Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The powdered metals highlight the cracks in the repaired pottery.
Kintsugi is a way to honor the brokenness in the object.
Reflecting on this made me think about this in terms of broken places outside of objects.
Like in our life. In us.
What’s not working?
What are you not doing?
Where are you broken?
“You’re Not Broken”
At the heart of the self-love movement you will find the repeated pronouncement that, “You’re not broken. You don’t need to be fixed.”
All you need is self-love and positivity.
This is true. Kind of.
You’re not broken. None of us is. And you don’t need to be “fixed.”
Accept Your Brokenness
At the same time, we can sometimes feel like we are broken. You may have been receiving this message for as long as you can remember.
You’re damaged goods. Stupid. Difficult. Too skinny. Too fat. Too lazy. Too intense. Too loud. Too quiet. Too much. Not enough. There’s something wrong with you.
The work of eliminating these beliefs is the work of a lifetime. In part, this is because the rate at which we manage to dispel these negative limiting beliefs is often outpaced by the rate at which our culture reinforces them.
The messages fuel our impulse to engage in self-judgment.
It’s inevitable that we will have moments when we feel that we are broken. Or, if not “broken,” then at least “cracked.”
I reject the premise that the only way to facilitate self-love and self-worth is through unrelenting positivity. There are days when we feel unhappy, or not enough, or broken. And this is ok.
In fact, it’s more than ok.
The statement that “you’re not broken” has its intention in the right place, but comes laced with the judgment that “broken” is somehow bad.
Refuse to Deny Your Experience
Maybe it’s just me, but when I am in that place, I really hate the placating nature of “you’re not broken” or “nothing is wrong with you.” It often makes me feel worse because I feel unseen and unheard.
When others deny our experience — or we deny it ourselves — we can feel discounted. It fuels the belief that we don’t matter.
For me it comes down to this: when I look at all the tools I have accumulated in my personal development and spiritual tool box, acceptance of what is beats out blind positivity.
True transformation is possible only when we accept what is, without making it “wrong” or “bad.” Self-acceptance means accepting all of our parts. This includes our shadow selves, the parts we often consider to be “broken.”
Broken Isn’t Bad
So you are broken. So what?
We are all broken, in some way, somewhere.
Broken isn’t bad. It just is.
The willingness to acknowledge that something is broken is a gift we give ourselves. It helps us shine light on our experience.
There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. — Leonard Cohen
Kintsugi bathes the scars of the broken pieces in precious metals, turning them into the focal point. It honors and celebrates the broken places.
Kintsugi is the epitome of self-acceptance and self-love. Honoring what’s broken. Loving all of it. So beautiful is this art that the artists purposefully break the pottery to rejoin the pieces.
What would that look like in your life? To break on purpose, for the purpose of allowing more light to come in.
The Impulse to Fix Things
Of course, once we see something that’s broken, it’s our nature to want to fix things. I think that’s partly why people say “nothing’s broken.” If nothing is broken, there’s nothing to fix.
This is just another mental trap.
Just because something is broken doesn’t mean it needs to be fixed.
Kintsugi is not about “fixing” broken pottery. It is an art of making something new with broken pieces. It accepts the broken without trying to fix it.
This is our task: see what’s broken and be with it. Accept it. Embrace it.
What if the only thing to do when we see a crack is to pry it open further, to flood our life with the light from the broken places?