It’s funny how when it’s time to learn a lesson, the teacher will present itself to you. The other day, as I was commenting on something I wished I was doing better, a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of wabi sabi, the Japanese art of appreciating the beauty in the naturally imperfect world (i.e. embracing imperfection). This excerpt from Whole Living sums up the origin of wabi sabi in a nutshell:
“Wabi sabi is an ancient aesthetic philosophy rooted in Zen Buddhism, particularly the tea ceremony, a ritual of purity and simplicity in which masters prized bowls that were handmade and irregularly shaped, with uneven glaze, cracks, and a perverse beauty in their deliberate imperfection. The Japanese philosophy celebrates beauty in what’s natural, flaws and all. The antique bowls above are prized because of (not in spite of) their drips and cracks.”
Loosely translated, “wabi” is simplicity, whether elegant or rustic; “sabi” means the beauty of age and wear. I just love the idea of learning to cherish the drips and cracks in our lives, ourselves and in others rather than always trying to fix them. What a revolutionary and liberating thought!
As a perfectionist, I have accomplished great things in my life of which I am very proud. On the flip side, I have also spent a countless amount of energy striving for perfection which can be extremely exhausting. Being constantly obsessed with making things better is a never ending quest since perfection is basically impossible to reach.
The other problem with being focused on perfection is that it can run (and ruin) your life, relationships and self-esteem. How many of us have tried to “fix” a man thinking that if he just changed this or that he would be perfect (or at least acceptable enough to be called our boyfriend). When it comes to our quest for self-improvement, we can often be left feeling disappointed in ourselves and like we are never good enough. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about living your best life and becoming the highest version of yourself but this doesn’t equate to trying to be perfect.
From a work or business perspective, perfectionists can sometimes have a hard time either starting an important project (because we have set the bar so high we already think we will never be able to meet those self-imposed expectations) or getting it completed (because it can always be improved).
This way of seeing things can keep us stuck in a rut and even stop us from reaching for our dreams and fulfilling our life’s purpose. I know I used to dread doing something for the first time because in my mind I had to be amazing at it as soon as I started. Now, with a wabi sabi philosophy, I give myself permission to make mistakes and maybe not be that fabulous on my first try.
Finally, if you think that your perfectionist ways are only affecting you, remember that how we treat ourselves is how we treat others. If you are demanding towards yourself you most likely are of others as well. Send some compassion inwards but outwards also and embrace life’s imperfections.
Do you sometimes struggle with embracing your imperfections? It’s comforting knowing that most of us feel this way at some point or another and that we can slowly become kinder towards ourselves. Rather than focusing on what we think we need to fix, we can put our attention towards all the gifts and talents we possess.