block of wood with a hammer driving a screw and a wrench screwing in a nail

What if you’re not really broken? (But you still think you are)

Image credit: © 2015 Russ Hendricks, from Flickr, used under CC-BY-2.0 licensing

What if you are not really broken?

I would imagine that if you are drawn to the image of kintsugi that you feel like you are broken, but what if you really aren’t? What if you are actually beautiful and perfect just as you are, but you (or those around you) are so busy expecting you to be someone you are not that you feel broken just because you don’t fit?

This is something that everyone experiences to some degree or another, but most of us don’t talk about. We think it’s our hidden, dirty secret.

But let’s bring that little (not-so-)secret part of us out into the light and take a look at it today. I think we just might find that we are not as broken as we think we are!

Types of brokenness

When I hear people talk about brokenness (or feeling broken), the sources of this brokenness fall into one of three general categories: inherent brokenness, imposed brokenness, or invited brokenness. (For a more in depth review of these three types, see The three types of brokenness.)

Inherent brokenness is when we feel broken because of something that is an intrinsic part of our nature that doesn’t fit expectations of who we “should” be. These expectations can stem from our culture, our families, our religious beliefs, or even our own expectations. But the fact that we can’t seem to meet them causes us to feel like we are broken in some way.

Imposed brokenness covers those times when some outside trauma causes us to feel as if it has broken our hearts, minds, spirits, or relationships. This feeling of brokenness often stems from losses of some kind (death of a loved one, end of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of our health, financial ruin, and more), but can also be caused by things like abuse or traumatic events.

Invited brokenness comes into play in those times when we choose to break our lives wide open like a chick emerging from a shell. We may choose to break open the whole fabric of our lives because we realize we need to start afresh in order to grow or heal. While this kind of brokenness involves many losses, it is different from imposed brokenness in that we are choosing to undergo that brokenness instead of having it imposed on us.

Most of us are able to talk about the latter two kinds of brokenness, and we can see how kintsugi would apply to those situations. Some loss or trauma has occurred to break our hearts, and we can imagine (eventually) healing from that loss. The idea that there could be gold in those scars is encouraging and hopeful!

But what do we do with the first kind? What about those places where we feel inherently broken? As if we were just born broken and defective? How do we heal from that? What does that even mean?

Dealing with inherent brokenness

In every place where we belief ourselves to be inherently broken, that feeling of brokenness stems from a comparison of ourselves to an expectation (our own or someone else’s) that we can’t meet.

That means that there are two possibilities for where the failure lies. We assume that any mismatch must stem from our own inability to meet the expectation(s) and so we must be at fault.

But it’s equally likely that it is the expectation that is at fault. What makes that expectation more valid than the way we were created?

I’ve spent most of my working career trying to shoe-horn myself into various careers and jobs, and I’ve often felt broken because I just couldn’t seem to fit no matter how hard I tried. I’d find myself feeling stifled and impatient and irritable and caged, no matter how good the job or situation.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Doesn’t everyone else manage to work at regular, everyday jobs without seething with frustration or feeling like it was all pointless? How did I wind up so broken that I couldn’t make this simple fact of life work for me as it does for everyone else?

But as I’ve slowly moved toward self-employment (still not totally there yet), I’m discovering that this fits me wonderfully! I am thriving in a way that I never did in any job working for someone else. Yes, it’s full of risk and challenge, and I still haven’t completely figured out how to make it all work, but I love it!

It turns out that I wasn’t broken at all; I was just trying to cram myself into a mold that didn’t fit who I am.

I was effectively trying to approach my life with a hammer when I was actually meant to use a screwdriver.

I wasn’t broken. My expectations were.

Take a moment and pull those places where you feel inherently broken out of the dark closets where you’ve been trying to hide them.  Which parts of who you are do you (or others) claim as broken?

Now dig a little deeper and identify the expectation (voiced or not) that is being used in that judgment. How could you reframe that expectation or drop it altogether to create a new one that better fits who you are?

When you apply that new expectation instead, how does that feel? Can you see your wholeness and your beauty begin to emerge from underneath the false expectation that’s been crushing it?

There is still gold

Even though I don’t believe that the metaphor of kintsugi applies to inherent “brokenness” (since it is not actually brokenness at all), there is still gold to found in dealing with this.

In this case, it isn’t gold that comes from healing or from fixing anything. It’s gold that was a natural part of who we already are that is allowed to emerge and shine as we peel away the broken and damaging expectations that were burying it.

For example, as I’ve dropped the expectation that I should be a good employee to let myself move toward self-employment, I’m discovering all kinds of skills and talents that I didn’t know I had. Peeling away that false expectation of who I “should” be has uncovered hidden gold that was there all along.

As you peel away the expectations that you identified a few moments ago, what gold is being uncovered in your life? What parts of yourself have you been hiding that actually have immeasurable value and beauty for the world around you?

How can you focus more on uncovering that gold by making even more space for you to be who you are by dropping the story that you are inherently broken?

What if you are not actually broken (even though you think you are)? What might that mean for you and the world around you if you were to be more fully who you really are?

Will you try it?

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