Looking in the mirror

At 4 am there’s a peacefulness that’s completely relaxing for me. It is now, and has always been, my time to get away from it all and have some alone time. Sometimes I simply play mindless games as an escape from thinking about the bigger meaning of my life, but since I have been writing every morning I now think about it. I obsess about it. And while it seems as I may only do that in the self-centered manner of which I am attempting to overcome, I mostly think about the bigger meaning of my life as it relates to others. Like everyone else, I need other people for social connections that provide comfort and security, a sense of belonging, and even the validation that I’m unconditionally loved. In my obsessive thinking though, I realized that my need for these interpersonal relationships is reciprocal- or should be, to be included in my thoughts. And yes, it’s tied into yet another social psychological theory that I am going to over-analyze, Charles Cooley’s looking glass self.

It’s actually a really simple idea: a person’s self grows out of society’s interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. Or written differently, we form our self-images through interaction with other people. Both state the same idea, but because I worry about interpretation, I feel I need to include both. The first part of Cooley’s theory is about how we imagine a significant other perceives us. From there, we imagine the judgement that he or she has made about us in relation to that perception. And finally, we form and develop our own self-image based on that significant other’s judgement. The keyword there that makes this theory a bit fuzzy and flawed, is obviously significant other; a significant other is someone whose opinions matter to us and who is in a position to influence our thinking, especially about ourselves; they can be anyone: a parent, sibling, spouse, best friend, or even an acquaintance. The person looking in the mirror is who assigns that significant other. Reciprocity isn’t even needed. But moving on and summing up…according to Cooley, we basically assign a persona of ourselves to other people, we analyze that fictional character, and then alter ourselves to “fit” and placate these significant others in an attempt to grow and help to understand our own self image.

Cooley’s theory to me is more about the difference between the REAL ME (the hopeless optimist with little drippy tears) and the ME who I show everyone. And maybe the ME that I show everyone is my looking glass self, my persona, that fictional character who wants to placate everyone and make everyone happy (like Cooley says), but I’m not that persona to grow or understand my self image. I’m that persona because it’s easier to be that ME and I’m too scared to give that assignment of significant other to people to see the REAL ME. I’m still that ME, the one with the shoulders back and the smile, there’s just MORE DEPTH to me that only my true significant other’s know about. And I recently discovered that I have more true significant others than I even knew I did. They kind of snuck up on me, surprising me, adding to my true self image- as I hope I add to theirs. And I do understand my self image- both of them. They both have purpose: one to use as a shield to protect myself from potential little drippy tears, and the other to cling to the foolish hope that I will find more significant others to knock those walls down. I really do like both ME’s and know their purpose. And yes, I’m still an obsessive idiot…


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