Do You Behave How You Think Others Expect You To

by Reid on January 26, 2017

Couple Having Fun In The KitchenDo you get sucked into acting like other people expect you to?

With Reid Mihalko from and and Cathy Vartuli from

Cathy: There’s theories in sociology that I’ve actually … I believe that are real because I’ve felt them, but we sometimes behave according to how we think other people think we should behave.

Reid: What’s that called?

Cathy: It’s called the looking-glass self theory.

Reid: Looking-glass self theory. Google it.

Cathy: Breaking … Just being aware of it is useful, but breaking free of it can be challenging but really empowering.

Reid: This is Cathy Vartuli from

Cathy: This is Reid Mihalko from

Reid: Hey! So, how do you break free from the looking-glass self theory?

Cathy: First of all, just being aware that you’re doing it. If I go home and visit my family, they have a very strong opinion of who I was formed from when I was much, much younger, and kind of rebellious and very shy, which is an odd combination, but I somehow managed it. They have a strong expectation for me to behave a certain way. It’s easy to feel that pressure. I think most of us feel like a 7 year old when we’re around our mother when she’s angry. I have other friends that expect me to be more outgoing, other friends that expect me to be more … We all have different expressions with different groups.

One, just recognizing that we’re feeling that pull gives us power to say, “Hmm, I get to choose.” Reminding our self it’s a choice, not that I must conform to what people think of me. I love just telling people … I haven’t done this with my entire family because it doesn’t occur to me that they would all receive it well, but the people that I’m close to, that I feel are open to that dialogue, I’ve said, “I don’t know if you actually have this, but I believe you think of me this way, so I feel like I have to act that way, and I just want to say it out loud that I’m not going to act that way anymore, whether you have that belief or not.” It’s not putting it on them, like, “You’re wrong for thinking of me that way” because they may not. It’s how we think they think of us.

Reid: Mmm.

Cathy: So, kind of owning that, like, “Hey, I have this belief that you need me to act this way and that doesn’t feel true to my self-expression. Whether you think that or not, I’m just letting you know for myself, if nothing else, that I’m choosing to act in a different way.”

Reid: Got it.

Cathy: What are your thoughts?

Reid: I don’t know that I have any thoughts on that, I think that was excellent. I thought it was amazing. I feel free now. I’m going to go break a mirror.

Cathy: Not in my house.

Reid: 7 years bad luck, no, freedom.

Cathy: You’re in my house though, it’s…

Reid: Oh, all right. I’ll break somebody else’s mirror.

Cathy: Okay.

Reid: No, I mean it’s basically we are who we think other people think we are. This is another quote of this kind of situation. What’s really useful about this too is realize that you do this to other people.

Cathy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Reid: So, my personal experience with this was understanding that my mom and dad … I hadn’t actually given my mom and dad space to change. I was holding them in a kind of a certain container, and so when I figured this out in a workshop, and then it was like, “Oh.”

Cathy: Was it Landmark, because I remember Landmark.

Reid: Little Landmark, yeah, was the first … Well, there were some books that kind of talked about this, but Landmark was where it sunk in. I was like, “Oh, what if I’m the one who’s keeping my parents trapped in this way because I will only see them that way and I’m looking for evidence.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Reid: So, understand that while you need to talk to the people you need to talk to when you can find the words for it so you don’t get trapped or sucked into being the way that you’re not anymore, where and to whom are you doing that to the people in your life, and can you set them free so that you actually can be real with them? Then this is … I mean, that’s more than my mom and dad were ever capable of doing with each other in their marriage.

Cathy: It helps too to recognize there’s part of our brain called the reticular activating system. It’s part of our survival brain and it’s trained to look for what we’re tuned into. If I’m out looking for berries, it’s going to notice berries really fast. It’s a survival mechanism. If I’m expecting something from a certain person, I’m going to see that more often and not see other patterns or other possibilities. Just knowing that we’re capable of that, that just because I’m noticing something doesn’t mean it’s true overall, can give us more freedom and say, “Ha, I’m really noticing that you’re acting like an ass a lot. I wonder if that’s just what I’m tuned to, that I expect you to be kind of mean to me. Ha.” Just being conscious and watching them. “No, you’re kind of just an ass” or “No, wow, I’m just really taking a lot of things out of context.”

Reid: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cathy: That can give you a reality check and a sense of freedom, and a way to break free from the patterns that we can easily get stuck in.

Reid: So, if you want to share, who are you doing this to or how do you notice this kind of mirror effect …

Cathy: Call yourself out and share that because that helps break you free.

Reid: Yeah, and it also gives evidence to other people that they’re not alone and that they do it too.

Cathy: Yeah. Thank so much for watching.

Reid: Leave a comment, hit subscribe.


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