The Japanese concept of kintsugi means ‘golden repair’. It is an ancient art of repairing broken pottery pieces using a mixture of lacquer and powdered gold, silver or platinum. The result is an object that is considered more valuable and beautiful than before. Its flaws are not hidden or discarded but become works of art – each one different and unique.
What’s your first reaction when you make a mistake?
Do you berate yourself or look to see how someone else could be held responsible? What’s your first reaction when someone else fails to meet your expectations? Do you respond in understanding and empathy, or do you grit your teeth saying, “it’s fine, don’t worry about it”?
In kintsugi there is this idea that by highlighting and embracing our flaws we can live a life of integrity and authenticity. The notion of perfect vs imperfect is a fallacy. The standards around what is perfect are all relative and determined by culture, industry, and social media definitely exacerbates this.
However, when we accept our whole selves – and see that as our strength, we operate from a place of clarity. We don’t worry that we don’t meet the expected standard because we know that everyone else has their unique strengths and imperfections. We develop greater self-compassion which extends to others.
It takes courage to expose and admit our imperfections. It’s not about resigning ourselves to that fact that “that’s just the way I am, so deal with it”; and it’s not making excuses for our mistakes or bad behaviour.
It’s being ok with who we are and what we have done, but it’s also about taking responsibility for our actions and continually growing and learning to become the best version of ourselves.
The famous ‘Serenity Prayer’ articulates this beautifully:
God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.
What happens when we accept our imperfections?
1. We become aware of subtle messages everywhere that tell us we need to be perfect
Not everyone is going to be happy about our choice to embrace our imperfections. We may be subject to unwanted advice, criticism and efforts to “fix us”. Sometimes these “weaknesses” are just arbitrary standards that society has dictated. The beauty industry in particular is a multi-billion dollar industry that exploits our fear of being physically imperfect.
2. We can stand firm in our convictions
When you receive messages that you should hide my “flaws”, that can lead to feeling incomplete and unworthy. However when we learn to accept your identity and be clear on what you can’t change (or what is not worth changing), then you can truly focus on what really needs to be changed to make this world a better place.
3. We have greater connection with others
An amazing shift in atmosphere happens when you have confidence, self-awareness and vulnerability to share your struggles. When you have a high level of self-awareness, you can also understand the impact of struggles on others and will be part of the process to make necessary changes. All of this increases the levels of trust and connection amongst the people we impact.
Amy Edmonson, author of The Fearless Organization, writes about psychological safety in the workplace. She defines it as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns and mistakes”.
If we can set the example that it is ok to not always have all the answers, other people around us will feel more comfortable to bring up concerns and ask for help. For leaders, this helps them relate to others within their sphere of influence.
3 Steps to embracing our imperfections
The changes that occur when we accept our weaknesses are critical to becoming authentic and making a sustainable, positive impact:
1. Identify and articulate your imperfections
· Spend time recalling incidents, stories and words where you have felt embarrassed, uncomfortable, small, or humiliated.
· Learn to become more critically aware of the various inputs and voices that shape who you believe you are.
· This process might take a little while if you are so used to denying or burying your true feelings.
2. Accept and reframe your imperfections
· Practise self-compassion and accept these areas as part of your story.
· Reflect on these areas and what you have learnt from each of them, using the following questions as prompts:
· What positive ways have they shaped you?
· How do these experiences help you connect better with others?
· What sort of people or causes do you have greater empathy and compassion for?
· How do these situations make you angry or passionate?
· Embrace and be proud of the ways that your imperfections have strengthened you.
· Ultimately – own your story
3. Share your story
· Identify people that you trust and share what you are learning about yourself
· Look for opportunities to add unique value and apply these new learnings
· Imagine the kind of world we would live in if more of us were accepting of our unique experiences and used them for the benefit of others.
Christ: the only perfect one
Christ is the only person unique in history to be the model of perfection. As the sole sinless individual, he bore our sins of imperfection and when we believe and accept him, his perfect love will turn our imperfections into a humble worthiness before God.
Together, by embracing our imperfections, we can model Christ and represent him, complete with all our weaknesses, to the world around us. Philippians chapter 3 verse 12 reminds us:
Not that I have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
Nic Lee works by day as a Business Analyst Consultant whilst, outside of business hours, maintains an IT support & website services business. He volunteers with 89.9 LightFM (Christian Community Radio). Nic has served for over twenty years in his local church, in worship, technology consulting, life group leading and event management.