The most beautiful woman I have ever seen had skin weathered to leather by sitting in the sun. Her wrinkles were deep and her smile wide. Her white hair was crowned with a wide-brimmed hat that bordered on the cheerfully ridiculous. You could tell she loved it tremendously.
On a beach full of scantily clad people flaunting what they got, this was a woman who society said had lost her worth. Still, she was the only one who captured attention. When you looked at her the others faded away. She was the one you wanted to peek at again and again. She was beautiful for a single reason:
She knows who she is and she likes herself like that.
Scars Accentuate The Lovely
Every single one of us has scars on our body, on our souls. These are the wounds life inflicts. These are what make us real and recognizable. Some buy makeup to hide the physical ones, carefully cultivate their digital lives and personality to hide the rest. They spend their days covered in a shell to protect themselves from a world that wouldn't understand. They cultivate the fake and forget about what they’ve hidden away.
And in the dark of night, in the comfort of their bed, these same people wonder why in the heck they are so lonely.
If you dismiss your scars as ugly and hide them from yourself, you hide the best parts of you.
I have a scar on my foot where a meat fork was used to teach me a lesson. I see it and remember how I did not let these things break me.
I have a fresh scar on my psyche from having to choose between food or buying the medicines I need to live with manageable pain and the ability to breathe freely. To me, that scar tells of resilience and the ability to love my child more than myself. For me, that shines beautifully.
There’s a Japanese tradition called kintsugi. It’s the art of taking a broken thing and repairing it to make it more beautiful. They use glimmering gold, shining silver, or opulent platinum to make the repairs. When a bowl is dropped these artists carefully gather pieces and begin to mend it. The cracks are joined together and highlighted in the repair.
Instead of a flawless black bowl, beautiful but boring, you instead hold one made dramatic by golden lightning.
People are kintsugi too.
When you have been faced with trauma or tragedy you feel as if you are breaking. Your sense of self can shatter into pieces. Instead of being gorgeous and whole, you are now unable to hold caring or empathy.
With time, work, and maybe therapy, those wounds will heal. The scar will shine brightly. You overcame a horror and survived, triumphed. The changes to you will amplify your beauty. Maybe you tapped your courage or deepened your empathy. These are traits people are drawn to.
True beauty is being wholly, unapologetically you.
Patience And Care In Repair
Repairing broken things takes time, patience, and understanding. This means that you must give yourself the necessary space and self-love to overcome the traumatic thing. You must accept that who you were before has been shattered and made anew, more beautiful than ever.
There are different types of repair in kintsugi. Depending on the size of the cracks or chips in your beloved bowl, you may need to use different methods to repair yourself. Each method, though different, still shines brightly.
The earrings I wear bring me joy. I decide if and when to wear makeup. Most people look at these and see vanity. I see a woman celebrating herself, letting her outside shine to please no one else.
I don’t care if you believe my favorite shade of lipstick is unflattering. The color reminds me of eating olives, cheese, nuts, and berries while cuddled with my beloved. The taste of berries mingled with and sweetened the taste of his kiss. His smile curves and his eyes shine, reflecting the firelight. Every time my mouth twitches while wearing that lipstick I am releasing the warmth of that memory into the world.
I wore the mask of I’m okay for years before I gave up and acknowledged that I was traumatized by my childhood. I looked at the pieces scattered about and decided to do something about it. This took years and dedication. As a result, that particular join is gorgeous. I faced up to what had been done to me and processed my anger and pain. I accepted it and gave myself empathy. And when the scar fully healed I used its beauty to build something new.
The gold that my childhood became is part of the reason I bought, repaired, and donated computers to programs in low-income areas. Taking something useless like I was when my pieces were scattered about and making it whole and functional is a celebration of the fact that I am fixed too.
A computer can open up the world to a kid who learns to program, or a parent looking for a job to care for their family. Fixing myself opened the world to me too. It allows me to have gratitude for the smallest of things.
Self Acceptance Shines Ever Brightly
The woman on the beach was beautiful because she knew who she was, she loved who she was, and she celebrated that. On me, that hat would look silly. I’d be self-conscious and the charm would be lost. She didn’t care and therefore shone so brightly.
I’m still learning to accept some things about myself. And so my careful gathering of pieces and fixing them goes on. I’m still working on my need for a relationship with emotional stability. The longing of wanting to earn someone’s love (like I was never able to as a child) wars with the sibling thought that damn it, I should be enough already. I’m working on accepting the dueling longings. When I’ve finished this repair, I’ll shine even more brightly.
You also hold pieces of your soul in your hands, small things that chipped and broke when someone else treated you carelessly. Or maybe you were the careless one and see how you managed to wound another person. Understanding and acknowledging that you caused pain can also chip your self-image terribly. Maybe it’s time to examine these wounds and treat yourself with patience and kindness. Work on and fix that bruise. You’ll be even more radiant after.