Today is October 7 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you highlight your imperfections?” Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object or person, rather than something to disguise. Those who navigate the chaos often highlight their imperfections as a viable strategy to move forward.
While other Navigate the Chaos posts discuss the unnecessary pursuit of perfection, the illusion of perfection in others, or the often-dangerous side of becoming obsessed with perfection in some area of life, today’s post focuses on the celebration of life’s imperfection. Those who translate their dreams into reality will often tell you about one imperfection or another they either had themselves or encountered along the way. What they will often share with you is their ability to repair what was damaged, accept damage happens along the path of navigating the chaos, and imperfections are meant to be highlighted.
As a philosophy, kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage, and can be seen as a variant of the adage "Waste not, want not.”
Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of "no mind" or mushin, which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change, and fate as aspects of human life. As Christy Bartlett observed in Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics:
“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as "no mind," but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.”
One person who illuminated her imperfection was pop star Selena Gomez. In September 2020 Gomez revealed a scar on her inner thigh, which was left following a kidney transplant three years ago. The 28-year-old pop star received the kidney from her friend Francia Raisa after suffering complications from the autoimmune disease lupus. She told fans she had previously been ashamed to let others see the scar, but now felt "proud" of her past and was ready to show it off. The former Disney Channel star posted a photo on her official Instagram page, standing in front of an outside swimming pool in a baby blue swimming costume, with her hands above her head.
Gomez wrote on her social media post: "When I got my kidney transplant, I remember it being very difficult at first showing my scar. I didn't want it to be in photos, so I wore things that would cover it up. "Now, more than ever, I feel confident in who I am and what I went through...and I'm proud of that."
In his May 2021 Psychology Today article “5 Lessons from Kintsugi, the Art of Embracing Brokenness,” Dr. Nick Morgan noted “The point of kintsugi is to embrace the imperfect and to make the best of what you are experiencing now rather than dwelling on how things might have been better.”
How often do you highlight your imperfections?
Who or what is holding you back from highlighting your imperfections?
Are you so obsessed with perfection that you are blinding yourself to the potential of imperfection?
How often are you dwelling on the imperfection?
Is your obsession with being imperfect holding you back from navigating the chaos?
How often are you making the best of what you are experiencing?
What experience do you have repairing some part of you that was broken?