Kintsugi : The Beauty of Breaking

金繕い : to repair with gold.

Kaya Olsen



No one makes it through life without breaking at least once or twice. Tragedies happen, traumas are inflicted, hearts are broken, and losses felt. Some people experience it on a regular basis, others manage to minimize it, but none of us avoid it completely.

Breaking is part of our life before we even learn to say the first word. During our childhood, a lot of wounds are unconsciously inflicted by our parents, who didn’t know better back then. My father for example had a fiery temper when I was a child. He would hit the table and shout at the top of his voice if he was opposed. Perhaps no big deal now, but back when I was tiny, it broke my trust in him — and in extension in all men. The terror I felt toward him I projected onto all other men in my life. It literally took me 20 years and moving to a different country, in order for me to have the guts to approach a guy I liked. An important part of me broken back then, deeply, influencing everything else I did from that point on.

These wounds are part of what shape who we later become — both in good ways and in bad ways. We all have cracks and fractures, but we might not notice them, we might turn a blind eye on them, or we might try to hide them. I, for one, am not proud of having been single so long and always blamed myself for it. It took me years to figure out that a deep wound was causing me to stay single, and until then I kept it a secret.

But what if we learned to showcase or appreciate these wounds? In Japanese culture, there is a beautiful tradition called Kintsugi — the art of repairing fractured pottery with gold. In this context, those fractures are what make the pottery unique and gives it its beauty. What otherwise could have been seen as an imperfection or a weakness is turned into beauty and a strength. I think there is a lot of learning for us humans in this tradition.

Breaking Is Brave

Unless tragedy happens or we are too young to understand the world around us, in most cases we experience being broken when we’ve taken a risk. We launched a startup, we went into a relationship, we shared our work, and it didn’t work out. Our idea failed, our person got rejected and our work criticized. In many cases, this leads to a…