Developing our sense of who we are starts as soon as we make social interactions, between family friends, co-workers, teachers, even acquaintances we meet on a daily basis. It’s through social interactions that we are shaped and can even define who we are or what we might think of ourselves. It could be something as simple as a guy telling you you’re beautiful or a woman telling you you’re strong, which you then begin to believe that’s how others view you, defining yourself as a result of these assumptions. This reflects Charles Horton Cooley’s looking-glass self theory. In this theory, Cooley argued that our identity is based on how we think others see us, even though no one really knows what others are thinking.
When you’re a teenager in high school you try to conform to the norms of being popular; you by the fancy clothes from stores in the mall like Hollister, Aeropostle and Abercrombie so that you “fit” in. You’ve never particularly liked the clothes before or even had the ability to afford them, but you eventually buy them anyway or save up to buy them. In my case, I had to wait till Christmas to buy the popular fashions.
Because I wasn’t always wearing name brand clothing, I felt that my peers were always critiquing me and giving me dirty looks. By assuming that they were always thinking negative things about me I then became shy and acted negatively.
Cooley’s Theory of the Looking-Glass Self includes three main components:
1.) Self reflection study – We imagine how we must appear to others
2.) Self-awareness manipulation – We imagine the judgment of that appearance
3.) Individuation manipulation – We develop our self through the judgments of others.
We rely on feedback from others to see what their thoughts on us are or how we’re viewed by them and then proceed to act like such to help guide us with further interactions. The most important interactions are with our significant others.
The Looking-Glass Self involves a series of steps that we all do subconsciously which affects us every day. With socialization comes up and downs. Through our social interaction we learn from our conversations and experiences with others, whether they are positive or negative. Deciding our own attitudes and feelings by watching how we react to situations is called the self- perception theory.
Our self is shaped from our interactions with others and forms a unique combination distinct from everyone else. The self comprises who we are as individuals and our concepts of what’s considered good, desirable and proper, or our values that we hold onto.
We try, we fail and we try again. This is our guess and check strategy at life and with people. It’s through our interaction that we learn and grow, which provides us with greater self confidence for future interactions with others. We are who we are for various reasons: how others view us, how we view ourselves and where we came from. It’s because of these reasons that we are unique.