Charles Cooley´s theory of the looking glass self proclaims that a person’s self develops out of their social interactions with others. How one views themselves comes from the impression of how others perceive them. The main point is that people shape themselves based on their limited understanding of how others view them. We form our self-image as the reflections of the evaluation and response of how others see us in our environment (The Looking-Glass Self, 2017).
Many individuals believe that clothing might be a representation of how others might see them. For example, no one would wear brands such as Supreme if it wasn’t known to have a socially valuable meaning. When people wear such brands, they hope that society will identify them with what those brands represent. In the case of many high-end brands, people purchase their clothing so others will regard them as young, reputable, in style. The way people choose to dress is based off of what they think other people will like and how they will fit in, it is not about what they prefer themselves. This aligns with Cooley’s theory of the looking glass self as individuals are constantly trying to take control of how others perceive them but are unaware of how they do it.
Gender roles are also largely based off the looking glass theory, especially today. Society dictates that each gender come’s with a set of standards for activities, clothing, how other people should view them, and expectations regarding suitable behaviour and interactions with others (Socialization into Gender, 2017). However, those concepts are becoming outdated as more women have entered the workforce and are stepping outside of their accustomed positions, though the development and welfare are a lengthy process. Often in the workplace women will find themselves having to prove their worth to acquire the same status as men. At birth we are all born equals, it is through our encounters and socialization with others that negative self-concepts and beliefs come into being, and that is when social change is needed the most (Socialization into Gender, 2017).
Another case is Body Image, which might sound insignificant when compared to society, though in reality, it plays a huge role. It can be defined as how individuals view themselves in terms of weight, shape, and size. Body Image has the ability to control people’s lives and force them to treat their body harshly, sometimes by not eating unwarily. Discrimination against your appearance can take a vast toll on a person, whether it be staring at someone, looking them up and down, or showing overall discomfort towards them based solely on how they look. All of these factors might convey negative messages to the person, which will encourage them to lean towards the societal approving behaviour out of fear and away from who they have to potential to be and to become.
Overall, people must have confidence and realize “our concept of who we are, our self, emerges as we interact with others. The self is our sense of who we are, distinct from others and shaped by the unique combination of our social interactions” (Charles Horton Cooley). Forever will people always try to dictate how other people should live, what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Though, people are entitled to their own opinions and no one should have to give in to someone else’s self-image of them.