The exception is self-image, but not the kind of self-image Western psychology advises you to develop, but the self-image of you as a holy person with a pristine soul and a wonderful Yetzer Tov, a person whose flaws and bad inclinations are just an extraneous layer, a “shell” that isn’t the real you at all.
No matter how horrible you are or what you’ve done, you still possess powerfully positive traits in addition to your negative ones. Any negative traits like selfishness, arrogance, nastiness, etc. are just a klippah (extraneous layer) over your jewel-like qualities and over your untainted Divine soul.
But maybe as you are behaving now, you really aren’t loveable.
Or whatever other feel-good term you’d like to hyphenate to “self.”
(Or maybe you really are a completely righteous person. I don’t know. I don’t know you.)
Yet despite all and any of the negative traits and behaviors that may be mucking up your soul, Hashem still loves you more than you could ever love anyone else, even your own child, even your own Prince Charming or Dreamgirl, or even your own favorite cuddly pet.
You and Hashem: The Only Real Love Story
Let’s say that you decided to swim in a pool of sewage, even though the person who loves you most in the world has cautioned you a million times NOT to frolic in sewage because it is dangerously unhealthy. And the person who loves you most in the world even repeatedly detailed to you the exact kinds of diseases and skin conditions and even deaths you can expect after immersing yourself in sewage. AND you have even almost drowned several times in the sewage.
Yet you insist on doing it anyway.
(I know that sounds gross and preposterous, but spiritually speaking, that is exactly what many of us are doing or have done.)
Despite your revolting obstinacy, this same person continues to rescue you every single time you cry out while drowning. And this person sits right next to you even though you reek like I-don’t-want-to-say-what.
And this person even lovingly hugs you tightly in all your repulsive filth and stench while saying, “No matter how disgusting you look, smell, and feel, I still love you more than anyone else in the whole world. I don’t want anyone else but you. And not only that, I want to raise you up and crown you with royalty, and give you the best of everything. I want to tell everybody that you are mine and that I love you most of all.”
That is our relationship with God.
The above parable isn’t my invention. The theme of a besmirched, underserving potential prince or princess rescued and cherished by a king can be found throughout mussar literature and Chassidus.
You can be a psychopath, and Hashem will still be there for you, ready to accept any baby steps you choose to take in His Direction.
So the three important truths of human nature are:
1) Hashem planted any and all flaws and negative tendencies within you. The “real you” is not the bad stuff you think or do. Whether you were born with those negative traits or whether you developed them in response to trauma and abuse, they are from Hashem and not your fault.
2) The process of rectifying your flaws is the main reason why you exist in This World.
3) Hashem loves you so profoundly and more than any human being ever could, and tapping into that love is the key to healing and self-improvement.
Internalizing this reality is what enables us to do that kind of onerous self-introspection and self-refinement necessary to improve ourselves and fulfill whatever potential God imbued within each one of us.