How the Japanese Art of Kintsugi Helped Candice Kumai Rebound from Rock Bottom
Life isn't always perfect, and if you ask this author and chef, that's a wonderful thing.
Author and chef Candice Kumai seems to be on top of the wellness world. She has five best-selling cookbooks under her belt, she's been featured in top food and health publications too many times to count, and she's a regular contributor on Dr. Oz, E! News, The Wendy Williams Show, and many more. (Exhibit A: Check out her favorite eight smoothie recipes she shared with us.)
But life hasn't always been easy for the "golden girl of wellness" (as Elle dubbed her). Far from it, in fact. Kumai has been through tons of career highs and lows-in her early 20s, her first cooking show was canceled and she had to move back in with her parents. She's also had a few super-relatable rough patches in her personal life, including a recent breakup that left her devastated.
As the saying goes, there's always a silver lining, right? Well, in Kumai's case, it's more of a golden lining. She's turned all of her rough patches into inspiration for her latest book, Kintsugi Wellness. The book takes its title from the ancient Japanese practice of kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery by sealing the cracks with gold. In Japanese culture, the resulting golden pieces of pottery are seen as even more precious and valuable-cracks and all. (Kinda like how women are painting their stretch marks with gold glitter.)
Through a series of trips to Japan (her mother's homeland and her heritage), Candice started to see kintsugi as a metaphor for life. "Like a map of your heart, kintsugi shows us the lessons and reveals the truth," she says. "You can choose to see the broken, difficult, or painful parts of you as radiating light, gold, and beauty."
That acceptance is easier said than done, though. For Kumai, learning to mend her own "cracks" in real life took a lot of work. But along the way, she learned some important lessons about embracing your imperfections. Here are seven steps that helped her accept-and even learn to love-her own so-called flaws.
1. Remember: No one's life is as perfect as their Instagram feed.
These days, everyone puts their happiest, perfectly filtered and cropped moments on display-which can make it difficult to remember that all of us go through tough times, says Kumai.
"Since I've opened up about my past, so many people have started opening up to me about their own experiences and thanking me for helping them feel less alone," she says. "People have told me about their grandmother's passing, their breakup, a career setback, or that they can relate to feeling like an 'outsider' as well"-in other words, all those messy parts of life that you don't see on social media.
2. See your imperfections as beautiful.
"Your hardest challenges, deepest wounds, and greatest fears are actually among the most beautiful, precious, and admirable parts of you," she says. This stems from the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi, which celebrates life's imperfections. "In the Western world, we're often obsessed with symmetry and perfection," she says. (Related: What Bathing Naked In Front of Strangers Taught Me About Body Confidence)
But in Japan, people embrace the not-so-perfect with just as much (if not more) appreciation. A vase of wilting flowers is viewed as just as beautiful as a vase of freshly picked blossoms, explains Kumai. "In this way, wabi-sabi can help us appreciate and reframe what we think of as ugly," she says. "Just as we can appreciate the beauty of a wilted flower or chipped teacup, it can also teach us to appreciate-and reconsider-our physical forms, whether it's a scar, laugh lines, freckles, or gray hairs."
3. Find a new perspective.
One of our greatest teachers when it comes to embracing your flaws? Good old Mother Nature. Head out for a walk, hike, or run, and take time to contemplate your surroundings, suggests Kumai. "Observe the imperfections all around you-the changing of the leaves, the moss growing on the rocks, the moldy bark on a tree," she says. "It's all in the eye of the beholder." (Plus there are legit, science-backed ways nature can boost your health.)
4. Let go of judgments.
"It's all too easy in the age of social media to compare ourselves to others," she notes. But if we stop comparing, we can find more peace and acceptance of ourselves. "Everyone has an inner beauty, and if you choose not to look through a lens of judgment, you will be astounded at the beauty you see," she says. One tool that helps: meditation. She meditates in the mornings before reaching for her electronic devices, which lets her clear her head and erase any judgment or anxiety. (P.S. A lot of top trainers swear by morning meditation, too.)
5. Forgive others for their shortcomings.
People make mistakes-and (news flash!) you've probably made a few too. That's why a crucial part of the wabi-sabi practice is to accept and forgive, says Kumai. "It isn't always easy, but it is better to let go and forgive than to live with a knot in your stomach or a grudge in your heart."
6. Be kind to yourself.
You knew self-care was going to come in somewhere. But here, self-care isn't just about getting a massage or taking time to read a book and relax (although that counts). Self-care, at its core, is really about going easy on yourself, says Kumai. "Remember that there is no standard that you need to live up to. You are really special the way that you are-it's not just your mom telling you that! Treat yourself with the same kindness you would treat your best friend." (Learn more about how to make time for self-care.)
7. Surround yourself with supportive people.
Figuratively and literally, "community is what keeps us together," she says. "Socializing with others helps to grow your own self-love and self-care." And this means more than just participating in a group text on your phone. It means staying in touch with people from all stages and parts of your life. Whether it's a phone call, annual vacation, or taking a group workout class with a new friend, do more that connects you to others in real life, she suggests. (There's a reason Jen Widerstrom advocates for finding your fitness tribe.) This helps you stay grounded, feel more whole, and improve your overall quality of life.