Drawing on the work of pragmatic philosopher George Herbert Mead, symbolic interactionists argue that the self is a “reflexive process that includes a person's subjective stream of consciousness (perceptions, thoughts, feelings, plans, and choices) as well as his or her concept of self as a physical, social and moral being.” What is central to this perspective is that transformation, as well as the ability to sustain one's sense of self, is inextricably linked to one's relationship with others. Thus, it is through our interactions with others that we get a sense of who we are—our selfhood.
Working outside the field of symbolic interactionism, sociologist Erving Goffman has been credited with contributing to the field of symbolic interactionism with his work on role performance. In his seminal book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman, the founder of dramaturgical theory, argues that the way in which we present our selves is based on what we are expected to do and be in a given situation. Relying on scripts, props, costumes, settings, and gestures, we are all performers or actors who change our behavior based on the roles that we play and our interaction with others in a given situation. This perspective presupposes multiple identities and selves that depend on the social context in which we live. Thus, according to this view, selves are not stable entities, because “we establish a new self in every situation.”