The Dangers of Projecting Our Desires Onto Other People

dangers of projecting


Sally Grisedale

Have you ever envied someone else’s life?

Have you ever believed someone was better than you or had the things you really want but don’t seem to be able to have yourself?

Look at how former President Trump held Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, and Xi Jinping in high esteem. Placing people on a pedestal (good or bad) is a topic that comes up surprisingly often among the extraordinary leaders and creative thinkers I coach.

For example, a client and creative thinker led a design thinking project for an important new statewide initiative. He was struck by how clever the contributors to the design thinking project were, and, in his mind, he compared unfavorably to them.

He regretted this because in giving in to his own feelings of inadequacy he missed the opportunity to build a connection with these individuals. In reality, they were all as nervous as he was and were not judging him as much as he was judging himself.

So why do we put other people on pedestals?

We put other people on pedestals because there’s something in them that we desire, yet fail to see in ourselves.

We are put here on earth to see who we truly are, and when we don’t find it in ourselves, we seek it in the people around us.

What is the danger of putting people on pedestals?

The danger of putting someone on a pedestal is that you can’t be real in your relationships when you do. It limits your ability to engage in a healthy normal relationship.

How can you be curious about them when the story you tell yourself is that they will see you as someone less important, less intelligent, less competent, or that you want to take something from them.

With social media, putting other people on pedestals is causing mental illness, suicides, and bullying. This desire to have what others have, the perfect family portrait to send out by mail each year, the letters after your name, the number of ‘likes,’ ‘shares,’ and ‘retweets’ is unhealthy.

When you put yourself below someone else, you are not secure in your own enoughness and fail to see the worth and value that you bring to the relationship.

If you saw yourself the way other people see you, you would be a totally different person. In reality, there is nothing anyone else can say or do that can cause you to hate, belittle, or talk down to yourself except your own self-talk

In my 1:1 coaching program, we dive into growing self-acceptance and self-authority, so you can have authentic, powerful, and healthy relationships with everyone, especially yourself. If this resonates with you, book a discovery call and we’ll see if coaching is a fit.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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Leading by Design is a blog for creative leaders working in tech. It’s not a “Why You Should Use AI in Design Thinking” or “How to Hire and Retain Product Design Teams with Impact” type of blog. There are enough of those.

I write about the challenges you can’t safely discuss as creative leaders working in tech. The stories come directly from my experience leading teams at Apple, Meta, Yahoo!, and some start-ups and from the executive design leaders I coach today.

I have written about the stressful magpie boss, hateful cross-functional peers, creative burnout, the shame of job loss and survivor guilt, and the fear of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace.

I publish once a week and offer strategies to reframe your challenge so you can return to being the creative leader your team loves you to be.

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