Category Archives: Looking Glass Self

LOOKING-GLASS SELF

“One imagines how he appears to others. One imagines the judgments that others may be making regarding that appearance. One develops a self- image via their reflection; that is, the judgments or critique of others.  There are not many among a general population who do not imagine how they must look to others, how their actions must look to those observing, and finally-changing themselves or perhaps rebelling against change due to the judgments of others they interact with. A large portion of personalities are determined by their reactions to appearance, speech, belief, actions, and so on.” (http://suite101.com/article/sociology-cooleys-the-looking-glass-self) The above quote explains one of Charles Horton Cooley’s many theories that were written. The Looking Glass Self is a concept where we become what or who we think others think we should be. This theory argues that we develop a sense of self based upon how we think others perceive us.

teenagers

Now imagine being a teenager, who is at a vulnerable stage in their lives. Teens are trying to figure out who they are, and where they will fit in our society. They may never admit to it, but teenagers do care about what others think of them. Most teens feel adults think all kids are juvenile delinquents, skip school, do drugs and all are disrespectful. Teens tend to conform to the image they think adults expect of them. I have witnessed teenagers who were good kids, but felt they have to down play who they were to fit in an image they feel others would expect. In truth not every teenager is a menace to society. Perceptions should start with how you feel about yourself, and not with what you think someone else is thinking about you.

According to Cooley, the development of a sense of self is always ongoing and happens with interaction. As stated by Cooley, “we become who we are based not on how others actually see us, and not on how they judge us, but on how we think they will judge us based on what we think they perceive”(Cooley 1902). It’s that feeling you get when you’re in a large crowd, and all eyes are on you, and you’re thinking people think that you look a little weird.  According to Suite101.com, “the concept is somewhat related to the psychological concept of projection; human beings interpret the reactions of others that they socialize within regards to appearance, speech mannerism (all symbols) and projects these interpretation unto themselves”  (http://suite101.com/article/sociology-cooleys-tht-looking-glass-self).  Unfortunately, they fail to look inside themselves and portray who they are and not who they think others think they should be.

Although teenagers are considered some of our dare devil impressionable people, they are also looking for acceptance. It is important to know that there are teens who want to and have deviated from behavior that is thought of as the norm for their age group. There are teenagers that have lived with family members that have abused alcohol and have seen first- hand the impact it can have on people and have chose to not drink it.   Maybe as a society we should embrace our younger generation in accepting their way of expressing themselves as long as no laws are broken and no one gets hurt. Overall, having confidence and realizing “our concept of who we are, our self, emerges as we interact with others. The self is our sense of who we are, distinct from others and shaped by the unique combination of our social interactions” (Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929). Dare to be different, how else will we all be unique individuals.  People will always have their own opinions and are entitled to it.  No one has to conform to someone else’s image of them. Look inside yourself and be the person you think you should be and not what you imagine someone else to think of you.

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SOCIAL NORMS

Without the social norms that we abide by each and every day, there would be absolutely no expectations of how anyone is supposed to “normally” behave. From the moment we wake up on our mattress, usually atop a box spring and frame (the standard sleeping structure in western culture); we follow the norms that have been taught to us since the moment we entered onto this earth.

I think that maintaining these norms, and being seen as normal for abiding by them, are of extreme importance to nearly everyone in every society. To fit in is everyone’s ultimate goal. In order to retain the importance of the norms we’ve constructed, we have created different levels of negative sanctions to deal with the disobedient social deviants. Whether it be conscious or subconscious, every time we view someone falling outside of norms we think negatively of them and react in various ways, from simply rolling our eyes to picking up a phone and dialing the police (depending on the severity of the norm breaking).

who_thisweek_26092011_17731gr-17731h2Norms in society can range from things that are seemingly insignificant as the kind of clothes we wear to things that are considered law. We consider these small norms to be folkways, and little concern is raised when someone decides to deviate from them. Although it is a folkway to wear casual clothing, such as jeans in what is considered a casual setting, no one is too bothered by someone deciding to “dress up” in something more along the lines of a suit jacket or a nice dress.  Norms that are deemed more necessary and absolute, such as driving on a specific side of the road, or refraining from murder, are referred to as mores. These mores are often written down formally whether in formats such as a school handbook, driving manual, or in laws defended by the government. Once written down, these norms are considered to be formal norms, as opposed to informal norms, which are generally grasped by the population, but not necessarily written down. Example of informal norms are the common etiquettes we’ve been raised with, such as not being “too loud” in a public environment or grocery shopping from the store aisles as opposed to someone else’s cart.

japanese_card_exchange

Negative sanctions are not the only sanctions to exist in our world of norms. Positive sanctions are seen just as often as negative sanctions. We’re given positive sanctions for obeying our norms through our good grades in schools, promotions and pats on the back at work, and general statuses in life. Because the average person obeys the norms laid out for them, they will have many more opportunities than someone who has deviated from these norms, such as a convicted felon.  Other than the obvious jail time and/or fines, felons are negatively sanctioned beyond that to continuously remind them of their wrongdoings. These sanctions can include: refusal to enter other countries, not being allowed a job in childcare or public office, etc., whereas these travel and job opportunities are seemingly very basic and attainable to the Average Joe.

tumblr_l8vf4zt3wb1qdpi3fo1_500My personal view of norms is exceptionally mixed. On one hand, I feel that norms suffocate any real sense of self and individualism. However, on the other hand, I recognize the importance of providing someone with violent tendencies a standard at which to abide by so that they don’t act on possible homicidal urges. Unfortunately because norms are so heavily relied upon, they are the major players in creating the petty insecurities we feel on a daily basis. I think that if the norms laying in the more aesthetic/subjective spectrum (such as clothing and beauty standards of the gender binary, grooming habits, interest in pop culture, etc) were to be given less focus and attention, the world would be a much happier place. If everyone could mind their own business and pay no mind as to what someone chooses to wear or who they feel like having a relationship with, it’s my belief that suicide would not be nearly as prevalent; especially in those who strain the importance of such things- teenagers. Instead of constantly having to conform and act off of what we think is “normal” our Me and I could just be one, and there wouldn’t have to be so much stress put on our looking glass self. Bullying wouldn’t exist and Ugg boots would’ve not been so vital to every fourteen-year-old girls existence. But in order to do this, one of the important factors would be to significantly cut the amount of corporate advertising shown in all forms of media. Given that in 2010 advertisers spent fifty billion dollars on television advertising alone (Ad Age), one could say cutting such a thing would be detrimental to the United States economy. Although it’s obvious that petty folkway norms can be seemingly of so much more importance in our daily lives, and cause a myriad of self detriment- I don’t think there’s any realistic way in the foreseeable future to be rid of them.

LOOKING-GLASS SELF

“Self and others do not exist as mutually exclusive facts.” –Jon Witt

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.

http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/self-perception.htm

http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/faculty/baldwin/classes/soc142/scznDEF.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looking_glass_self#Three_main_components

SOCIALIZATION

Socialization is the process through which we learn from people how to behave, our attitudes and our values based on the culture that we are a part of. Gender Socialization refers to how different genders are to act based on a culture. Females are taught that we are weak while men are taught that they are supposed to be strong. An example that I have of this is when I was little, I did not do much lifting because I grew up with all brothers and they were the ones that were supposed to do the lifting. As I got older they started wanting me to do a little bit more but I was used to the idea from society that I was supposed to be inferior to the males.

When I was growing up I was given all of these hand me downs and it got to the point that I didn’t think that I was pretty or anything and wasn’t sure how I was supposed to dress. So I was eventually put in a school that had a uniform and that is where I started to try and show a feminine side because I would only hang out with females, which up until then wanted nothing to do with me.  When I left that school I went to wearing only pink for about two years and tried forming a nickname because I thought that was the only way to be cool. When I was younger I didn’t think well of myself because of the male clothing I wore and now I rarely wear boy clothes.  I prefer to wear light pinks or light blues or feminine tops. This refers to Looking-Glass Self.  People start to believe what they think others think of them. Our culture tells us that what we wear matters if we want to be popular or be an outcast. When I was younger all I wanted to do was fit in but as I got older I stopped caring about it as much, I just preferred to try and get the grades.

Gender Roles are played depending on the gender you are and the culture that you live in. Though females have been for the most part inferior in most cultures, there are some though where they are seem to be the more superior. The Amazon culture was a female society where they were the more powerful ones and the males were the ones that were non-dominant, unlike here where for the majority, females are told to be the ones to look after the children and the men are supposed to be the breadwinners. If males do not feel like they are making the money, they feel emasculated.  So the females are the ones that are supposed to take care of the children and keep the house clean.

Different societies through our socialization have different Rites of Passages depending on the culture that you’re a part of. In the American culture for the most part, the first rite of passage seems to be prom for females. Everyone wants that chance to get that pretty dress and be waited on and have that perfect date. This isn’t though of the most important rites of passages like graduation. One of the rites of passages that is actually extremely important is graduation. That ceremony is what your entire family looks forward to. They are crushed if they feel that you may not graduate. This happened to one of my siblings about a month before graduation.  He was told the only way he would be able to graduate is if he stayed after the rest of the year and came back for the last two weeks and was in his class the entire time.

Of course my parents made sure that he did it so that he would be able to graduate, but he was so close to not having that experience. Other cultures though have Quinceanera for the females or a bar mitzvah for the males at different ages that say they have reached adulthood, like graduation is for us.

So depending on your culture there are different ways that we are perceived as males or females or what we find should have a celebration. One of the few things that seem to be important all across the world is the marriage celebration. All nations have some sort of celebration but it just depends where you live that helps you decide what is important. Another thing that culture influences is what we consider beautiful. In our society females are told to be skinny and guys are told no make-up. The question is, why do we have these cultural things that seem to mark who we are?  So why do these things control who we are? They should not be able to decide what we find acceptable. In the video the song is called crazy and I feel that it makes sense with some things that are part of our culture that just goes a little crazy but this is how our society is. We all want that beauty but how far is too far?