Finding Beauty and Acceptance in the Imperfect: Why Learning the Philosophy and Art of Kitsugi is Important for Self-Growth

I was scrolling through my instagram when I saw a picture Sara Dietschy posted. It featured her standing in front of a neon sign that reads, "your comfort zone will kill you." These are the guiding words that push people through the threshold in the hero's journey called their own life. The words are easy enough to say, hear, and understand. The real challenge is breaking through and committing to breaking that threshold.

It's something we face a lot in our lives. We all reach a point where we are comfortable where we are but to get what we truly want out of life, we need to leave out comfort zone. Beyond that threshold is the new world and it is scary. Feelings of fear and doubt can take hold as we worry about failure or cracking under pressure. I believe in times like these there is an art form that can really help us out: Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that involves the repair of broken ceramics. The name itself literally translates to golden (kin) joinery (tsugi). Traditionally what one would do is repair a broken ceramic dish with a liquid gold or silver lacquer. As Stefano Carnazzi puts it in his article, the point is not to hide the cracks in the ceramic but to exhibit these scars and make something truly unique and beautiful from it.

Kitsugi dates back to the 15th century when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa cracked his tea bowl. As the story goes, Yoshimasa sent his tea bowl back to China for repairs. When the bowl was returned to him he was disappointed to find that it was held together by metal staples. He charged a craftsman with the duty of finding a more aesthetic way to handle the cracks and Kitsugi was born. It is believed that the philosophy that led the unknown craftsman to kintsugi was the Wabi-Sabi.

Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese philosophy based on accepting and finding beauty in the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. As Richard Powell puts it in his book Wabi Sabi Simple, "Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." This pretty much sums up nature and life.

Life is a crazy roller coaster where we will be greeted with hardships, obstacles, and failures. We will make mistakes and reach breaking points. These breaking points are what makes us stronger and bring us closer to living lives we ought to live as our true selves. Cracks are a chance for us to grow stronger and repair. A proverbial tea bowl that has never cracked has never been used. If the proverbial tea bowl has never been used, it has never lived its purpose.

I keep Wabi-Sabi and Kintsugi in mind during my creative process. If I believe the lie that is perfectionism, then I would never complete any work. I would never finish a single article, take a photo, film a video, or share any of my work. I would never grow as an artist or an individual. I also don't believe for a second that this is something that only applies to creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs. It applies to all.

Anyone who accepts the three realities taught in Wabi Sabi as truth and lives their life's purpose as their true authentic selves is someone with the courage to break out of their comfort zone and through the threshold. "Your comfort zone will kill you," is no joke. We all have hopes and dreams and I don't think it is impossible for anyone of us to achieve our goals in life. It is important for us to discover our purpose and live our best lives. To meet others and help them as they help us. To leave the world a little better place for everyone than we found it.

Leaving our comfort zone and breaking that threshold into the new world is scary, but I also feel it is worth it because it has been worth it for so many people in history. With Wabi-Sabi and Kintsugi in mind, we grow from our challenges and become stronger where there are cracks if we live our lives. Or, as Chuck Palahnuk puts it in his book Fight Club:

I just don’t want to die without a few scars... It’s nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body. You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer’s showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.
— Narrator, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk