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February 20, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
There's a social concept in psychology called the “looking glass self.” The idea describes how, from a young age, we cultivate our self-image according to what we imagine people are thinking about us.
To an extent, this simply conveys the natural order of things. (And is the reason why I don’t wear pajama pants to work.) It also explains how the middle school lunchroom tribunal destroys self-esteem. In many ways, the perception of being judged can cripple our happiness and our success.
This week’s cover story first appears to be about a game. Look closer. MU student Jillian Hutton has a secret to tell. She spends 20 hours a week on a role-playing website she coded, designed and runs. Creative writing fuels conversations between swanky celebrity avatars who discuss fictitious scenarios.
Jillian had only shared this information with her sisters and a few friends, who’ve shown support for her secret hobby. For a long time, nobody knew why she spent so much time on her computer.
In reality, others might view Jillian as the prolific writer and talented programmer that she is, but from her perspective, disclosure could hurt her job prospects. The fear of being stigmatized prevailed over the freedom of revealing her true self.
But not anymore.
Last month, The Huffington Post blogger Dawn Gluskin wrote, “We spend way too much of our lives looking for outside validation and approval that eludes us. Turns out, it’s been an inside job all along. Go inward.”
Jillian should feel empowered by her passions, not stunted by them. To all the dreamers whose looking glass selves might be a bit fragile, warped or tainted, remember this — keep doing you.