We all strive to create a perfect image of ourselves, a perfect identity.
We want to feel accepted, yet we’re often afraid that as a whole we’re not good enough. We believe that exposing our vulnerabilities, imperfections, and failures will make us less likable or even unlovable.
In fact, the opposite is true. It makes us authentic. And there’s nothing more beautiful than that.
However, the option to embrace our imperfect self and to fall in love with its uniqueness — foibles and flaws included — seems to be something most of us just don’t take into consideration.
If this resonates with you, there is a Japanese concept that can totally transform the way you see yourself.
The translation of the Japanese word Kintsukuroi is “to mend with gold.”
Kintsukuroi is also the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer infused with powdered gold, which has the totally opposite effect of an invisible mend.
Rather than trying to hide the fact that the pottery piece has been broken, the repair of the broken piece using gold produces a result that is more beautiful and stronger than the original, unbroken item.
“Fragments of a dropped ceramic bowl are scooped up and put back together; mended. The revitalized ceramic becomes a symbol of fragility, strength, and beauty“
Kintsukuroi, if applied to our life and to the fragility of the human character, encourages us to see the beauty in our flaws. It encourages us to understand that any cracks in our character resulting from past events and experiences, can actually make us stronger and more beautiful.
This is a powerful concept. It can transform us and our relationship with ourselves — if we’re ready for it.
When dealing with our imperfections and failures, we always have two options. We can choose to beat ourselves up, or we can appreciate them for what they really are: our authenticity, the cracks that actually add value to who we are.
Our vulnerable side can either empower us or destroy us; the outcome will always depend on us.
I once was in a toxic relationship with a narcissist. I used to beat myself up for not recognizing the red flags at the beginning and letting the abuse happen. It may surprise you to learn that, today, I’m actually glad I went through that hell, because it was one of the most important lessons life ever gave me.
Now I know how to see and understand toxic behaviors, I know how to set boundaries with people and stand up for myself, and now I can help others to do the same. It was a negative experience, but it somehow enriched me. I’m treating that experience like mending the crack in a pottery vase with gold.
See, it doesn’t matter how many wounds or scars you have, how many mistakes you have made, or how many tough experiences you’ve come through.
Your golden repairs are what transform you. They are what ultimately creates a wiser and enhanced version of yourself, the best version of yourself.
How to apply Kintsukuroi to your life
Kintsukuroi encompasses both the idea of embracing your imperfections and your inherent ability to transform them into strength and beauty.
The following guidelines are particularly useful for embracing your unique and true character and falling in love with it.
Forgive yourself for your past mistakes.
Our past mistakes are often what keeps us awake at night. We often torture ourselves for not having done things differently. We also, mistakenly, assume our life would be much better if only we had made another choice or acted differently in the past. If only we could turn the clock back…
This is a mindset which does nothing other than erode our quality of life, and it’s a falsehood we keep telling ourselves, as there’s no certainty of how things could have been different had we behaved or acted differently.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes, see them as an opportunity to grow, and focus on what you can actually control: the present. If you learn to do this, you will free yourself of the habit of unnecessarily hanging on to the past, your life will become much easier, and you will become much happier.
Treat failures like opportunities to grow and become stronger.
We tend to resent our failures and blame ourselves for many of them even though, deep down, we know they can also be our best teachers — if we let them.
Kintsukuroi takes your failure and failings and, instead of allowing you to beat yourself up over them, it helps you understand them, learn the lesson and consequently become stronger.
There is an expression that goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” What it means is that when things go wrong, there is usually an upside, somewhere.
Kintuskuroi is a similar, but deeper concept. It teaches us to make the most of our failures to build a better version of ourselves.
Be grateful for what you have learned so far.
Rather than look back on past events in your life that have left you believing you “probably deserved” what happened to you, stop and think for a moment.
Nobody learns to ride a bike without falling off and hurting themselves. Instead, we learn how not to fall off, we become a stronger rider for having a few scars on our knees, and we get as much enjoyment out of life as we can.
This same type of scenario is played out in our life, time and time again, where we make mistakes and “fall off our bike.” The only difference is that our pain is more emotional and mental, rather than physical.
So, instead of letting those past events still hurt you, realize that each and every one of them was the perfect opportunity to learn something beneficial and be grateful for that fact alone.
Understand that people will appreciate you just as much — if not more — for your vulnerable side than if you had a perfect persona.
I guess you don’t expect your friends to be perfect. In fact, you probably appreciate them more when they show their vulnerable side, reveal old wounds, or admit their mistakes. It makes them more “human” and easier to relate to.
Your friends, and other people, will feel the same way about you. This is because exposing your vulnerabilities creates intimacy and trust in your relationships. It makes it possible to truly connect with others and eventually create a strong bond.
By understanding this, you can start to accept and embrace your true self, instead of constantly worrying about how others may perceive you and your flaws.
Kintsukuroi is a powerful concept. It can teach us that if we are broken, we can be repaired and, with those repairs, we can look and become more beautiful, and we can feel much stronger than we used. Ultimately, we become the best version of ourselves.
You only have to look at images of ceramic pots that have been repaired using Kintsukuroi to instantly understand the intrinsic beauty of this way of both looking at and embracing imperfections.
We always have the option to embrace the truly authentic version of ourselves, with all our cracks and flaws, and love ourselves unconditionally.
After all, our cracks and flaws are what make us unique.
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Article originally published in The Ascent – Medium
Featured Image: Shutterstock