Looking Glass Self': How Social Interactions Shape Our Identities

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 756 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Apr 17, 2023

Words: 756|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Apr 17, 2023

The term looking glass self was created by Charles Horton Cooley in his essay on Human Nature and the Social Order. He was an American sociologist who used this term to describe it as our reflection of how we think we appear to others. To further explain would be how self-imagines how others view them. An example would be one's mother would view their child as flawless, while another person would think differently. 

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Charles Horton Cooley takes into account three steps when using 'the looking glass self'. Step one is how one imagines one looks to other people. Step two is how one imagines the judgment of others based on how one thinks they view them. Step three is how one thinks of how the person views them based on their previous judgments. The looking-glass self-comprises three main components that are unique to humans.

  1. We imagine how we must appear to others in a social situation.
  2. We imagine and react to what we feel their judgment of that appearance must be.
  3. We develop our sense of self and respond through these perceived judgments of others.


The result is that individuals will change their behavior based on what they feel other people think about them, even if not necessarily true. In this way, social interaction acts as a 'mirror' or a 'looking-glass,' since one's sense of self and self-esteem is built off of others. For example, an individual may walk into a job interview with confidence and attempt to display this confidence. A person in this situation most often examines the reactions of the interviewers to see if they are positively or negatively reacting to it. If the individual notices positive reactions, such as nodding heads or smiles, this might further develop the individual's sense of self-confidence. If the individual notices negative reactions, such as a lack of interest, this confidence in self often becomes shaken and reformed in order to better oneself, even if the perceived judgments were not necessarily true.

There is an example of how this term can work in daily situations. As a child, I vividly remember feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment when my parents praised me for my achievements or good behavior. I also recall feeling ashamed or embarrassed when I received criticism or negative feedback. These experiences shaped my self-concept and influenced how I saw myself in relation to others. As I grew older, my experiences with the looking-glass self became more complex. I began to internalize the expectations and standards of my peers and social groups, and felt pressure to conform to these norms. This often led to feelings of anxiety and insecurity, as I struggled to fit in and be accepted by others. For example, in high school, I was part of a popular group of friends who were focused on social status and appearance. I felt pressure to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and conform to their standards in order to be accepted. This led to a cycle of comparison and self-doubt, as I constantly evaluated myself based on the reactions and opinions of my peers. Over time, however, I began to recognize the limitations of the looking-glass self. I realized that relying solely on external validation and approval could be damaging to my self-esteem and sense of identity. I learned to prioritize my own values and beliefs, and to develop a more authentic sense of self that was not dependent on the opinions of others.

Cooley’s empirical evidence derives from his observations of children. Drawing from his observations of his own daughter as she developed her ability to use the looking-glass self, Cooley noted that children are especially incentivized to learn how to use the looking-glass self well, as it helps them in a competition for care from members of their primary group. According to Cooley, the human mind is social and mental. This means that the mental processes occurring in the human mind are the direct result of social interaction. Charles Cooley proposed three steps to how interactions with others form self-identity:

  1. People imagine how they appear to other people;
  2. People imagine how others are thus judging them based on appearance and how they present themselves;
  3. People imagine how others feel about them based on the judgments they make.


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In conclusion, the concept of the 'looking-glass self' highlights the important role that social interactions and feedback play in shaping our sense of identity and self-worth. From childhood through adulthood, we are constantly influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of those around us, and this can have a significant impact on our self-concept.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Looking Glass Self’: How Social Interactions Shape Our Identities. (2023, April 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
“Looking Glass Self’: How Social Interactions Shape Our Identities.” GradesFixer, 17 Apr. 2023,
Looking Glass Self’: How Social Interactions Shape Our Identities. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2024].
Looking Glass Self’: How Social Interactions Shape Our Identities [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Apr 17 [cited 2024 May 29]. Available from:
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