Shaping Our Identity
An exploration of three theories of identity
The Looking Glass Theory
Definition: People use the way that they think others seem them to shape their identity
Founders or Theory: Charles Horton CooleyElements of the Theory: We use people around us to form who we are (our identity) and what others say reflect on how we think of ourselves.
This theory differs from James Marcia's theory because this theory discusses how people care how other people view them, while James Marcia's discusses how once people have reached identity achievement, they are no longer "dependent on acceptance from other people".
James Marcia’s Identity Theory
Definition: there are four major identity statuses, or degrees to which a person has achieved their identity
Founders or Theory: James Marcia
Elements of the Theory: The four major identity statuses
- Identity diffusion: no strong opinions, desires, or dreams for the future; the person has no idea who they are or what they want
- Foreclosure: the person has made commitments to beliefs and a future without truly exploring the options
- Moratorium: continuously explore other options and experiment with identity and belief, but never really find something that makes them happy- Identity Achievement: people have explored their identity and finally made commitments that make them comfortable and happy
James Marcia's Identity Theory deals with four steps, while the Looking Glass Theory says there are only three steps to discovering ones identity - "First, we imagine how we appear to another person... Second, we imagine what judgements people make of us based on our appearance. Lastly, we imagine how the person feels about us, based on the judgements made of our appearance."
Definition: We develop our identities by hanging around others, or by our social interactions
Founders or Theory: George Herbert Mead and Erving GoffmanElements of the Theory: When we hang around people we pick up traits and sayings which eventually build our identity.
Both Symbolic Interactionism and the Looking Glass Theory discuss how society affects how our identity is shaped, as the Looking Glass Theory says that "...we form our identity based on how others see us."
How do we form and shape our identities?
- The Looking Glass Theory suggests that we shape our identities based on how people view us.
- James Marcia's Identity Theory suggests that we shape our identity over time and through four states, and by the end of the stages we are happy with who we are.
- Symbolic Interactionism suggests that our identity is heavily influenced by who we spend time with.
In a culture where we are bombarded with ideas and images of “what we should be,” how does one form an identity that remains true and authentic for her/himself?
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