What I Learned from Embracing My Imperfections and the Art of Wabi Sabi
Are you imperfect? Good. That means you are human.
But are you coming to terms with being imperfect? Ah, there lies the challenge.
Culture and society lauds the perfect marriage, perfect children, perfect body, perfect house. It’s nauseating! I have never been and will never be perfect, though there was a time when I tried to be.
My Perfection Journey
I wanted to be the perfect mom. My kids would be well-behaved, highly educated, saints and scholars. My house would be warm and inviting. My marriage would be enviable.
But the truth is, trying to be perfect nearly killed me. It negatively impacted those around me as well.
I am learning to embrace my imperfections, forgive myself for my mistakes and make peace with the tragedies that have befallen my life. It’s still a wonderful life no matter how much crap happens.
The Illusion of Imperfection
Perfection is really an illusion. Many Mamas I know made “the perfect family” an idol.
But when you can embrace your imperfections, you become positively empowered by the mistakes that you make. Here are some ideas that will allow you to embrace your humanity.
Look for the Hidden Gift of Imperfection
Do you feel like imperfections are weaknesses? If you do, then you probably view weaknesses as flaws that can do nothing but harm us.
Humans are prone to error, not perfection. Therefore, when a perfection-seeker makes the inevitable mistake, they are so ashamed of it that they try and cover the mistake up. They refuse to honestly talk about the behavior that led to the mistake.
I’ve met so many Mamas at conventions and speaking engagements who would vigorously nod in agreement that the life of a wholehearted mom is wonderful and superior. In private, they would share their sorrow over wayward children and dead marriages.
The desire to present a positive public face caused them to deny their private pain, which led only to stagnation and feeling stuck.
Chasing Perfection Is a Fool’s Errand
When you embrace your imperfections, you understand that chasing perfection is a fool’s errand. You realize that the human heritage is made up of behaviors that cause error.
However, you don’t stop there. You also realize that the human heritage is a history of learning from those errors and correcting the behaviors that caused them.
The process of growth is contingent on falling down and getting back up. The result is that we learn from our mistakes. It is how we grow as human beings. It is how we have always grown as human beings. It is how our species has grown and it is how we have, so far, survived and thrived.
Learning is the hidden gift of imperfection. It is the reason why embracing imperfection is so essential for personal growth.
What Did We Learn?
When my kids were teens and one of them committed some error, the others would tease and say, “What did we learn?”
Mamas, can we ask ourselves the same question? Can you be honest enough with yourself to look at your past behaviors to examine how they might have contributed to your current difficulty?
In my own journey of learning and moving forward, it has been my endeavor to own what I need to own, call it what it is, learn from it, and do better in the future.
I have had to humbly admit, numerous times, to being impatient, unloving, harsh, judgmental and more. I have called out my imperfections and sought to do what I could to make things right.
At some point in their lives, I have asked each of my kids for forgiveness for how my own screwed-up-ness has harmed them.
By embracing my own imperfections, I have learned from them. After that embrace, I have been committed to being more loving and accepting – of myself and others. Almost everything is better. Not solved or perfect, but better.
Wabi Sabi Says Imperfections Are Beautiful
In dealing with my many issues and numerous imperfections, my therapist introduced me to the idea of Wabi Sabi. Based on Buddhist teachings, Wabi Sabi represents the esthetic theory that everything is perfect not despite imperfections, but because of them.
Wabi Sabi is very loosely translated as “wisdom in natural simplicity.” The Wabi Sabi concept has its roots in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Do you have a well-loved tea or coffee cup? When someone else looks at it, they may see a vessel cracked or chipped by use. To you, it’s beautiful!
Most of us don’t like our imperfections. We develop these perceptions from the moment we are born, by looking at how others react to us. But we are rarely taught to look inside ourselves to form our own opinions.
Of course, it is easy to be critical of ourselves. But what is really important to you, personally? Introspection and self-awareness keep us rooted in what is truly real.
The Wabi Sabi philosophy seeks to give innate value to all those scars we have, both physical and emotional. It is the experiences that created these scars that make up who we are today and every day. Those experiences are to be celebrated, even if they hurt at the time.
In viewing ourselves more kindly, we can see where we have experienced pain or challenge and how they have built us up. They have made us stronger and more resilient, and through them, we have learned to persevere. In Wabi Sabi, the ‘broken’ person is stronger, more beautiful and more perfect.
Pinpoint something that you view as a flaw, and begin to think of ways you can try to view that flaw as a benefit.
If you are critical of your large feet, view them as being able to carry you solidly wherever you go. The residual paralysis I have in my face from Bell’s palsy has been a reminder to me of the surface nature of beauty and how fleeting it is.
When an object is created in the Wabi Sabi esthetic, it is not created to be symmetrical or free of imperfections. It is the same with us as human beings! We are beautiful just as we are.
One author, Richard Powell, describes it simply: “Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” That includes us. Can you embrace imperfection instead of fighting it?
What are some imperfections you have stopped fighting and have started to see their beauty? Have you examined where your need for perfection began? What can you do to fight the urge to be perfect? Please share your thoughts below.