Inspired by Kintsugi - Mend What Was Broken & Embrace Your Scars
Do we live in a disposable society?
Consumerism would have us believe that when something breaks, be it your TV, your bed, your heart - that we should toss it out and get a brand new shiny one. Starting fresh may be the worst thing we can do though - especially when it comes to our souls - should we throw out or brush past the ugly things in life that leave their mark on us?
The Japanese art of kintsugi says, “no!” Instead of shamefully hiding our perceived imperfections, we should proudly display them as individual badges of honour.
We’re in the superficial time of social media, filters and weird competition around who is more perfect via unnaturally controlling our physical image. Maybe we need to stop judging each other in general and start supporting each other by what we’ve lived through and survived then by what we can convince others to believe we are.
What is Kintsugi?
“The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.” - Ernest Hemingway
Kintsugi (kin - gold, and tsugi - repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken objects with a resin or lacquer infused with gold, silver or platinum powder. The resulting piece is more valuable than it was before breakage - and infinitely more unique because of the experience it has been through.
The origins of the practice go back to the 14th century when the Shogun of Japan, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was distraught after breaking his beloved tea bowl. The original repair job was hideous, but the craftsmen who inherited the results came up with this respected method. Instead of trying to hide the damage, its flaws were proudly displayed.
Those who practice kintsugi believe the item becomes more refined thanks to its ‘scars.’ Some even purposefully break pottery to individualize it - broken objects are not something to be hidden - they are remade and displayed with pride!
Kintsugi can also be tied to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which speaks to the ideas of impermanence and imperfection.
“Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” - Richard Powell, Wabi Sabi Simple
Perfect looks good, but is it as interesting as something that’s gone through experiences that makes it more resilient? What value does perfection hold and is it realistic to expect in the every day? Instead of focusing on what we want something to be - wabi-sabi seeks to just find appreciation in what is, whether old, unfinished or ordinary.
Nobody is Perfect
“My life was my life; I would have to stare it down, somehow, and make it work for me.” - Paula McLain
It’s true - nobody is perfect - and maybe we should try harder to emphasize this on the regular. You know how filters and Photoshop work right? So why are we stressing with constant social comparisons - these are people we don’t even know - and never forget - seeing pictures of someone’s life does not mean you are getting the full story.
In a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s clinical psychology department, psychologist Melissa G.Hunt found a link between increased depression and anxiety and the use of social media. Tracking the use of these platforms by 143 undergraduates using Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat over 3 weeks, compared to the levels they came in at before the study happened.
The study found those who decreased their exposure to these 3 platforms also saw a drop in their anxiety and depression levels. Comments from participants were around social comparison - simply put, they felt less cool than all the amazing, accomplished and happy people they saw. While social media can certainly improve our lives by opening new doors, introducing us to different cultures and allowing us to stay in touch with those far away from us - it can also trick us into believing everyone else is more together than we are. Everyone has scars - but it seems to be more popular to not admit it.
Broken is Not Synonymous with Useless
“Don’t worry. You’re safe now. You’ve got nothing left to steal.” - Joan D. Vinge
A relationship ends, a trust is violated, you are devastated by a loss or you are unwilling to love as you have been. For any of your own reasons, look at it as a chance to transform - to shape your life, your personal philosophy into something new - to emerge from the storm fully formed and ready to take on the world again as a fortified version of your former self.
Instead of being ashamed or worried about revealing your scars - because they mark you as not being perfect - be proud of the ones that have healed because of the work you’ve put in and the strength you have shown in order to overcome what it was that hurt you in the first place.
You were broken, but not destroyed. Here you still stand.
Just like a beloved and shattered bowl, we may never go back to what we were before the incident, but fixing something requires that we change it - our ideals, our reputation, our thoughts around how we love or trust - breaking those things will demand that we take a harder look at them and find a way to rebuild them so we don’t struggle in the same way going forward.
Scars can serve as warnings to not repeat the same mistakes, to question our decisions and to give us confidence that we have been through this before and have the skills to persevere through what comes next. Through adversity, we can learn resilience. In this way too, no piece of pottery can be the same - because they all break in different places.
Our Scars are Our Stories
“If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.” - Shane Koyczan
Every scar has a story behind it. The twisty one on your leg? That brings back a happy memory of a long ago baseball game or when you and your brother used to race through the neighbor’s yard and one of you tripped on your bike pedal. At the time it might have been painful, but now it serves to remind you of how fast your body healed - or of the consequences of not being careful in your athletic endeavors! Your scar is now a memory, a lesson - and a story in your life that adds to your unique history.
Perhaps we can take a metaphorical page from kintsugi and learn to pick up our pieces, forge them back together with a stronger connection and feel more satisfied than when we started? This can be an incredibly simple and lovely mindset to take on. You’re never so broken you can’t put yourself back together.
What can we take from all of this? That our scars don’t render us ugly or tarnished and that breaking something doesn’t destroy its usefulness - in fact, by repairing it, it can become even stronger.
Our scars ferociously declare that we have been through some hard times - but we came through it! You cried for what was broken, but you conquered the sadness, your wound healed and you are now stronger and more resilient when the next challenge comes. Your bowl may have a thousand cracks by the time you’re done with it, but it’s still there after all this time - and so are you.
Related Article: The Negative Attitude Detox - Change Your Perspective in 10 Days