The self is constructed through social interaction
I was not born a woman. Rather, I have become one. As the result of history, social forces, conditioning or ideology. Gender- the womanhood and my role in it is not inevitable or fixed, it is not, necessarily, determined by my biological characteristics and human nature. Contrary, it is an addition to the physiology and the product of the social world. Society has created certain rules and ideas of how the womanhood is supposed to look and expects me to behave in a certain way. Therefore my living and the experience of myself are changed by being classified as a woman. Sometimes it may seem I am an individual, which behave freely and create itself by acts of its own will. However, the most of my living is determined by the society I live in. 'I myself am, of course, a social construct; each of us is' (Ian Hacking 1999:2). Rosenberg says that social factors play a major role in formation of the self and that self arises out of social experience and interaction (Philip Blumstein 2001:183). 'Without others there would be no such things as a “self”' (Philippe Rochat 2009:35). This essay will explore different aspects of how society participates in construction of the self. First, how others shape somebody’s self, then, how that somebody constructs itself in regard of others. At the end it will consider an opposing view, i.e. not how an individual is created from the 'outside' - society, but from the 'inside' - body. The self is created and exists only on a social basis, in relation to other people, as we see the effects of our actions in the responses of others. This self is not fixed but constantly changes through the interaction between social beings. In childhood an individual becomes a member of society and undergoes the primary socialization which significant others, usually parents, siblings and peers, are in charge of. 'The child takes on the significant others’ roles and attitudes, that is, internalizes them and makes them his own' (Berger and Luckmann 1969:151). The child reflects attitudes his parents take towards him and becomes what he is addressed as, develops his identity. Likewise, in the interaction with other people children learn how others perceive them. They can see themselves as if looking in a mirror. There, in the perception others have of them, children find judgments and feelings about themselves. This is what Charles Horton Cooley refers to as a 'looking glass self' (Steven Barkan 2010:57). This development is never really complete and throughout the life we change the idea of ourselves according to what others think of us. Majority of our social life takes place in intimate relationships. These do not have to be much intense but usually last for a long time and therefore have important impact on ourselves. Once the identity is crystallized in childhood, it is further maintained, modified, or sometimes reshaped in these intimate relationships and interactions that occur in them. Undoubtedly, one of the most intense and influential relationships is a marriage. Because both partners are dependent on one another each partner has an enormous power to change the reality of relationship and each other’s self. Philip Blumstein (2001) suggests that if some behaviour is presented often enough it changes the self. For example, when a wife repeatedly speaks about her husband’s failures in the kitchen, he will eventually learn that he cannot cook. Even though it may not be true, he will adopt this into his self. Similarly work situations of open conflict which literally force changes of the self. The self is not only constructed in interactions but also constructs itself. As I have said humans’ self is a reflection of how others perceive them and a result of interactions. Therefore it is quite logical that we always act, feel, or think with others in our mind. We present ourselves to promote our image, to control and influence what other people think of...
Bibliography: Barkan, S. 2010. Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World. Flat World Knowledge.
Berger, P. L. and Luckmann, T. 1969. The Social Construction of Reality. London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press.
Blumstein, P. 2001. 'The Production of Selves in Personal Relationships ', pp. 183-197 in A. Branaman (ed.) Self and Society. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Inc.
Gergen, K. J. 2000. The Saturated Self. New York: Basic Books.
Hacking, I. 1999. The Social Construction of What?. Cambridge, Mass : Harvard University Press
Macionis, J. J. and Plummer, K. 2008. Sociology: A Global Introduction. Essex: Pearson Education LTD.
Rochat, P. 2009. Others in Mind: Social Origins of Self-Consciousness. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Shilling, C. 1994. The Body and Social Theory. London: SAGE Publications Inc.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document