Who and as a result, stereotypes such as

Who are you? How
would you describe yourself? There are simply two types of responses to this
question: a positive and a negative. One may say they kind-hearted and
hard-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 of
the looking glass self, created by sociologist Charles Cooley. Cooley’s theory
states that a person’s self is developed through their social interactions with
others. Self-image does not necessarily come from who one actually is as a
person, but how one believes others perceive them (The Looking Glass Self,
2013). Society has shaped people’s minds into believing that self-imagine is a
mirror image of the environment exposed to them. According to Cooley, this
theory has three steps. First, one will imagine how they look to others. This
imagination may be incorrect because it is merely based on assumptions. Next,
one will imagine judgements others make of them. Lastly, one forms an identity
based on what one feels people think of them (Desai, V).

 

This concept
continues to be extremely important in today’s society. One of the biggest
causes of this is media. Various types of media are present almost everywhere
and as a result, stereotypes such as gender norms are being created and accepted promoted. From a  very young age, gender roles are ingrained
into the minds of the younger generations. A key example is how girls are shown
playing with “Easy-Bake Ovens” and “Baby Alive” dolls while
boys are shown playing with action figures and toy trucks. This creates false
assumptions and traps younger audiences in stereotypes that are solely based on
a constructed idea of gender. to the young audience. A young girl will have the
idea instilled in her mind that since she is a female, her role in society
solely revolves around housework and menial activities. Consequently, if she
believes everybody in society sees females this way, she will adjust her
behaviour and change her overall identity to reflect this norm.  

 

Going along with the
theme 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 the
media puts onto these unrealistic standards is threatening the confidence and esteem
of people around the world. Statistics shows that “out of 7.4 billion
total population, 2.3 billion are active users on social media”(Khew, J,
2016). Advertisements on such platforms are the ones that promote such
impractical beauty standards. In today’s society, even in the comfort of one’s
home, there are advertisements everywhere, constantly publicizing the need to
be a desirable man or woman. This pressure is exactly what causes people to
believe they must look and act a certain way because that is the
“norm”.

 

The looking glass
self can even be used to manipulate the responses of others. One might boast to
their friends about how much alcohol they can drink because they want to
impress them. On the other hand, one would probably hide this information from
their boss because they want to maintain a professional ego. People are always
adjusting their self-image based on the type of people they are with to
generate a specific response. It is like a different mask is being put on for
each social interaction. 

 

Everyone wants to
please others. However, if it comes to the point where one concludes that the
opinions of others are come before their own, they may live their life
according to society’s expectations. This is why the concept of the looking
glass self will never go out of date. As long as one continues interacting in
society, they will always be vulnerable to changing their self-image. 

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