Looking Glass Self Theory: Establishing Identity Through Social Relations

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Charles Horton Cooley, a sociologist wanted to understand why humans behave the way they do. He came up with the concept of looking glass self which explains that self is a social product (Yeung & Martin, 2003). The concept of looking glass self is made up of 3 components including: we imagine how we must appear to others in a certain situation; we imagine and react to what we feel their judgement of that appearance must be; we develop our sense of self and respond through this perceived judgements of others (Shaffer, 2005). It is evident that individuals will change their behaviour based on what they feel based on what other people think about them even if it may not always be true (Shaffer, 2005). For example, a girl wearing a new outfit and goes to school thinking she looks amazing, she notices her classmates are staring at her and thinks they are staring at her because they think she looks amazing too. This explains that she is imagining how she is appearing to others in a certain situation because she thinks she looks amazing, so others must think so as well because they are staring. 

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Relating this to Fatima, in order to analyze how Charles Cooley views yoga as an intervention for an individual with an autoimmune disease that is suffering for physical and mental pain from surgery and a permanent “poop bag”. Cooley implied that we understand how we understand ourselves, our own self conceptions by how other see us (Yeung & Martin, 2003). He argued that we are influence by people we see as an influence or powerful to us, for example, that could mean a professor, a boss, a partner, family etc. and because of the influence of them, we adopt their judgement of ourselves (Yeung & Martin, 2003). Cooley would argue that people around Fatima would see this colostomy bag as something that is “disgusting” and because other people think that, the person with the actual disease and stoma will start to think that as well, which will affect their mental health causing depression and body dysmorphia which may cause the person to not want to be sociable or have any interactions with society and people. 

Cooley would agree that since yoga is something that helps alleviate physical and mental pain, it is important to participate in to make a specific person in this case to be more confident so the people around him/her would sense this person to be a confident person and altogether since the important people around him would sense that, the actual person would perceive themselves as that as well. People around would see this specific person as more than someone who is sick but rather someone who is confident. Studies suggest that people can affect the perceptions other have of them by actually working to bring others perception into line with their self-perception (Yeung & Martin, 2003). Therefore, Cooley would agree with the intervention yoga because if yoga can change how you see yourself, it will change how others see you as well. Since one’s self-esteem is built off of others, it is important to do things that will give us confidence to show others the confidence, so they believe we have confidence. 

On the other hand, Cooley would not agree that Fatima should be in a big social group participating in yoga because she is already going through some trauma and to have people around her, judge her when she is at her weakest will make it worse. People will see her as weak, they will notice she has a bag and they might not want to be around her, this will lower her self-esteem because once she notices how others treat her and see her, she will see herself that way as well. So, it is important to start her off alone with a yoga instructor who does not act any different around her and then once she is more confident and body dysmorphia and depression have decrease, she can slowly star to integrate herself into a group setting. Looking back at the 3 components of looking glass self, once she is confident, other people will see that she is confident and they will treat her like everyone else and once she realizes that, her confidence will continue to increase. 

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