Looking-glass self

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Concept developped by Charles Horton Cooley. The looking-glass self refers to the way in which the reactions and perceived judgements of others to ourselves provide us with feedback about ourselves and develop our sense of self.


Our self-image is created in the social arena and is derived from the interaction between how we see ourselves and how others see us.


There are three elements to the looking-glass self:

1. We imagine how we seem or appear to others

2. We imagine how that appearance is judged by others

3. We experience a feeling or some type of reaction (such as pride or shame..) to this perceived judgement. This feeling is not from ourselves, but rather from the way we are reflected in other people's minds. This is then reflected in how we see ourselves and behave.


How much of the way we behave is based on the reflection we get from others? We modify our behavior to fit with the imagined judgement that is being reflected to us. We see our "self" through the eyes of others, to the point of incorporating their views of us into our own self image and acting accordingly.


Why is this important? First, in terms of our own self, we need to ask ourselves whether the standards used in others' judgements are the same standards we want to evaluate ourselves by - and if not we can learn to free ourselves from the imposed reflection. Secondly, it's imoprtant in terms of how others behave with us. Just as our self is reflected in how others see us, so is their self reflected in how we perceive them. Seeing people through a positive eye gives them the opportunity to act according to that view. If you want someone to believe something about themselves, act towards them as if it were true.


"Society is an interweaving and interworking of mental selves. I imagine your mind, and especially what your mind thinks about my mind, and what your mind thinks about what my mind thinks about your mind. I dress my mind before yours and expect that you will dress yours before mine. Whoever cannot or will not perform these feats is not properly in the game."


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Related: Ego | Reality Tunnel