In 1902 Charles Horton Cooley had an idea that greatly influenced the landscape of sociology. His idea is quite simple: it is impossible to think of yourself without accounting for how other people think of you. Cooley argued that our notion of “self” is actually a constructed “social self” —
“we perceive in another’s mind some thought of our appearance, manners, aims, deeds, character, friends, and so on, and we are variously affected by it.”
Cooley´s concept of the looking glass self, states that a person’s self grows out of a person´s social interactions with others. The view of ourselves comes from the contemplation of personal qualities and impressions of how others perceive us. Actually, how we see ourselves does not come from who we really are, but rather from how we believe others see us.
The main point is that people shape their self-concepts based on their understanding of how others perceive them. We form our self-image as the reflections of the response and evaluations of others in our environment. As children we were treated in a variety of ways. If parents, relatives and other important people look at a child as smart, they will tend to raise him with certain types of expectations. As a consequence the child will eventually believe that he is a smart person. This is a process that continues when we grow up. For instance, if you believe that your closest friends look at you as some kind of superhero, you are likely to project that self-image, regardless of whether this has anything to do with reality.
Most of us would not to admit how much of an influence this is on how we have come to see ourselves and who we believe we are. As a child growing up, we may not have had the opportunity to chose who surrounds us and how they perceive us-thus how their perception shape what we have come to believe about ourselves. However, as we grow up, it is important to take note of this influence.More importantly, we may want to actively and not passively select the people we hang out with and how their perception is shaping what we think of ourselves.
Think of the 5 most important people whose opinions and ideas shape what you think of yourself and how you behave, it might give you a good idea of how the ‘self’ you call ‘you’ today has come to be and might also help you going forward in determining whose influence you allow to shape the future you.(We will talk about this tomorrow).