Self-awareness occurs when a person is able to observe and evaluate the self from another's viewpoint. People are self-aware when they imagine how others are viewing, evaluating, and interpreting their words and actions. Through this imaginative process people become objects to themselves; they come to recognize that others see them, for instance, "as being a man, young in age, ?a student, in debt, trying to become a doctor, coming from an undistinguished family and so forth". In imagining others' reactions, people respond and make adjustments.
When we enter into interaction with others, we take for granted that a system of expected behaviors and shared meanings is already in place to guide the interaction. Although expectations are in place, symbolic interactionists emphasize that established meanings and ways of behaving can be reinforced and affirmed during interaction, but that they can also be ignored, challenged, or changed.