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The Looking Glass Self

In the early 20th century, sociologist Charles Horton Cooley came up with the concept of “the looking glass self”, meaning that we humans have a tendency to see ourselves in the way that we believe others see us.

If we think that other people like us, we will think that we are likeable. If we think that they consider us flawed in some way, we will have a tendency to see ourselves in the same light.

There are several difficulties that can arise when we live our lives in this manner. First of all, we do not control what other people think.

Secondly, we do not know what other people are thinking. We are therefore basing our concept of ourselves on what is often an errant and negative assumption.

We can also be very hard on ourselves. The world around us is also constantly bombarding us with images of what it means to be beautiful, intelligent and successful, and if we do not “measure up”, we think that there is something wrong with us.

As humans, we all have a tendency to be impacted by “the looking glass self.” When we are mindful of this, we are able to ask ourselves whether or not we really know the opinions of others, whether or not their opinions are important, and whether or not they align with our own ideas of what is right. From there we can make the choices that bring us the greatest peace.

When we live our lives this way, we find that we are able to be our best selves, regardless of how others may see us.

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