“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.
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.