As you’re trying to carry too many things up the stairs at once, you feel a notebook slide … sense an awkward balancing act … and – too late.
Your favourite mug has met a bitter separation with its handle (and several other pieces).
So what do you do? Do you bin it? Fix it with superglue?
Or do you ‘kintsugi’ it?
Let me introduce to kintsugi. It roughly translates as ‘golden joinery’.
Legend has it a Japanese military leader was so displeased with the metal staples used to mend his broken tea bowl, craftsmen developed this unique technique of repairing cracked pottery with visible gold and coloured lacquers.
Here’s why kintsugi should be important to you right now.
Kintsugi is the visual antidote to perfectionism. It doesn’t pretend there aren’t ‘errors’; it embraces them.
So could we use kintsugi as an emotional antidote to perfectionism too?
Perfectionism is a curse. It’s a “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”, which in reality means ‘refusal to accept anything’. Perfection is a myth bandied about by Platonic scholars; it’s not a way to live your life, pursue your creativity or run your business.
Perfection is a way for your ego to get in the way of doing something your soul wants to do.
Soul: That looks FUN! I wonder if I could do it? Maybe I can try …
Ego: Are you kidding? That’s way too hard. You’ll never get it looking right.
Soul: But does it matter? I can still try!
Ego: Nope, it’s got to be perfect. Otherwise people are going to laugh. You’ll have made a mistake in front of everyone!
Soul: But … but …
Ego: Trust me, I’m right about this one.
See that? Your ego likes perfectionism because …
what you do has to be perfect > you can never be perfect > therefore don’t have to do anything > don’t have to risk getting it wrong / looking foolish / making a mistake
Perfectionism soothes your ego, because it means there’s no opportunity to be at risk of making a mistake or getting it wrong.
… and there’s also no risk of standing out from the crowd. Doing something different. Doing something you really want to do.
Like trialling a new product. Or launching a new service. Or taking an inspiration trip. Or stepping into your success, fully. Or living your life in the way that’s right for you.
We all have cracks: ‘imperfections’ in our hearts and souls which influence our lives. Kintsugi tells us that those imperfections can become beautiful, given the right treatment.
I spent a long time covering up those parts of myself I considered to be imperfections. Parts like my rebelliousness, or occasional stubbornness.
Over time, I learnt that these imperfections are golden. To other people, they’re gorgeous.
My clients love that I do things differently to other consultants and coaches. They love that I won’t work with people who compromise my values.
This is emotional kintsugi in action: often, the thing we find most ‘imperfect’ in ourselves is what others love most about us.
Perfectionism is the ego’s way of stopping us becoming better in what we do, because we become better through practice … by accepting our ‘imperfections’ … by letting ourselves be ourselves.
The way to say goodbye to perfectionism and hello to kintsugi is to let the gold in. Listen to the good stories other people are telling you about yourself. Let the story you tell yourself about your ‘imperfections’ change.
Changing the story takes time. And it needs outside help to do so. But it can change.
Perfectionism is too safe, too pedestrian, too dull for your life and work. Instead, together, let’s make something that shines.
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