Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Theoretical Reflections on Peer Judgments

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Theoretical Reflections on Peer Judgments

Article excerpt

We are all absorbed in a constant struggle to find ourselves. From the time we are born, every experience becomes a piece in the puzzle that may or may not eventually integrate into the whole person. Both society and ourselves play a major role in deciding what kind of people we will be. It is through our interactions with others that we form opinions of ourselves. Throughout my own personal struggle to find myself, society has had an effect on both micro and macro levels.

A significant problem in my life arose at about the time I entered middle school. At this point in my life, I began to more than before take into account the opinions and attitudes of others. The situation was escalated by the fact that I became overweight and had to start wearing glasses, both of which caused me to become tremendously self-conscious. My self-consciousness stemmed from my increasing attention to how others thought of me. Now I see how symbolic interaction affected my self-identity formation. It seemed as though all at once I had become the fat, four-eyed girl. For the other children, my weight and the glasses acted as symbols for how they should treat me. They felt that based on these symbols, it was acceptable to treat me with less respect and dignity. This treatment was well illustrated in the movie, Erin Brockovich. When Erin begins working in the lawyer's office, she is not accepted by her co-workers because of her style of dress. Her clothing becomes a symbol for the other workers' cruelty towards her. They ignore her, and are rude and unhelpful to her at every opportunity. However, Erin does not let their negative opinions of her stand in her way, and in the end she earns their respect through her hard work and great accomplishments. As can be seen, there are certain symbols in society, such as weight or provocative clothing, which signal to others the opportunity to judge and to behave in certain ways. According to George Herbert Mead, "Our actions are always engaged with the actions of others, whose responses to what we do send us signals as to their approval or disapproval" (Farganis 159). I also looked toward others for their opinions of me, and then allowed their reactions to gauge how I felt about myself. As is common among children of middle school age, my classmates were quite cruel toward me. This led me to believe that their harsh comments were true, and that I was truly worthless. These events, in turn, triggered the gradual decline of my self-esteem and overall self-worth.

As time went on, my conceived notions of others' opinions gradually became a part of me, and came to shape my overall self-concept. As hard as I tried to ignore the cruel comments of others, they eventually became subconsciously embedded inside my mind. This was especially the case when this harsh attitude came from my own significant others. In particular, I can recall one of my cousins who used to derive pure pleasure from making fun of me. This specific cousin was several years older than I, and she was someone whom I had always looked up to and strived to be like. Charles Horton Cooley's "looking-glass self" concept helps explain this. The idea is basically that we judge ourselves based on our perceptions of other people's opinions of us, which in turn, affect our feelings about ourselves. In her article, "Repairing the Soul: Matching Inner with Outer Beauty," Kristy Canfield adds that the looking-glass self, "shapes our ability to contemplate our existence and to project ourselves into the past and future" (Canfield 24). Another concept put forth by Mead is reflexivity, which is defined as "the capacity to use and respond to language, symbols, and thoughts" (Farganis 159). This has to do with how we manipulate our actions in order for them to fit the expectations of others. Mead goes on to state, as quoted earlier, that "Our actions are always engaged with the actions of others, whose responses to what we do send us signals as to their approval or disapproval" (Farganis 159). …

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