Look at imperfections with a gold tint

Imperfection is all about perception. What you consider a flaw someone else might consider a strength. What you feel tempted to hide someone else might perceive as beautiful.

Sometimes from childhood we may have been pressurised to be and do things perfectly, even to look perfect. We may be pressurised by the images of perfection we see on various media platforms.

However, what this does to the psyche and to the self is a constant deluge of enormous and often unconscious harsh expectations. Yet it’s exactly our imperfections and vulnerability which allows us to truly connect to ourselves and others.

It is a necessary aspect of humanness that we fail, we get things wrong and make mistakes, and experience losses. In fact, it’s often our mistakes that have the potential to be our greatest teachers and equally, it’s often our imperfections that make us unique but also connects us to others. Our imperfections are to be accepted and loved and when we are able to do this, we are more open to the imperfections, quirks and differences we see in others.

There’s a Japanese practice called Kintsugi, that refers to the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold or other precious metals.

This practice began in the 15th century when Japanese military commander Ashikaga Yoshimasa wanted to repair a broken tea bowl in a visually pleasing way.

Kintsugi has come to be known as a way to honour an object’s history, rather than attempting to hide the damage. I outline a few of the main principles of Kintsugi for the purpose of linking this to acceptance of our flaws and imperfections as human beings and in so doing, to live with greater calm and peacefulness in our lives.

Wabi Sabi – Embracing imperfection

Wabi Sabi is about celebrating imperfections and living simply. Everyone goes through tough times and trying to lead a life of perfection isn’t realistic to being human.

In Japanese, Wabi means alone and Sabi means the passage of time. Together, they teach us how to embrace the good and bad parts of ourselves and the asymmetry of life and that often we need to deal with challenges alone. This has the power to engender growth and healing, when we are willing to undertake the journey of going inward and getting to know our true selves.

Gaman – Cultivating and living with resilience

Gaman is the ability to endure, be patient and remain calm.

Everyone can practice gaman in everyday life by silence, prayer or meditation or visualisation or by simply taking a few minutes of deep breathing.

By focusing on something as simple and vital as breathing, we are giving our minds a break.

Resilience can be practiced every day in how you choose to respond to daily stresses. Instead of focusing on negative circumstances, you can use challenges as an opportunity to learn.

Whether you’re going through something as serious and life-changing as a divorce or are trying to get through a stressful work week, gaman encourages us to tap into our inner strength and focus on our potential. If one can practice developing strength from within, that is more powerful than anything difficult or negative and can cultivate natural resilience over time.

Eiyoshuku – Nourishing your body

A positive mind is nurtured by an empowered, healthy body. You can use preparing and cooking nourishing food as a form of self-care. Seeing, smelling and tasting nourishing food nourishes the body and soul.

These days we tend to either complicate nutrition and overthink what we should and shouldn’t eat (usually to be acceptable to others) or people feed their bodies on fast and junk foods.

In Japan, the devotional monks eat simply and very clean. They live with very little and eat very simply, and so, using them as an example, we don’t really need a lot to take care of ourselves.

The body and mind connection is linked through the type of food we eat, so when we fuel our bodies with simple healthy meals we are also nurturing our minds this way. When we eat mindlessly or unhealthily, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to nurture and refuel our body-minds. Nourishing from the inside out is an important aspect of self-care.

Yuimaru – Valuing togetherness/community

Yuimaru, which is the practice of valuing togetherness, helps you heal through the strength, nourishment and support of friends and family.

Deepening our relationships can help us be kind to ourselves. When we know that we have a good support system, we tend to take care of ourselves a little more.

The practice of giving and receiving, i.e. reciprocity, has emotional rewards. Reciprocity allows us to open to receiving warmth and support from others as well as allows us to extend the same to them.

Within authentic relationships to ourselves and others we find a wellspring of joy, connection and open-heartedness which are very nurturing to our minds and bodies.

However, this starts with you. Learning to love and accept yourself first, allows for more authentic relationships with more authentic people who will be attracted to you as you become and feel more grounded in who you are and where you are.

Allowing you to be okay with all of you, including your imperfections, in the process, opens your heart and mind more to the imperfect humanness in others and our imperfectly perfect world.

Kansha – Cultivate gratitude

Perhaps the most important concept in Kintsugi wellness is kansha, which is the act of expressing gratitude for the good and the bad. When you realise everything that you do have, you’re able to heal more deeply and be more resilient.

Practicing gratitude is also about living in the present moment and not berating yourself for the things you don’t have.

Kansha means letting go of your own ego and reframing experiences so that you rewire your brain to focus on the positive and what is in your life instead of on the negative and what lacks in your life.

Gratitude is about accepting the good and the not-so-good. Everything happens for a reason, and there is no difficult situation that comes our way without a purpose. That purpose is that we become more resilient, more compassionate and more joyful individuals, in spite of our circumstances, past or present.

A meditation teacher shared that she thinks about Kintsugi sometimes when she looks at her left leg. She has a series of scars toward the top, remnants from a time when she expressed her depression and shame into self-harm.

For a while she felt too insecure to wear shorts or a bathing suit because she worried that someone might see them and judge her. Now when she looks at them, she tries to visualise the faded lines in gold. Then she remembers those lines are like a map that led her directly to where she is now, teaching others to heal and work with difficult emotions.

Every other scar, physical or emotional, is a testament to our strength, not weakness. And every idiosyncrasy, from introversion to sensitivity, is a gift, not a curse, that has enabled many people to make a difference in the world.

Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.