Who are you? Howwould you describe yourself? There are simply two types of responses to thisquestion: a positive and a negative. One may say they kind-hearted andhard-working, but another may say they are unattractive and lazy.
Why is this?An individual’s self-esteem will be higher or lower depending on the concept ofthe looking glass self, created by sociologist Charles Cooley. Cooley’s theorystates that a person’s self is developed through their social interactions withothers. Self-image does not necessarily come from who one actually is as aperson, but how one believes others perceive them (The Looking Glass Self,2013). Society has shaped people’s minds into believing that self-imagine is amirror image of the environment exposed to them.
According to Cooley, thistheory has three steps. First, one will imagine how they look to others. Thisimagination may be incorrect because it is merely based on assumptions. Next,one will imagine judgements others make of them. Lastly, one forms an identitybased on what one feels people think of them (Desai, V). This conceptcontinues to be extremely important in today’s society.
One of the biggestcauses of this is media. Various types of media are present almost everywhereand as a result, stereotypes such as gender norms are being created and accepted promoted. From a very young age, gender roles are ingrainedinto the minds of the younger generations. A key example is how girls are shownplaying with “Easy-Bake Ovens” and “Baby Alive” dolls whileboys are shown playing with action figures and toy trucks. This creates falseassumptions and traps younger audiences in stereotypes that are solely based ona constructed idea of gender. to the young audience. A young girl will have theidea instilled in her mind that since she is a female, her role in societysolely revolves around housework and menial activities.
Consequently, if shebelieves everybody in society sees females this way, she will adjust herbehaviour and change her overall identity to reflect this norm. Going along with thetheme of media, Cooley’s theory can pose a great threat to one’s self-esteem.Society’s idea of beauty is a goal nobody can ever achieve. The pressure themedia puts onto these unrealistic standards is threatening the confidence and esteemof people around the world. Statistics shows that “out of 7.4 billiontotal population, 2.3 billion are active users on social media”(Khew, J,2016).
Advertisements on such platforms are the ones that promote suchimpractical beauty standards. In today’s society, even in the comfort of one’shome, there are advertisements everywhere, constantly publicizing the need tobe a desirable man or woman. This pressure is exactly what causes people tobelieve they must look and act a certain way because that is the”norm”. The looking glassself can even be used to manipulate the responses of others.
One might boast totheir friends about how much alcohol they can drink because they want toimpress them. On the other hand, one would probably hide this information fromtheir boss because they want to maintain a professional ego. People are alwaysadjusting their self-image based on the type of people they are with togenerate a specific response. It is like a different mask is being put on foreach social interaction. Everyone wants toplease others.
However, if it comes to the point where one concludes that theopinions of others are come before their own, they may live their lifeaccording to society’s expectations. This is why the concept of the lookingglass self will never go out of date. As long as one continues interacting insociety, they will always be vulnerable to changing their self-image.