Selfless Book Summary - Selfless Book explained in key points
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Selfless summary

Brian Lowery

The Social Creation of “You”

4.1 (29 ratings)
19 mins
Table of Contents

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    The self

    What is the self? Well, Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud defined it as a part of you linked to pleasure and urges. American sociologist Charles Cooley, on the other hand, came up with the term looking-glass self – in his mind, the self is dependent on how you think people perceive you. Then there’s the cultural definition that revolves around the idea of people being born with a self or destined to be one self or another. 

    But Brian Lowery claims that the self is actually something that’s created rather than inherent. It isn’t a predetermined entity – it’s a unique construct that emerges from relationships and social interactions. 

    All day, every day, you encounter different people from all walks of life. They include your close relationships like family and friends, your wider community, and even strangers you meet on the streets. Each of these connections influences and shapes who you are – no matter how brief or long the interaction. This unique blend of relationships you form and interactions you experience are exactly what makes you a unique self. In other words, you have a distinct self because you have a distinct combination of relationships and interactions. 

    The concept of the self as a social creation counters the idea that the body or the brain is the self. When your body changes, your self doesn’t necessarily change along with it. You can still be you even if you’ve grown your hair long or developed a few wrinkles on your face. When your body – and in parallel, your brain – dies, your self doesn’t immediately follow suit either: you live on through the relationships you’ve formed. The remarkable part is that you can form relationships even after your physical death, thanks to legacies like influential contributions and acts of kindness you’ve left behind. As long as your relationships and the impact you’ve made remain alive, your self is alive. 

    The concept of the self as a social construct also rebuffs the idea that the self embodies your core beliefs and moral values. Maybe you would define your self as generous or respectful, or honest or humble – and you know in your heart that this is who you are. But these values aren’t innate to you. They’re also transmitted through your relationships. Your understanding of right and wrong is directly influenced by the people in your life. 

    So, how exactly do all these societal factors affect your self? That’s what we’ll get into in the next sections.

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    What is Selfless about?

    Selfless (2023) explores the concept of the self as an entity formed by relationships and society in general. It tackles the roles of family, social groups, the country, and technology in shaping the self. 

    Who should read Selfless?

    • Social psychology enthusiasts
    • Anyone interested in the idea of the self as a social creation
    • People looking to understand themselves and others better

    About the Author

    Brian Lowery is a social psychologist, Stanford University professor, writer, and podcast host. He has coauthored multiple journal articles, including “Self-Essentialist Reasoning Underlies the Similarity-Attraction Effect” and “Gender Backlash and the Moderating Role of Shared Racial Group Membership.” Selfless is his first book.

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