Exploring Identity with Self-Portraiture

"The quest for identity is seen as a lifelong journey of self-discovery and self-actualization, guided by the innate drive towards wholeness and integration."

From a Jungian psychology point of view, identity is a multifaceted concept deeply intertwined with the individual’s psyche and the collective unconscious. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology, proposed that identity emerges from the dynamic interplay between the conscious and unconscious aspects of the self.

Jung believed that each individual possesses a unique personal unconscious, which contains repressed memories, experiences, and aspects of the self that have been forgotten or overlooked. However, beyond the personal unconscious lies the collective unconscious, a reservoir of universal symbols, archetypes, and patterns shared by all humanity. These archetypes, such as the Hero, the Sage, the Creator and the Shadow, play a crucial role in shaping an individual’s identity.

According to Jung, the process of individuation is central to identity formation. Individuation involves the integration of unconscious elements into consciousness, leading to the development of a more balanced and authentic sense of self. This journey towards individuation often involves confronting and reconciling with the Shadow—the darker, hidden aspects of the self—and embracing the complexities of one’s psyche.

Identity, therefore, is not static but rather a dynamic and evolving construct shaped by ongoing experiences, interactions, and introspection. It encompasses not only the conscious aspects of the self but also the unconscious forces that influence thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

In Jungian psychology, the quest for identity is seen as a lifelong journey of self-discovery and self-actualization, guided by the innate drive towards wholeness and integration. It involves exploring the depths of the psyche, embracing paradoxes and contradictions, and ultimately striving towards a more authentic and individuated existence.

Creating a self-portrait can be a powerful tool for experiencing the shaping and construction of one’s identity from a Jungian perspective. Here’s how:

  1. Exploration of the Self: In the process of creating a self-portrait, individuals engage in introspection and self-reflection. They must consider how they perceive themselves and how they want to represent themselves visually. This exploration allows them to delve into their conscious and unconscious aspects, including their values, beliefs, aspirations, fears, and desires.
  2. Encounter with Archetypes: Through the act of creating a self-portrait, individuals may encounter various archetypal themes and symbols present in their psyche. These archetypes, deeply rooted in the collective unconscious, often manifest in artistic expression. For example, the portrayal of the Shadow or the Anima/Animus may emerge spontaneously in the artwork, providing insights into hidden aspects of the self.

  3. Integration of Contradictions and Complexities: Jungian psychology emphasizes the importance of integrating the diverse and sometimes contradictory elements of the psyche to achieve wholeness. In creating a self-portrait, individuals confront their multidimensional nature, including both light and shadow aspects. By embracing these complexities and integrating them into the artwork, individuals gain a deeper understanding of their identity and the intricate layers that comprise it.

  4. Symbolic Expression: Artistic expression, including the creation of self-portraits, allows individuals to communicate symbolically and metaphorically. Symbols hold profound meaning in Jungian psychology, serving as bridges between the conscious and unconscious realms. Through the selection of colors, shapes, textures, and other artistic elements, individuals can convey aspects of their identity that may be difficult to articulate verbally, tapping into the rich symbolism of the unconscious.

  5. Integration and Growth: The process of creating a self-portrait is not only about capturing a static image but also about embodying the ongoing process of identity formation and growth. As individuals engage in the creative process, they may experience shifts in perspective, insights, and self-awareness. This dynamic exploration contributes to the continuous evolution of their identity, aligning with the Jungian concept of individuation.

mixed-media self-portrait, 2010 - Heather Hoeps

The Self-Portrait in Art Therapy

Firda Kahlo_AI generated

10 Self-Portraits By Women Artists

Self-portraits hold a unique position in the realm of art therapy, offering a profound avenue for exploration, reflection, and healing. Beyond the surface depiction of physical features, self-portraits delve into the depths of one’s psyche, serving as a mirror to inner thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

At the heart of art therapy lies the principle of self-expression, and self-portraiture provides a powerful means for individuals to visually articulate their internal landscapes. Through the process of creating a self-portrait, individuals embark on a journey of self-discovery, uncovering aspects of themselves that may have been hidden or unexplored.

The act of rendering oneself on canvas or paper can be an act of courage and vulnerability, as individuals confront their own image and the emotions it evokes. This process invites individuals to explore their sense of identity, self-perception, and inner narratives, allowing for deeper introspection and insight.

Self-portraits in art therapy also offer a safe space for individuals to explore and express complex emotions and experiences that may be difficult to verbalize. The creative process provides a non-threatening outlet for processing trauma, grief, or challenging life transitions, allowing individuals to externalize their inner struggles and gain a sense of control over their narrative.

Moreover, self-portraits can serve as tangible markers of progress and growth throughout the therapeutic journey. As individuals engage in art therapy sessions over time, their self-portraits may evolve, reflecting shifts in their self-perception, emotional state, and personal development. This visual documentation can be empowering, serving as a reminder of their resilience and journey towards healing.

Tap into your creativity and explore the depths of your identity with a collage self-portrait or mixed-media Piece in a playful and meaningful way. with the steps below.

Identity has many deep layers that can be discovered over time. Have fun and enjoy the process.

  1. Gather Your Materials: Collect a variety of materials to use in your collage, such as magazines, newspapers, colored paper, fabric scraps, photographs, buttons, ribbons, or any other items that resonate with you.
  2. Select Your Base: Choose a sturdy surface as your base for the collage, such as a canvas, thick paper, or cardboard. This will serve as the foundation for your self-portrait.

  3. Find Images and Textures: Begin by flipping through magazines and other printed materials to find images, textures, and words that reflect different aspects of yourself. Look for facial features, expressions, colors, patterns, and symbols that resonate with your identity.

  4. Arrange and Layer: Start arranging and layering the images and textures on your base to create your self-portrait. Experiment with different compositions, placements, and combinations until you find a layout that feels authentic and meaningful to you.

  5. Glue and Secure: Once you’re satisfied with the arrangement, use glue or a glue stick to adhere the images and textures to the base. Take your time to ensure everything is securely attached and pressed down flat.

  6. Add Details and Embellishments: Get creative with adding details and embellishments to your self-portrait. Use markers, pens, paint, or other drawing tools to enhance and personalize the collage. You can also incorporate additional elements like sequins, beads, or stickers for added texture and visual interest.

  7. Reflect and Explore: Take a step back and reflect on your mixed-media collage self-portrait. Notice the colors, shapes, and symbols that stand out to you. Consider what they might represent and how they contribute to your self-expression and self-discovery.

Embrace Imperfection: Remember that there are no right or wrong ways to create a self-portrait collage, painting or drawing. You can create something abstract even, just with color or shapes.

Embrace imperfection and allow yourself to enjoy the process of exploration and experimentation. Your collage is a reflection of your unique perspective and experiences.

To deepen your understanding of your self-portrait and explore the rich layers of meaning and symbolism embedded within it take a pen and journal and use the prompts below:

Reflect on the Creative Process:

Explore your experience of creating the self-portrait. What inspired you to create it? How did you feel while working on it? Did you encounter any challenges or surprises along the way?

Describe Your Self-Portrait:

Take a moment to describe your self-portrait in detail. What colors, shapes, and symbols did you include? What emotions or themes do you feel the portrait conveys?


Identify Symbolic Elements:

Examine the symbolic elements present in your self-portrait. What do they represent to you? How do they reflect different aspects of your identity, experiences, and emotions?


Reflect on Self-Perception:

Reflect on how your self-portrait reflects your self-perception and sense of identity. Do you see yourself differently in the portrait compared to how you perceive yourself in everyday life? What insights does this difference reveal?

The topic of identity has always fascinated me and it now has its own module in my Creative Soul Coaching Programs.

 If you long to dive into a profound journey of self-discovery and transformation, I invite you to explore my 3-month Creative Soul Coaching program:


Inner Compass Vision Quest

Is this for you?

  • Are you on the verge of a big change or transition into a new phase of your life?
  • Are you reflecting on your life so far and desiring deeper self-awareness about who you are now and who you are called to become as your transition unfolds?
  • Are you ready to understand potential blocks, identify outlived narratives, and align your values, goals, and desires with your purpose?

If you resonate with these questions, then ‘Clarity Quest’ is designed for you.

What You’ll Experience:

Experience a Sense of Clarity and Direction You’ll feel more in tune with your inner self, allowing you to shed confusion and find a clear path that resonates with your true values.

Gain Confidence in Your Identity and Purpose As you explore your core beliefs and reimagine your future, you’ll discover a deeper sense of who you are and why it matters, bringing a new level of confidence and motivation.

Feel Empowered to Achieve Your Goals With a clear action plan and defined steps, you’ll gain the confidence to pursue your dreams and the empowerment to make them a reality.

Ready to transform your life and step into your true potential? Click the button below to schedule a free, no-obligation discovery call via Zoom. Let’s discuss how ‘Clarity Quest’ can support you in your journey of self-discovery and transformation.