Wednesday, July 27, 2011

31 Days of Victory : {Day 27} "The Looking Glass-Self"

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness, into His wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9 

According to the research of sociologist, Charles Horton Cooley, we base our perception of self on how we think others see us. This theory has been named “The Looking-Glass Self.”

There are three principle elements of Cooley‘s idea. The first is that we imagine how we look to other people. Secondly, we imagine people’s reaction to our appearance. Lastly, some self-feeling such as pride or shame is produced based on our conclusion of the perception of others.

In all honesty, I have to say that Cooley’s theory has been very true in my life. However, as I examine this concept, I have to wonder why I would place so much value in something as finicky as the opinion of man. Let’s be honest. We all have been affected by the way others perceive us. If you have been praised for your academic excellence all your life, you will perceive yourself as smart. If you are made fun of most of your life, you will perceive yourself an outsider. If you are encouraged and admired, you might perceive your works as good. If you are rejected, condemned or discouraged, you might see your efforts as bad. 

One very important aspect of Cooley’s philosophy is the influence of a significant other. It is believed that if there is a significant other, such as parent, spouse or best friend present in our lives, their perception of us will always outweigh the perception of others.

For instance, if your parent(s) are constantly reprimanding you and making you feel shame, no matter how much praise you receive at school or work, you will always come back to the feelings of shame or inadequacy that resulted from your parent(s) actions and or words. Likewise, if your significant other is a spouse or parent or best friend who constantly encourages, praises and supports you, no matter how much opposition and discouragement you receive from work or those around you, you will always end up resting in the confidence that your significant other provides for you.

The challenge in the entire “Looking Glass-Self” philosophy is that our whole identity and self-worth is wrapped up in the opinion of man and what we think others have perceived of us. The truth is, we don’t truly know all the details of how others perceive us. We are not mind readers. We are not inside their heads. This implies that our entire self-perception may be faulty because it is all based on assumptions, which aren’t always reliable to say the least! Moreover, our significant others, even if they're absolutely wonderful, are fallible humans who can sometimes let us down. It would be unfair for us to idolize them, allowing them to control our perception of self.

The Good News is, there is a solution to this dilemma! The only person who can clearly articulate exactly who we are, without any mistakes, is Christ. His Word details the identity of the believer.

What God says about us may not be what people think of us, or even what we think of ourselves, but God's truth about us is unshakable. My mama always says, "Everything is negotiable accept the Word of God." My husband says, "The cool thing about the truth is, it's true whether you believe it or not." Furthermore, we know His words are trustworthy. 

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”- Numbers 23:19

If our significant other becomes Christ, then His heart for us and identity for us will always outweigh the opinions of others. This does not mean that words will no longer hurt and insecurity or pride will never try to creep back in. It simply means that if we choose to make Jesus our foundation, the standard by which we view ourselves, we will find the most accurate, firm definition and perception of self. {Wow! Talk about godly confidence!}

"To see yourself the way God sees you is the beginning of freedom." - Bechah Shae

We will find hope and genuine significance as we see Christ’s reflection when we peer into the looking glass. 

Have you been wearing the labels other people have placed on you? Has your identity, or worth been rooted in the opinion of others or the truth of Gods Word?

I pray that you truly find yourself as you sit at the feet of Jesus. And if ever you lose your sense of self again, remember that the best place to retrieve it is in His presence. 

To learn more about who Christ says you are, visit Day 5 : Identity. If you have been wounded by the negative opinion of others, I encourage you to visit Day 22 : Forgiveness.

With God, Victory is certain.

Monique Zackery

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  1. So true! How much better to allow God to "rate" us! Well written friend.

  2. This is so refreshing and true. Thanks for writing it and writing it well. Dropped by from Blog Frog to follow.

  3. Beautiful, Monique. God being our significant other. Love that...

  4. Thanks for commenting, ladies! Rebecca, I'm so glad you stopped by! Thanks for following. Blessings!

  5. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog! thanks for posting! I am going to link to my author fb!


"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." - Proverbs 16:24