This post of part of a series on the subtle gifts of kintsugi gold. In this series, I am sharing some of the gifts I have discovered in the gold of my own healing in the hopes that it will help others identify the quiet gifts available to them. All people are different, however, and all forms of brokenness and healing are likewise unique, so my experience may or may not resemble yours. I hope it can still be a starting point for searching for and discovering your own gifts hidden in your healed scars.
There is nothing like brokenness for getting us to really look at ourselves in the mirror.
As the dust settles in the wake of the collapse, we often find that the destruction has cleared away the blinders that were keeping us from seeing ourselves as clearly as we'd like and the self we see in the mirror comes into focus in new detail and clarity.
I've found that this new clarity comes from three main causes, and while the increased self-knowledge is sometimes bitter, it also comes with great rewards when we embrace it.
Times of brokenness prompt us to ask deep questions.
Questions about why things work the way they do. Questions about the meaning of life. Questions about who we are. Questions about what really matters.
It's a time of re-evaluating our stories, the meaning we've given things, our beliefs, our identity, our relationships, and our values.
When all of the outer decorations have been stripped away, we are left with an unimpeded view of the foundations of our lives that we would seldom look at otherwise.
All of this questioning inevitably unearths nuggets of self-knowledge that we've been blind to.
Loss of roles
When life falls apart, one of the things that often collapses as part of the destruction is some part of our roles that have become a part of our identity.
The loss of a marriage through death or divorce destroys our role as spouse and leaves a whole in the identity we've built for ourselves.
In the same way, a severe illness or injury calls our role as a healthy person into question, financial loss disturbs our role as a financially stable member of society, and loss of a job shakes up our career role.
Most of the time, these roles have becomes so much a part of our self-identity that we find ourselves at a loss when they are stripped away.
As a result, we find ourselves needing to re-build a new identity. This process forces us to look at ourselves and who we are in new ways, to see who we are beneath and behind the roles we have relied on.
Stripped away masks
In the same way, the collapse of life as we know it also strips away the masks that we wear.
The depth of our grief shows just how meaningless these masks are in the face of things that matter most.
What value does my mask of "always having it all together" mean when my life is falling apart?
What use is my mask of "always cheerful and agreeable" when my heart is breaking into millions of tiny pieces?
What does my mask of "helpful to everyone all the time" even mean when I'm barely able to function in the midst of grief?
It's not that any of these qualities are bad, but when when we've relied on those qualities so heavily as a part of our identity, we are faced with yet another collapse within our self-definition when those qualities fracture under the pressure of the brokenness we are facing.
We are forced to acknowledge that there is more to us than these masks we wear to gain the approval of others.
These three things work together in times of brokenness to offer us a much clearer view of who we really are underneath all of the roles, masks, and outer trappings of our lives.
There are times this self-knowledge is a bitter thing. In my deepest brokenness, I discovered so many ways in which I was not who I thought I was, and some of these realizations were quite painful.
I discovered that I react out of fear (of rejection, of abandonment, of being shamed, of being taken advantage of, of violence) much, much, much more often than I'd ever imagined.
I discovered that I carry a vast amount of largely unconscious anger just below the surface of my life. An anger that I wasn't seeing, but was clearly visible to everyone else.
I discovered that I am not nearly as kind as I thought I was and not nearly as good a friend as I wanted to be.
I discovered a depth of self-centeredness in me that makes me cringe and a willingness to manipulate others that horrifies me.
And yet ...
I also discovered skills that I had undervalued or discounted: strength and courage and resilience and compassion that I didn't know I had.
I learned new skills, like self-acceptance and self-compassion (even of my shadows), that have helped me grow and heal. Just shining a light on many of those shadows I mentioned above has helped reduce their power over me.
I discovered so much about what mattered most to me and what I needed from life in order to be at my best that has allowed me to re-build from that brokenness in ways that are more authentic and life-affirming because I had dug deeply enough to see myself more clearly as I really am (instead of who I wanted to be or imagined myself to be).
I have no doubt that I still have many blind spots and much more to discover, but my life falling apart propelled me into a journey toward that clearer self-knowledge in a way nothing else would have done.
And the life I'm building in the wake of that is all the richer for it.
In what ways have times of brokenness in your life forced you to ask questions that you might not have asked otherwise? How has the stripping away of roles and masks in the wake of collapse of some part of your life challenged your self-identity?
What self-knowledge have you gained as a result of the questioning and self-examination that this forced on you?
How have you used that self-knowledge in your re-building of your life? What benefits have you gained from that?
Where have you been avoiding these questions or challenges to your identity? What might it look like to explore those areas more deeply?
Other posts in this series
- The subtle gifts of kintsugi gold
- Uncovering hidden strength: A gift of kintsugi gold
- A fresh perspective on challenges: A gift of kintsugi gold
- The hardest kind of compassion: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Breaking the tyranny of emotions: A gift of kintsugi gold
- The winds of freedom: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Curiosity of the heart: A gift of kintsugi gold
- The quiet courage that matters most: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Savoring life's sweetness: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Taking the right responsibility: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Reshaping the story: A gift of kintsugi gold
- A bedrock of trust: A gift of kintsugi gold
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