A Blog about Career Changes, Madness, and My Awful Brain

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Looking Glass Self

It's funny how things never work out like you expect them to.

When I started this blog, my intention was two-fold. I wanted to get out some of the feelings I've been keeping cooped up inside me, and I wanted...well....I just wanted to DO something. Sure, looking for a job is supposed to be your full time job when your not employed, but it isn't something you can do for 8 hours a day. Well, I can't anyways; being continuously rejected for jobs you don't want, and not really getting paid for it (or being paid really shitty for it if you count EI) is less a full-time job and more of a soul-sucking mind fuck. And really, for my soul-sucking mind fuck needs I much prefer watching Glee or Jersey Shore than job searching.

What was NOT my intention when starting this blog was to start connecting with other people or to start changing how I saw the world. I hoped people might like it, and I hoped I might get some positive feedback, but that's about it. My hope was not very strong, though....I'm not sure why, but I thought that exposing some of the things I went through would turn people off. What I expected was that what you would see in me was weakness; for all I know, some of you do. I was fully ready to lose friends on facebook, and maybe even in real life, because I thought that people might see me as pathetic.

But nothing could be further from the truth. I've already received a lot of feedback on my blog, and to my surprise, it was extremely positive. Hell, I've had 3 people call me "brave" and I was even told I was"amazing". HA! The last time someone called me amazing was in grade 3 or 4. I got a certificate with a smiling egg on it that said I was Grade A Amazing. Lol...a compliment in pun form? Fuck, i'll take it.

My biggest suprise, however, was how I felt. I had a feeling of complete freedom when I hit the Publish Post button. It really got me thinking about some things....

When I was taking one of my sociology classes in University, I came across an idea written by sociologist Charles H. Cooley called the Looking Glass Self. Basically, the theory is that what we think of our self is a reflection of what others see when they look at us. Instead of giving you a clumsy defninition, I'll just give you an excerpt of the wikipedia article:

"The looking-glass self[1] is a social psychological concept, created by Charles Horton Cooley in 1902 (McIntyre 2006), stating that a person's self grows out of society's interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. The term refers to people shaping themselves based on other people's perception, which leads the people to reinforce other people's perspectives on themselves. People shape themselves based on what other people perceive and confirm other people's opinion on themselves. It also leads to expectancy effect.

"In a very large and interesting class of cases the social reference takes the form of a somewhat definite imagination of how one's self--that is any idea he appropriates--appears in a particular mind, and the kind of self-feeling one has is determined by the attitude toward this attributed to that other mind. A social self of this sort might be called the reflected or looking glass self:

'Each to each a looking-glass Reflects the other that doth pass.'"

This concept really "fit" with my experiences. It's not exactly revolutionary...I've always realized that I was a different person depending on who I was around and I'm guessing you do to. When I'm around some friends, I'm a gregarious, clever, funny guy. When I'm around others, I'm a little more serious and less prone to making jokes. Sometimes, when I'm around certain people, I love the person I am and feel a little more "real". With others, it seems I can't be that guy I love even though I'm sure they would have no objection to him. In essence, this leads me to questions about who "I" really am and why I can't always be the person who I want to be. I think that the Looking Glass Self is at least a partial answer.

Think about it...has it ever happened to you that you've met someone under a certain set of circumstances and that it's colored your relationship with that person for the rest of your life? Have you ever been labeled by a person and behaved in the manner you were labeled, even though you know that the label isn't accurate? Have your parents or friends told you were smart, "not school smart", practical, good with your hands, sickly, tough, cheap, nice, athletic, non-athletic, strong-willed, a delinquent, rebellious, good, bad, responsible, unorganized, etc? Think carefully....were those labels accurate because they described who YOU are, or because you lived up to them? Did you want to be somebody else, or feel like somebody else, as you did what they expected you to?

The reason I'm discussing this is that because when I hit the Publish Post I realized that the person who wrote those posts was ME. The person who I am, and the person who I want to be. I know that a lot of people post only positive things on their facebook pages or on their blogs. They post things that make them look good to other people. In contrast, I generally feel like the person I am on facebook. The person I am when I post on this blog. I'm not trying to be something I'm not, and I'm not trying to impress you. And the sense of freedom I got when I opened myself up to you....that's the freedom that comes with introducing your real self to the world.

I know that a lot of you have conceptions of who I am, and that the things that I write on this blog or on Facebook may not mesh with your ideas about who I am. I may not seem like the person that you know. Maybe the me you know is not very funny. Maybe the me that you know is not very emotional. Maybe the me that you know seems cold and rigid. In that case, I want to suggest to you that the person you know in "real life" is not the person I am, but a simple reflection of the person I believe that you think I am. My Looking Glass Self, so to speak.

If that is the case, then let me introduce the real me.

Hi, I'm Dan. It's nice to meet you.

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