searching for wholeness
Although we often look to our self-image to give us our sense of self and identity, self-image isn't really a part of the self, and it cannot really show you who you are. Your self-image stands outside yourself. It is the mirror you hold before you, expecting to see yourself reflected there. But, the truth is, it keeps you blind you to the true reality. What you see there is not a true reflection of who you are. You're not really looking in a mirror. It's a painting. An image, static and unchanging. And it is often the box we live within.
We each have two distinct self-images. The self-image that springs from our spirit/mind, and the one that springs from our backlog of emotions/denied will.
The purpose of the mental self-image is to blur and obscure our vision, to project an image of self that is loveable, acceptable, worthy of god and heaven, desireable, loving, powerful, unafraid, etc., etc. The mental projection is usually based on whatever judgments we carry about what is good and desireable in a person. Spirit polarized people - those who are most comfortable processing with their minds - will have large and usually fairly complex projected self-images, but all of us have judgments about what we "should" be, and all of us construct a self-image that allows us to function and live in the world and believe that we are mostly good people.
Unfortunately the mental self-image also serves the purpose of denying, or ignoring, any feeling that doesn't fit in with the projected positive "self". That part of us will continue to exist, in our blind spot. If I have an image of myself as loving and benevolent, I will try to shove aside any feelings I have that don't fit into that image. I will try to deny feelings I may have of wanting to rage at the begger on the corner, or selfishness, or territoriality, for instance. If I am successful, those feelings will barely even approach the surface of my mind, I will almost not know they're there. If I am unsuccessful, for instance if something happens that causes my painting/mirror to shatter, I will "see/feel" the layer of self-image which lies beneath my mental projection... the emotional self-image.
The emotional self-image is another animal altogether. Since much of our emotional self is submerged, in denial, buried in the subconscious, the self-image that is produced from there is also largely unconscious, outside our conscious awareness. For the Will polarized people - people who are most often (or most comfortable) in the emotional realm - this self-image is the primary one. And unlike the mental self-image which tries to project something positive, the emotional self-image is almost always negative. Every denied emotion goes into the painting of this picture, coupled with every hidden judgment and every ounce of guilt.
The result is usually something truly gruesome, something that doesn't reflect who we really are, any more than the mental self-image does. But for the most part we don't ever really see the painting. In fact, we spend much of our time acting in ways to avoid what we might see there. And when we finally can't avoid it any longer, when it becomes too big or awful or painful, we may embrace it and feed it and build it to even more gigantic and hideous proportions. Look at a drug-addicted teenage prostitute on the streets and you'll see an painful example of this. They have so much self-hate in their painting, and so little belief in the possiblity of any kind of good self, that they embrace the negative with passion. All kinds of acting out can stem from the embracing of this self-image.
The key to both these paintings is that they are not real. The self-image based on spirit/mind can be changed through point of consciousness "listening" to the will/emotions, and judgment release, meditation/visualization, and other tools. The self-image based on will/backlogged emotion can be heard and cried and healed. The true self is not the painting at all.