Charles Horton Cooley pioneered his idea of the looking-glass self over 100 years ago. It was one of the first important ideas in the interactionist perspective in sociology. This idea holds that we develop our sense of self through an interactive process that takes into account how we think others see us. There are three principal aspects to this.
First, there is the aspect of our imagination of how others see us. We try to see ourselves through the eyes of others. Do they think that we are “cool?” Do they think we are good-looking? We try to imagine the answers to these questions.
Second, there is the aspect of our own judgment of how others view us. Here, we try to compare our own view of ourself with our perception of the views of others. If I see myself as friendly, I want to know if other people see me in that way as well.
Finally, there is the aspect of how we feel about the other two aspects. Here, we are essentially judging ourselves. We are asking if we are proud of ourselves or if we feel bad about ourselves.
Thus, we create our own identities in an interactive process. We cannot define ourselves except through this process of interacting with society’s view of us.