Imagined self-image


You would have often heard this term known as the ‘looking glass’ within the context of ‘self’. It’s a magnifying glass, metaphorically , it enlarges your ‘self’ making you zoom in on your flaws and quirks and zoom out on your perks.

The self develops in three distinctive phases according to the Looking glass self theory by Charles Horton Cooley :

  • We imagine how we present ourselves to others.

  • We imagine how others evaluate us.

  • We develop some sort of feeling about ourselves based upon our perception of what we think others have of us.

The ‘self,’ then, emerges from one’s individual imagination of what we think others think of us. One critical element to this is that we may perceive someone’s impression of us incorrectly. We see ourselves through the eyes of other people, even to the extent of incorporating their views of us into our own self-concept.

Our perceptions are colored by what others think of us and how they form impressions about us. Very often, as a child you might have berated yourself for lack of popularity, simply because others saw you as just a random person than an influential peer.


An interaction doesn’t stop at the end of a conversation and after you bid goodbye to your friend/acquaintance/relative etc.. The actual interaction begins in the mind after the real one is over.
What was that I said to him ? Hope he didn’t take me wrong. Wish I hadn’t said it.. An endless array of questions over bygone rendezvous keep cropping up and you have no control.

How do you get over the looking glass self ? You can’t as no man is an island. You can’t give up interacting with others. Any amount of socialising will cause some interruptions in one’s self-perception. If someone says something against your beliefs, it causes some disturbance to your way of thinking or you feel threatened in an intellectual sense.

Yet you allow the looking glass self to help you better your sense of self rather than playing havoc with it. You don’t allow anybody’s opinions to diminish your sense of self but at the same time you use it strengthen your own beliefs especially when they form the ‘whole’ and core of you.

The opinions of others exist not to validate them and demean you. It’s just their way of thinking and not to put you down. Just because someone has a different approach towards your situation doesn’t mean you have to change yourself.
As long as you take others’ evaluation of you as a constructive feedback or just another way of seeing things, you won’t allow them to distort how you see yourself.

No doubt some level of discomfort will bubble inside you when someone imparts their knowledge onto you. Some just wanna show off their wittiness on you but that shouldn’t affect you or stop you from living your life. You can also imbibe someone else’s critique persona and try to project it as a more assertive repartee the next time someone contradicts your perceptions.

Assume a colleague of yours feels you’re too punctual to work, adhering too courteously to deadlines and you have got no life except work, since you’re always on time and leave no work unfinished. You feel this as more like a taunt rather than appreciation or awe.

The next time you engage in such a conversation with him, tell him how much work means to you and that other things are secondary.
Work enlivens you rather than partying with friends, letting hangover take you arriving late to the office.

Wayne Dyer says that what other people think of you is none of your business but sometimes if you make it none of your business, they go on and on. You gotta give back in a polite and ‘I seriously mean it’ vibe.

Other people dish out negative opinions which more or so reflect their own limiting beliefs about life. When you hear your friend saying, creativity has no value in a robotic world, it’s because maybe your pal isn’t that innovative and prefers machinated tasks. That doesn’t make him less worthy yet it’s his limitation that made him say such a thing in the first place.

You can develop the skill to recognize and ignore these. You don’t have to disagree with them on the spot if it doesn’t feel comfortable to do so. But put the mental blinkers on, and try visualizing how you’d go about creating a favourable outcome the next time when you feel intimidated by someone.


4 thoughts on “Imagined self-image

  1. This is something I struggled with when younger, I would see myself in a different light if the people around about me saw myself in that way. It has taken me a long time before I have been able to separate other people’s views from my own.

  2. I used to fall into the trap of trying to be the kind of person I thought others would like. I wanted everyone to like me. As I have aged, I find I am less critical of myself… I am who I am, not everyone will like me.

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