The Shyness Project

Looking Glass Self: What you see is what you get

There’s a theory in sociology called “looking glass self”.

This theory basically states that we are socialized to accept the judgment of others and reflect it back to others.

To illustrate what I mean, imagine you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone. You notice that the people look at you with friendly faces and appear to like you.  So in response, you act friendly and smile back at them.

You have a positive experience because you have a positive perception.

On the other hand, what if the opposite occurs?  What if you notice that people are looking at you with blank faces, and seem to be whispering about you and judging you?  In return you may act defensive, hang back, and give off signals that you don’t like them either.

Perceptions can be wrong.  But all we have to go by are our perceptions.

And because of this, I have found that being in the right mindset is extremely important in making friends.

I’ve heard some of my former high school classmates who are going to the same school as I am directly say that the people there aren’t friendly.  They’re mean and they stare at you.  And I’ve read status updates on Facebook of people who say that they feel so lonely at this school because they don’t know anyone, and they haven’t made any friends.

These remarks were a total surprise to me.  I’m going to the exact same school as them, so how could I have had such a completely different experience?  I had an amazing first week of school, and made several friends.  I was thrilled at the prospect of being able to talk to anybody in the school and become friends with them.  It was a whole new ball park for me, and was nothing like the cliquey and divided high school I attended.

Why was my experience so different from several of my former classmates?

Without a doubt, it was because my perceptions were different.  In my eager pursuit of seeking out new friends, I unknowingly had the perception that each person I approached was friendly and just as hopeful to make friends as I was.

And you know what?  That perception turned out to be very true.  Every time I mentioned that I was hoping to meet new people and make new friends, the person I had started talking to said that they wanted to do the very same thing.

I know making friends isn’t always easy.  I had to initiate a majority of the friendships I’ve made, but all it took was for me to open my mouth and say something to them, anything.  In my experience, asking a question has been the easiest way to start a conversation.   In particular, during the first week of school it is very easy to ask someone a question, like “Is this the textbook we need?” or “This is speech class with Mrs. East right?”  And from there, you can introduce yourself, they’ll introduce themselves, and then you can talk about college and majors if you like.  If you don’t know someone and you’re in a certain setting like school, talking about that setting is a great way to get talking.  And by the end of the conversation, all you have to do is ask to exchange contact information.  Facebook is a great way to go, and cell numbers work well too.  Then be sure to keep in touch with them, and before you know it, you’ve made a friend!  Simple as that.

When you hold a positive perception that people are friendly, then you are going to get positive results back.  So be sure to take notice of how you’re viewing a situation or a group of people, because your perceptions have more power in determining your experiences than you may realize.

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19 thoughts on “Looking Glass Self: What you see is what you get

  1. I really enjoyed the incite in this post. It really brings light to the idea that we actually project what we perceive…there’s a whole Pandora’s Box to be explored there….very thought provoking.

    Feel free to check out my blog as well.


  2. Positive attitude collects positive ones.Negative attitude collects negative ones.
    It’s truth all the world.I agree with your thought. 🙂

  3. This is true. In our General Psychology class when I was still in college, our professor told us that “whatever the mind can conceive, the body can achieve” and I guess the same thing goes with “looking glass self” If what your mind feeds you is positive, your body will correspond with positive energy, hence a positive result. (and vice versa) 🙂

    I hope by the time I go back to college, this time in your country, it won’t be that hard for me. 🙂

    • Yeah that sounds about right! I’m sure there is a psychological theory named for it too. I remember hearing something like that when I took psychology before.

      Haha I’m sure it will go great! Where are you going to be studying you think? I’d say come to California but I’m biased! 😉 You’ll meet people wherever you go! Thanks Jess!

  4. Great post! You have to take that step forward and not worry about what others think of you. If we hang back in the shadows and hide then we are missing out on a lot of opportunities to meet great people.

    • Yeah it’s easy to miss a lot of opportunities, just being open to new people and new surroundings gives you a better chance of having good experiences. It’s amazing how just being in the right place at the right time or meeting that one person can make a big difference in your life. 🙂

  5. I’m the same, when I meet other dogs I just wag my tail and go straight up to them, 9 times out of 10 they will want to be friends

    • LOL nice to communicate with you Bones! I’ve never gotten a chance to have a two-way conversation with a dog before! I’m glad that technique is working for you, maybe I’ll have to get a tail or something. 😉 A lot of dogs do know the art of making friends pretty well though, they could teach people a thing or two about befriending. Thanks Bones!

  6. Such a useful post for all of us, not just those starting at college for the first time, Brittany: each day we need to test our own perceptions: positive ones so often make a great day 🙂

    • Thanks Kate! 🙂 This does indeed transcend past college and is really something we all at any age should make an effort to be aware of. It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make!

  7. Brava, Brittany! Just think – many of the people you befriended were likely hanging back and feeling lonely just like your old friends who have have been feeling negative. So many people are just waiting for someone else to make the first move!

    • Thanks Patti! 🙂 It is cool that I got to befriend these people and bring them into my life. A lot of people do hang back and it’s really hard to rely on them coming up to you. It’s best to just initiate ourselves instead of waiting. 🙂

  8. Very good point! 🙂

  9. That was some pretty deep thinking, young lady! Well done. Your conclusions were spot-on.

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