The Looking-Glass-Self: Theory & Examples

Last Update on November 24, 2022 : Published on November 26, 2022
The Looking-Glass-Self

The identity that one has in society depends on their perception and idea of what others think about them. We as humans are social beings and we all take cues from others’ behaviors and beliefs about ourselves and draw conclusions from them.

Looking-glass-self is a theory that is formed on similar grounds. Have you heard of socialization? Socialization is the process by which people learn attitudes, values and behaviors that are supposed to be appropriate and acceptable in society.

The information about what is appropriate and expected in different cultures and communities is derived from how people react to certain actions. The judgment passed by society molds many perceptions of self and others.

On similar grounds of socialization, Charles Cooley gave his looking-glass-self theory. Let’s explore and understand the looking-glass-self theory better…

Charles Cooley’s Concept Of The Looking-Glass Self Theory

The looking-glass self-theory was first described by Charles Cooley in the year 1902. The main idea behind the looking-glass self-theory is that we all depend on others’ perceptions of us to form our own identity in society.

It basically means that we draw information about ourselves from people around us and based on that information we form our perception of self. In all, we take cues from what others think of us and believe it to be the reality.

All the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that one has, the self-concept is built by internalizing the thoughts and ideas about you of the people you are surrounded with. You internalize all that your parents, teachers, etc. have to say about you.

How Does Looking Glass Self Theory Affect Us?

According to the looking-glass self-theory, you define yourself based on assumptions, perceptions and judgments made about you. For example, following and adhering to all the social norms makes you a responsible person in society.

Now, creating a self-concept or social identity based on what other people think of you is not right. We tend to do it a lot but in today’s times, people judge the book by its cover and no one bothers to even read the first page.

Is it right to base your self-concept or self-image on what society has to say about us? To some extent, the looking-glass self-theory can help us in understanding the consequences of our actions. But forming your identity based on the looking-glass self-theory is not right.

Also Read: What Is Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? Does It Affect Our Mental Health?

When you begin evaluating yourself based on what others think of you, you start losing your uniqueness and individuality. There are going to be times when you’re going to be appreciated by the people around and there are also going to be times you’re going to be looked down upon.

No one knows you better than yourself, your dependence on others’ beliefs about you can harm you emotionally and mentally. Your self-image should be built on your perception of self. Don’t let anyone make you believe that you’re any less.

Looking-Glass Self Examples

There are various examples of looking-glass self-theory and how it directly affects a person emotionally and mentally. Let’s have a look at a few of them;

  • The effect of social media is one of the most relatable examples of the looking-glass self-theory. Many of us are completely dependent on the number of likes we received on a post to determine whether they are likable or not. We tend to change our personality in such a way that it is appreciated and accepted on various social media platforms.
  • Another example of the looking-glass self-theory is seen in the workplace. People tend to take feedback from others to improve themselves. In some cases, people get carried away and accept all feedback they receive irrespective of how useful or not it is. In the race of becoming the best, you tend to lose your originality and sense of self.

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog about the looking-glass self-theory interesting, informative, and thought-provoking. It’s important to understand that what others have to say about you is not always right and internalizing all the judgments made by others is not always the best thing to do.

The looking-glass self-theory states that as humans we tend to listen to others over ourselves. It’s important to understand that others’ opinions matter but not more than your own opinions about yourself. Your self-concept should be based on your thoughts and no one else’s.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

Also read:

The Psychology Of Memory: Formation, Duration, Types, And More

Psychology Behind “You Always Attract What You Are!

The Psychology Of Small Wins: Why (And How) You Should Celebrate Small Wins

10 Common Dreams And Their Meanings Explained By Psychology

About The Author

Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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