Life can be tough. It can throw us curveballs and obstacles that leave us feeling shattered and broken. But what if I told you that those broken pieces could come together to form something even more beautiful and authentic than what you had before? What if I told you that life’s hardships and imperfections can make us shine and actually fast-track our personal growth?
From brokenness to wholeness
In Japan, the traditional art of Kintsugi involves taking broken pottery and repairing it with a special lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The result is a piece that not only retains its original beauty but also has a new quality of wholeness and authenticity. In the same way, the hardships we face in life can give us a new quality of wholeness and authenticity.
All the adversities that occur to and for us can also give us a new quality of wholeness. These experiences shape us, mold us, and help us to become the unique individuals we are today. Our struggles make us stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate toward others who are going through similar experiences.
Psychological insight tells us that if things come too easily to us, we don’t value them as much. If our lives were all easy and smooth sailing from an early age, we may have less understanding and empathy for those who suffer. Maybe we wouldn’t be as kind to others knowing that so many of us suffer? Maybe we wouldn’t be who we are now?
But what about imperfections? Society puts a lot of pressure on us to be perfect, to have flawless skin, perfect bodies, clean, spacious houses, and successful careers. However, embracing our imperfections can be just as powerful and transformative as embracing our hardships.
Just as Kintsugi emphasizes the beauty of brokenness, the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi celebrates the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness. In wabi-sabi, objects and experiences are valued for their authenticity, simplicity, and naturalness. This aesthetic encourages us to embrace our flaws and see them as part of our unique beauty and character.
We live in a world that often values conformity and perfection, but it’s important to remember that our imperfections make us who we are. They give us character, depth, and authenticity. Embracing our imperfections means accepting ourselves for who we are, flaws and all, and seeing the beauty in our uniqueness. Could it be a key to happiness?
Psychological research shows that self-acceptance and self-compassion are critical components of mental health and well-being. When we accept ourselves, including our imperfections, we are more likely to feel happier, more confident, and more fulfilled in our lives.
Broken hearts are better hearts
Our past experiences, hardships, and imperfections can shape who we are and how we see the world. One of my favorite quotes of my teacher Marisa Peer is:
“Broken hearts are better hearts. They grow bigger and stronger than ever before.”
I love these words as they speak to the idea that our struggles can ultimately make us stronger, more resilient, and more empathetic.
Three ways hardships can make us shine
Based on my experience as a therapist, here are three ways our past with all the life’s hardships and our imperfections can make us better:
- Building resilience: Going through tough experiences can be incredibly challenging and may leave us feeling broken and defeated. However, over time, we can learn to adapt and become more resilient. We can learn to pick ourselves up after a fall and keep moving forward, no matter how hard it may seem. By purposefully facing our challenges, we develop a sense of inner strength and resilience that can serve us well in all aspects of our lives. I call it a “bounce forward” factor.
- Fostering empathy and compassion: Our experiences, both good and bad, shape who we are and how we see the world. When we have gone through tough times, we can develop a deep sense of empathy and compassion for others who are struggling. We understand what it’s like to be in their shoes, and we can offer them support and understanding in a way that perhaps others cannot. By embracing our imperfections, we can also learn to be more accepting and understanding of others’ imperfections. That makes us better friends, partners and even therapists.
- Cultivating authenticity: When we accept ourselves and our imperfections, we can become more authentic and true to who we are. We no longer feel the need to pretend to be someone we’re not or to hide our flaws. Instead, we can embrace our unique qualities and use them to our advantage. By being authentic, we can also attract people who appreciate and accept us for who we are.
Forming something beautiful
It’s important to acknowledge that it’s not easy to see the beauty in our struggles when we are going through them. However, with time, patience, and self-reflection, we can begin to see that the pieces of our shattered selves can come together to form something new and beautiful.
It’s also important to seek help and support when we need it. Just like a Kintsugi vase needs the help of a skilled artisan to put it back together, we too need the help of mental health professionals to help us heal and grow from our experiences. A skilled psychologist or therapist can provide the guidance and support needed to help us overcome our past experiences and become stronger and more resilient.
You are a work of art in progress
By embracing our past, our hardships, and our imperfections, we can learn and grow in ways that we never thought possible. We can become stronger, more compassionate, and more authentic versions of ourselves, and ultimately, we can use our experiences to help others on their own journeys.
So the next time you feel broken or imperfect, remember that you have the power to create something even more beautiful and authentic than before. Embrace your hardships and imperfections as part of your journey, and see them as opportunities for growth and transformation. You are a work of art in progress. Embrace life’s adversities and imperfections, and let them shape you into the most beautiful masterpiece you can be.