Category Archives: Social Interaction


Every day we live in a world ticking on its own rhythm taking account of things that we consider normal functions of life in performing daily tasks. We are expected to behave in a certain way according to the perspectives of ourselves and others. From childhood through adulthood, we pass stages of life expecting that significant transitions are yet to come to be experienced in the course of our lives. The language we speak, the values we believe in, and the rules we follow shape us to become a unique individual within the society.


Such uniqueness of individual is defined as self. The self is the distinct sense of who we are that is developed from social interactions with other individuals which can be changed depending on our life experiences. According to American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley’s Looking-Glass Self theory, a person’s self is shaped by the interaction with the important people around him/her. For example, I believe in Buddhism because my parents have been influential regarding religious aspects and beliefs from the earliest years of my childhood. Going to the temple, chanting Dhamma, listening to Dhamma talk from the Buddhist monks were our family’s outing on the weekends or occasionally other social meetings with people from the mutual society. Now, I think myself as an adult with my own perspective and beliefs, but I still believe in Buddhism and still perform those rituals. I follow Buddhism, not because I did not have an option to choose which religion to believe in, but because those experiences I had in the early years of my life shaped me and planted my belief in Buddhism first, prior to that of other religions. Also, it is because of the powerful influence of my parents, the schools I have gone to where there were occasional religious events held within the school facility and because the majority of friends and relatives have the same religious beliefs. Thus, my parents were significant in developing my beliefs.  School, friends and relatives were the agents of socialization that played an important role in shaping the self that I am today. Other common agents of socialization that exist within the society are family, cross-culture variation, the influence of race and gender, peer groups, mass media and technology, religion and the state, the work place and school.  This demonstrates the socialization process.

Socialization is a lifelong process that enables us to learn the attitudes, values, and behaviors appropriate for our culture. Noticing the word “lifelong” from the definition, we learn significant amounts from human interaction with others even before we can speak a word. American sociologist George Herbert Mead described the early childhood self-development in three stages:

Preparatory stage (birth – 3 years old)

In this stage, the children are engaged in social interaction with others by imitation. When I was working as a community interpreter for the InghamIntermediateSchool District for Early Childhood Development Program, I had to go for home visits with a parent educator for non-English speaking families from Myanmar. The parent educator would analyze and determine the level of development according to the behavior of children. The use of gestures, objects and eventually words to communicate or the use of symbols to interact with other is the goal of a three year old development. It was amazing to have seen that many children achieved this stage tremendously well even though they were raised in a different culture.

Play stage ( 3 years old – 5 years old)

Children are believed to learn self-development and interaction through pretend play in this stage. It is critical because the children learn to behave in a certain way only when they have experienced the similar experiences such as going to school, going to the doctor for medical checkup or to the dentist or to learn more about how the world works. These types of internalized role taking activities help the children to understand why we do things and how we do things and to have an expectancy of what kind of perspective they should have.

Game stage (6 years old – 9 years old)

This is the final stage where children begin to consider their role and their own position to represent their ‘self’. This is the stage where the child realizes how his/her attitudes and viewpoints are taken into account by the expectations of society as a whole.

As we grow older, constructing and maintaining our self has been far more influenced by others. A Canadian sociologist, Erving Goffman explained a viewpoint called dramaturgical approach where people are seen as theatrical performers. Each individual plays their own role in encountering social interactions. For example, a mom is expected to be responsible of taking care of her children and household, a teacher is expected to teach the students and also to use appropriate manner and behavior to strictly stick to the rules, a student is expected to put learning as his/her priority to have a good career. Mr. Goffman also referred to the methods called impression management and face-work. An example of impression management would be choosing or altering the right kind of clothing to wear to different places such as a dress for party, casual clothes for hanging out with friends. Face-work is initiating behavior that would maintain the image of self to avoid public embarrassment. For example, a college math teacher would not want his/her colleagues to know that he is practicing Hip hop dancing because he thinks this would put an inappropriate sense for his job being a college faculty.



“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.” ( 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, “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”  (  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.


“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.


I always had to have a substance for getting high or drunk. This led me to selling drugs. I started to become unreliable and untrustworthy to everyone in my life. Not knowing or caring what abusing drugs and alcohol truly does to the lives around me, my life became a loss of hope, total despair, a hatred of self, always looking toward the next feeling of bliss, the ability to become completely numb. The thought came to me quite often that I needed to change. Who really likes change? Change tends to be uncomfortable. When people in my life started to become worried and employers were concerned, I realized that my life was unmanageable.  The change is not easy however; the outcome is well worth the ups and downs from my unfamiliar feelings. Learning how to handle life on life’s terms is a life-long process.


Role exit became familiar to my life in many ways; it is the process of disengagement from a role, for instance, a role that is central to one’s self identity in order to establish a new role and identity. There are four stages to the role exiting process (Ebaugh, 1988). The experience of role exit in my life is a reminder of what my life was like, what happened, and what it is like today.


The first stage of “Role Exit” is experiencing a feeling of doubt, unhappiness, and loss of hope. I rearranged my priorities; I stopped attending college, got into trouble with jobs and was not faithful in relationships. The next stage of role exit is searching for alternatives to get out of the feeling of unhappiness. I moved to different cities, attended three different high schools; my mom sent me to rehab in the tenth grade, and six years later I finally stopped digging. I needed help. The next part of the process the action stage: making a plan to start packing for a rehabilitation center.  When I arrived at the facility, I experienced hope that I had not felt in years. The fourth stage of role exit is creation, or the creation of a new identity. I moved to a new city, left behind material and non-material possessions, and lived in a sober living facility for fourteen months. I continue to learn about who I am sober, one day at a time.


 I firmly believe that we are who we choose to hang out with. When I went to high school, I was involved with many different athletic teams. I never thought I socially fit in with the jock group. But we did all have one thing in common – being a part of the sports team.  Then, outside of the sports I felt socially lost. My status in high school was a jock that hung out with the druggies. I enjoyed taking risks and having a fun time, so I chose to find people that took risks and were rebels. I stopped finding time to hang out with the jocks. My social interaction began to consist of skipping school and getting “messed up.” In the end, the group members all went their separate ways; some went to jail, others dropped out of high school, and we all mainly just lost touch. Our primary group had a common norm it consisted of getting high or drunk.


One problem that is involved with of role exiting is when a person gets involved with old behaviors, and in my experience, turns to drugs and alcohol for a “quick fix”. I have not seen or talked to the old group I belonged to since I left for the rehabilitation facility. If I were to get together with that group now, they might think I am still in that crazy role I used to be in. I could easily fall back into that role because I knew it so well. I have changed today because I am involved with a different group, but I always will remember.  I feel that as long I remember who I was like, God willing, it will help me to not fall back into that old way of living.



Recovery found me when I needed it the most. The active social interaction of the recovery fellowship helps me to know that I am not alone and it is helpful to share experience with others who have the same theme in common.  We can relate to one another. Finding a group to share similar values, beliefs, and norms to belong to on a regular basis, for me, is the recovery community.  I need to keep establishing a fellowship. Getting together face to face with a smaller group of people has given me an opportunity to make true friends. This primary group has helped me stay on the right path with sharing their experience, strength, and hope. I believed for a long time that people with more sobriety time should have more knowledge about staying sober and living happy. The expectations I had based on a given social status occupied by people had not been accurate.  I have realized that it is not the length of time one is sober that matters; what matters is the quality of the time sober.


Today I am willing to take suggestions. I have learned how honesty has helped save my life and those around me by seeing the amazing changes in their lives. I am open to continue learning new and healthy ways of living with the group I have been a part of on a daily basis. Asking for help and admitting when I am wrong is a struggle at times, but life is a learning process. When I think I have learned all life has to offer me, it might be time for me to find a new project to enlighten my mind. I am sure I will experience many different role exits throughout my life. What role exits have you experienced in your life thus far?


Work Cited

“Getting Clean and Sober.” Getting Clean and Sober. CumberlandMountain Community Service Board, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

“Google.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

Merlo-Booth, Lisa. “Law of Attraction: You Are Who You Hang Out.” SonsiLiving. Sonsi, Inc., 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. (We are who we hang out with)  (Move a muscle, change a thought)