The Looking Glass Self


The Looking glass Self narrates the process where in individuals base their belief of self how others view them. It is a type of mirror in which individual is seen by the society around him. As a result Individual knows his personality , his worth, values and behaviour.

Looking glass self theory was developed by the Sociologist Charles Cooley. Other members of Society affect Self esteem and perception of the individual. What is important is how others respond. These responses may be real or perceived. But both can impact person’s image.

There are different contents of this theory.

(1)    Looking glass self and self image.

(2)    Looking glass self theory.

(3)    Examples of looking glass self.

(4)    Lesson. Summary.

There are three steps of looking glass self.

(a)    How one imagines one looks to other people.

(b)   How one imagines the judgement of others based on how one thinks they view of them.

(c)    How one thinks of how the person views them based on their previous judgements.

The concept of Looking glass self expresses the tendency for one to understand one self through the perception of others. Society is a mirror. The result is to change our behaviour accordingly. For example, when one faces the interview, he will notice the reaction of the interviewers. If it is positive, it is ok. But if it is negative, the candidate should change his outlook and presentation.

The mind is mental, because the Human mind is Social. From the birth itself When child smiles at the mother, mother also smiles. This is the genesis of sociology. When child cries it seen he/she is in need of food. It needs attention of others. An eminent sociologist has said-A growing solidarity between mother and child parallels the child’s increasing competence in using significant symbols. This simultaneous development is itself a necessary prerequisite for the child’s ability to adopt the perspectives of others in society. And it makes the child to develop social self.

Looking glass self is a peculiar social phenomenon. For example the former Hindi film actress Vyjayantimala was most satisfied with her role in the film-Amrapali. But the film was a flop. That means the filmgoers did not like the performance. It is ironical that nuances of the acting could not be perceived by the audience (others). That means the audience is average audience. The crowd is unthinking crowd. It is unfortunate.

So Looking glass self is not without criticism. The members of Society can not be in infallible. They have also their limitations. Sometimes individual is Superior to society. So a Greek philosopher has said – Do not explain your philosophy.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)

Radhakanta Seth is an Income tax officer in Sambalpur.  He is a Freelance writer and his articles have been published in some Oriya dailies like Sambad, Samaj, Dharitri and English dailies like The Telegraph and in a sociological journal ‘Folklore’ published from Kolkata.