Skip to main content
Select Source:

Self-Image

SELF-IMAGE

The term self-image has entered common usage. Initially referred to by psychologists, it was then taken up by psychoanalysts without really being theorized. The self-image is ostensibly the representation that everyone has of themselves, in physical as well as physiological, sociological, and mental terms, envisioned through the prism of each individual self-evaluation at different stages of development and in different situations.

Formerly, this notion was often considered to be the equivalent of the body scheme, postural scheme, somatopsyche, image of body-ego, or even somatognosia, although each of these notions had its own characteristics in terms of both its limits and its basic conception. Within this current of thought, the self-image can be seen as the representation of one's own body, as both body-object within one's environment and body in relation to others; or as the totality of a body that is initially experienced as being fragmented; or, finally, as a body that is experienced as autonomous, upon emergence from the period of non-differentiation.

When used in psychoanalysis, the self-image brings together the notions of body image, self-consciousness, the concept of the self, self-identity, and ego-identity. Self-image is constructed through imitations of (for psychology), or identifications with (in psychoanalysis), people around the subject or real or heroic imaginary figures, throughout the development of narcissism and the setting up of the ideal ego, the ego ideal, and the superego. The self-image is dependent as well upon the type of object relations established.

The notion of the self-image emerged in and was refined through the work of a number of authors, in particular that of Henri Wallon, who described the emergence, during the fifth stage of development (personalism), of self-awareness, which can only occur if the child is capable of having a self-image. This ability is related to the test in which the child recognizes itself in a mirror, whereas previously it had mistaken its specular image for another person. Heinz Hartmann, founder of the ego psychology movement, introduced the distinction between the ego, as psychic agency, and the self, in the sense of the person or personality proper. Paul Schilder posited that the formation of body image plays a determining role in the genesis of the representation of self that follows organization of the ego and the evolution of narcissism. In the view of Donald Winnicott, the mother and the primary mothering environment mirror (or do not mirror) back to the child an image of itself with which the child can (or cannot) identify. In this view, the self is an agency of the personality in the narcissistic sense, a representation of self for the self, a libidinal investment of self. Heinz Kohut, in self-psychology theory, proposed the self as a notion that relates to the personality in its entirety, to psychic functioning as a whole, to the bodily self, as well as to more clearly defined elements such as self-representation. Jacques Lacan returned to the "mirror stage" to show that the young child's recognition of its own specular image founds the dual relation, the dimension of the imaginary, and the ideal ego. In the view of Françoise Dolto, body image plays a part in the subject's identification and determines the possibility of a feeling of selfof self within a body. Here, the body is the basis for the construction of the subject's identity in relation to others, and the unconscious image of the body is the forgotten (repressed) bodily foundation for the feeling of self.

It is important, too, to make clear that the self-image also depends on how others see and assess us. We should perhaps add to the notion of the self-image the feeling of competence that is the cognitive construction corresponding to the opinion that each of us is subject to on the cognitive, social, and physical levels, and the relational feeling of self-esteem.

Philippine Meffre

See also: Body image.

Bibliography

Ajuriaguerra, Julian de. (c1980). Handbook of child psychiatry and psychology. (Raymond P. Lorion, Ed.) New York: Masson. (Original work published 1970)

Dolto, Françoise. (1997). Sentiment de soi, aux sources de l 'image du corps. Paris: Gallimard.

Oppenheimer, Agnès. (1998). Heinz Kohut. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Self-Image." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Self-Image." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/self-image

"Self-Image." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/self-image

self-image

self-im·age • n. the idea one has of one's abilities, appearance, and personality: sickness is an affront to one's self-image and dignity.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"self-image." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"self-image." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/self-image

"self-image." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/self-image

self-image

self-image See SELF.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"self-image." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"self-image." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/self-image

"self-image." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/self-image