Throughout a person’s life they will have a great variety of opportunities they are able to take, and these opportunities can massively influence their life trajectory. It is no secret that these opportunities will be affected by any number of things, many of which are out of anybody’s control. Examples of this would include how someone born in America will likely have more life opportunities than somebody born in Pakistan. These influences can be either positive or negative, and every person has them. Today I’ll be talking about a few of these factors in my life and how they have affected me, specifically the Looking Glass-Self, Class, Gender, Media Representation, and Immigration.
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The first topic I will be discussing is the looking glass-self. The looking glass self says that as others repeatedly label you and view you as something, you will slowly start to view yourself in a similar fashion (Molotch 2016). The looking glass self has been relevant to me as it helped to shape much of my own personal image in my latter years of high school. Once I began running cross country and track people began to view me differently. I was viewed as just an athlete because I was good at my sport. This began to adversely affect me as in class teachers would treat me differently than other students. Due to my status as a successful athlete, teachers began to become nicer to me, coaches were more willing to have discussions with me, and many of my peers began to treat me with much more respect. Athletics absolutely positively impacted my life opportunities. An example of how others viewing me as an athlete affected me was in my senior year of high school, my statistics teacher would constantly talk to me about track, and really only track. This caused my peers to talk to me about track, and frankly made them much friendlier to me, giving me networking opportunities for the future. My own experience brings up interesting questions about the preferential treatment athletes might receive because of their perceived greatness. And as others believe you are great, you begin to believe it yourself, and many different paths open up to you, purely because people believe you to be an athlete.
The second topic is class. Class is the sociological concept that refers to a group of people who share a similar social and economic position in society (Manza 2016). As a member of the upper middle class, I have had a great many advantages that many others do not have. Some of these advantages include a better public education system, increased funding towards my athletic career, and easier access to nutritious foods. A specific example of this affecting me, is due to my somewhat higher-class status, I was able to fund all my expensive sport endeavors. After my senior year of high school, I flew from California to North Carolina for the sole purpose of racing. This gives me an advantage over those that could not afford to travel, because they were not able to compete with and meet the same caliber athlete as I was. Due to this advantage, I was able to achieve my fastest time of the year and was able to meet several athletes who would be able to help me in the future, thus opening me up to many opportunities later in life. It is interesting how just by having a better status, I am much more easily able to achieve a higher status. It is somewhat of a exponential loop, the more you get, the more you are able to get. It seems unfair but almost impossible to combat.
The third topic is gender. Gender is the ways that social forces create differences between men’s and women’s behavior, preferences, treatment, and opportunities, and the characteristics of men and women that reflect these forces (England 2016). As a male, I receive a great many advantages, such as people usually looking upon me with more respect, people will sometimes make excuses for my poor behavior, and I am able to pee standing up. One such way I have reaped the benefits of these advantages is through my high school track coach. Because I was a male he gave me extra attention and would often give me time that he didn’t to others. This favoritism almost certainly helped my athletic career, and as such assisted in me attending the University of Oregon. So, because of my gender, I received preferential treatment which assisted me in attending the college of my choice, an opportunity that none of the girls received. This certainly affects my life opportunities as your college education can be extremely important to your transition into adulthood and can dictate your earnings later in life. So being male has certainly helped me in this regard, though I certainly think both genders have their own advantages.
The fourth topic I will discuss is Media Representation. Media Representation is essentially the way people are shown in media, positively or negatively. As a straight white male, it is extremely easy for me to flip to the news and see people similar to myself portrayed in an accurate light. This positive portrayal then aids me in having a positive self-image and high self-esteem, causing my life opportunities to become infinitely larger. One such experience that I can specifically remember as a younger child was watching Shaun White at the X-Games. While I did not know it at the time, a small part of why 6-year-old Andrew was so interested in him at the time was because I shared so many qualities with him. I believed I could be up there like him someday. Now obviously I am not, but just imagining that helped to give me a large boost in my self-esteem. This has absolutely impacted me as the constant reinforcement that those around me are good, really forces me to believe that about myself. It makes me believe that I am good enough, and that I really am able to make something of myself.
The final topic I will discussing is Immigration. Immigration is A term that describes the movement of people across borders (Jasso 2016). Specifically, I will be talking about immigration across national borders. While this is not something I have ever personally done, I experienced the effects of it a lot with growing up in the Central Valley of California. It was a large agricultural area, and as such was home to a large Mexican population. This large multicultural presence exposed me to a great many ideas. An example of this was my best friend in high school. He was Filipino, and he helped to expose me to their culture and food. So while I found I may hate Filipino food, it showed me how to be respectful and taught me all about diversity. This will help my future life opportunities as I am very receptive to foreign ideas now. I’ve seen how amazing other cultures can be, and as such I have become very accepting. This will enable me to meet more people and help with my networking as I have friends in all walks of life.
By now it should be very obvious that a multitude of factors can influence one’s life. These are just some examples of possible factors that can influence it and is by no means an exhaustive list. Every factor I discussed has negative factors, as well as more positive ones. Being a white middle class male growing up in central California as an athlete has largely dictated what my life opportunities look like, for better or for worse, and from here all I can do is play with the hand I was dealt.
Examples of Sociological Imagination: Influential Factors. (2022, Sep 11).
Retrieved October 6, 2022 , from
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