Kintsugi: the art of embracing 'flaws' and making it our strength
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
There is a beautiful art form in Japan called Kintsugi. I find it so enrapturing, I wanted to share it with you and the lessons it can teach us.
Firstly though, what is it?
It is the repairing of broken pottery by joining the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. When a beautiful pottery has been broken, instead of despairing, the very broken edges are joined with gold to create something even more beautiful. It then becomes beautiful because of its flaws not in spite of them.
The flaws are something to be highlighted and illuminated not hidden or brushed away. I think there is something profound in this.
Naturally, this is similar to a Japanese philosophy: wabi-sabi. This is the acceptance of transience and imperfection. In other words, the changing and the flawed. Why this struck a chord with me, is that I've really struggled with the ever-stifling perfectionism and the lack of control we have over change. Now let me share how Kintsugi can embolden us...
Chasing perfection is stagnation
It's funny how perfectionism sounds like such a cute word. I guess in our culture we've almost made it a glorified battle wound. 'I just can't help myself, I'm a perfectionist'. But, ironically, there is a lot of struggle and stagnation that stems from this way of living.
Imperfection is such a normal and fundamental part of being human. It can be so dangerous, because it is denying our very nature. When we are perfectionistic, we demand this pristine, high standard to ourselves as well. Not just our surroundings and our work. Even controlling the latter can be time-consuming, exhausting and eventually miserable.
But done to ourselves, it is suffocating and can lead to anxiety and fear of embracing those messy and 'flawed' parts of ourselves. We push those broken edges away vehemently.
To give you an example, it is like when I reject my 'overly' emotional side, the me that feels so much. 'I need to be perfect, strong and in control'. This is an example of how perfectionism can manifest itself. But they are you too, and more importantly they are not pieces to be discarded. When we cling to these ideals we are actually doing ourselves more harm than good. Not only do we lose those parts that make us more beautiful but we also do ourselves damage.
Without embracing the flaws and cuts we can't see the beautiful end result. Just like in Kintsugi. When we are perfectionistic, it is the equivalent of throwing away the broken shards of the 'once-beautiful' pottery. They serve us 'no purpose' anymore and so we reject them.
What a shame. I akin the golden joinery to our own journey of healing. We can create something even more beautiful if we can accept those imperfect parts of ourselves. Slowly embracing the parts of myself that I hated is the best thing I ever did. Funnily enough, you are closer to your potential and 'perfect' self when you embrace your flaws. Go figure.
Impermanence is the only permanence
Oh, how we cry over things that were once beautiful and ours. This valuable and beautiful pottery that is no longer what it was. As humans embracing change is not something that comes naturally to us.
Indeed, the pottery was beautiful before it was broken, there is no denying it. But is it now diminished? Actually, there would be no Kintsugi, without this change. The golden joinery has created something new and uniquely beautiful.
Although something was lost, something new and beautiful was also made.
Don't forget that. When we lose something, what we take from it, is ours completely. Will we embrace this change and create something new or despair over the shards and stay broken?
The philosophy of Kintsugi
The next time you will a situation to be a certain way or wish you were different, remember Kintsugi. The change and flaws can be used to catapult yourself to higher ground. More than you ever thought was possible. There is new joy here, so welcome it with open arms.
I will leave you again with a quote, you did not ask for, but are receiving anyways:
"I cling to my imperfection, as the very essence of my being" (Anatole France).