narcissists need to maintain control over others in order to feel superior. One way they achieve this is by manipulating others.

Accusing others of behaviors narcissists themselves exhibit confuses and destabilizes other people. This makes it easier for narcissists to exert dominance and control.

Projecting also distracts people from the narcissist’s wrongdoing, by shifting the focus of attention off the narcissist and onto others. This allows the narcissist to control the narrative. 

#3 Avoidance of responsibility

Narcissists are highly unlikely to take responsibility for their negative actions. Doing so would cause them too much pain and self-loathing.

Instead of taking accountability, narcissists will project their behavior onto others. This allows them to see themselves as blameless. 

In this process, the narcissist not only avoids taking accountability; they also conveniently become the victim! This enables them to gain sympathy and further avoid responsibility for their wrongdoings. 

#4 Causing others to question their sanity

Narcissists don’t want people in their lives to have a solid grasp of reality. After all, if you knew who the narcissist really was, and what they were really up to, you’d never put up with them! 

Projection is often used to make victims question their views of reality. If the narcissist accuses a victim of misbehavior, the victim may come to believe that they’re the problem! 

Since projection is used as a tool to make victims question their sanity, narcissists may use it alongside gaslighting. This refers to techniques narcissists utilize to make victims question their sanity and their understanding of reality. 

See also  Do Narcissists Feel Guilt?

#5 Destroying others’ confidence

Narcissists need the people in their lives to be weak. If others were too confident, they wouldn’t fall for the narcissist’s games or give into their demands.

Repeated projection can be a way to erode victims’ self-esteem. This ultimately makes them dependent on the narcissist for approval, as well as more willing to suffer the narcissist’s abuse. 

How projection looks

If you think a narcissist is accusing you of things they’re doing, it’s probably because they are projecting. If you want to be sure this is what’s happening, consider the examples of projection below.

#1 Accusing you of being dishonest

Narcissists aren’t usually trustworthy people, but they’ll never admit to this fact. A narcissist who accuses you of being dishonest is probably projecting onto you.

Chances are, they lie frequently, and they need to project to distract from their own deceit and to undermine your credibility. 

#2 Calling you selfish

It’s always ironic when narcissists accuse someone else of being selfish, given that they are some of the most entitled and self-centered people walking the earth.

Nonetheless, a narcissist who are selfish will project this behavior onto others. This deflects from their own self-centered behavior while they continue to exploit others to meet their own needs. 

#3 Making accusations of infidelity

Accusing their partners of being unfaithful is another one of the narcissist’s favorite projection tactics. This usually happens when narcissists themselves are unfaithful and want to avoid their own guilt.

The accusation creates confusion, takes attention away from the narcissist’s misbehavior, and makes the narcissist feel as if they are justified in cheating, since they convince themselves their partner is too! 

See also  Do Narcissists Ever Feel Guilty?

#4 Any sort of name-calling

Beyond the specific examples of projection above, you can be pretty sure the narcissist is projecting when they resort to name-calling. They may call you fat, ugly, or worthless or make a degrading statement toward you.

When this happens, the narcissist is revealing how they actually feel about themselves. Attributing the negative label to you helps them to cope without succumbing to their self-loathing. 

Making sense of it all

There you have it. When a narcissist accuses you of what they’re doing, they are using a defense mechanism called projection.

They take behaviors and traits they are guilty of and throw them onto you as a way to protect themselves and get what they want. 

Narcissists use projection for the following reasons:

  • To take attention away from their own bad behavior
  • To avoid facing their own flaws
  • To avoid intense feelings of shame
  • To maintain power and control over you
  • To erode your self-esteem and make you more vulnerable to their control 
  • To take the blame off of themselves and place it onto you

Now you have your answer to why narcissists accuse you of what they’re doing. Use this knowledge to protect yourself, and remember never to take the narcissist’s behavior personally.

They act like this because of their own internal wounds, and not because of anything you’ve done wrong. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from the narcissist if you need to, and reach out for professional support if you’re struggling to cope. 

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