What if emotional scars were beautiful?
How a centuries old Japanese tradition can help us to see our emotional scars as a thing of beauty.
Kintsugi, meaning repair with gold, is the centuries old Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold dust and lacquer. The resulting golden seams become an intrinsic part of the pot, creating something unique with the gold lines adding to both the beauty and the strength of the pot.
There is no attempt to disguise the damage, the cracks aren’t hidden. They are celebrated. The ‘scars’ are seen as symbols of an event that happened in the life of the object, not as something that weakened it or makes it worth less than it was before. A pot isn’t written off because it has been broken. Through the process of being broken and repaired, something with added character and resilience emerges.
It is beautiful because it has been broken.
I got to thinking how this is so different to the way we perceive ourselves when we believe we are broken. I have worked with lots of people who have used words about themselves like broken, damaged, weak, worthless… take your pick. I have felt them all. When we think of ourselves as broken, we think of ourselves as being less than we were, diminished, weaker.
Nobody gets through life unscathed.
Our broken bits are the results of our life experiences. They are our story. And whilst we think of them as signs that we are imperfect, then we will be afraid. Afraid of further damage and afraid of being rejected and abandoned. So, we protect ourselves.
We try to avoid any situations that might result in feelings like failure, rejection, or shame.
We avoid showing who we really are rather than risk others seeing just how flawed, imperfect and not good enough we are.
We ignore the broken pieces, and either ‘shove them to the back of the cupboard’ or patch them up.
But the cracks are still there and every time we notice one, it reminds us of just how vulnerable we are to more damage. And just how imperfect and unlovable we fear we are when others see our flaws.
Our vulnerability terrifies us.
We are afraid and ashamed of our cracks and chips. We don’t want to show them, and we don’t want to see them. So, we hide them. From others and from ourselves.
When you hide in this way, protecting yourself and fearful of your vulnerability then you only live half a life at best. Afraid to be and show who you are you spend your life hiding the cracks and chips that are part of you under layers of behaviours, beliefs, justifications and judgement. You lock your true self away and over time it gets buried. Much like a broken pot it gets neglected and abandoned and is completely unable to be what it was always meant to be. After all, who pays attention to a broken, cracked pot?
But by paying attention to your cracks and chips, by embracing, honouring and respecting what is damaged, scarred, vulnerable and imperfect you transform them, and they become your golden seams – then you are no longer afraid.
You are ready to embrace your true self and live fully in the world with the beauty and strength of your perfectly imperfect self on display for all to see.
Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen