I recently encountered an interesting sociological theory that has heightened my senses to how a person’s view of self can be influenced. Charles Cooley, an American sociologist, proposed that people form their self-image based on social interactions. These social interactions provide a foundation for an individual to analyze and absorb how other people see them as their own self-image. Cooley referred to this theory of social interaction as “The Looking-Glass Self.” Other people’s perceptions serve as a mirror for a person to view themselves through.
For instance, I may arrive for my first semester of college confident that I am personable, charismatic and friendly, but this view of myself may shift when I have a negative interaction at a club mixer, when I talk with someone and their eyes constantly search the room for someone else to converse with, when I am not invited to join a club. I may enter the club process seeing myself one way and exit with a totally altered perception of who I am based off of the interactions I had. I mentally reflect on what another person thinks of me and accept that as the truth about who I am. Social interactions can either confirm how we see ourselves or negate who we think we are; however, not every social exchange has such severe implications because the weight of another person’s perception hinges on the nature of your relationship with them.
Reading about this social theory piqued my thoughts. What mirrors am I allowing myself to look into? Whose version of myself have I accepted as absolute? Human beings are faulty and flawed; as constant as we want to be, our perceptions are in a constant state of motion as a variety of factors influence how we behave. We cannot look into mirrors that are governed by the ever-changing feelings of human beings to inform how we see ourselves. Simultaneously, we must be mindful of how our actions influence other people; do not take small interactions lightly, as you may be instrumental in the way a person sees themselves.
Evaluate what mirror, what version of yourself you allow yourself to reflect; whose perception of you are you adopting as truth? When God looks at our souls, he sees the image of his son, Jesus Christ. We do not have to speculate how God feels toward us in order to inform how we see ourselves. His constant nature of love and peace provides a firm foundation to root our identity in. I realize this practice is easier discussed than implemented; I struggle with it daily. However, I believe that asking questions and sharing thoughts is the first step in integrating a more holistic perception of ourselves into our daily lives. So, how might our lives change if we looked into mirrors that reflect God’s image and accept his view of our identity as true?