In dealing with my many issues and numerous imperfections, my therapist introduced me to the idea of Wabi Sabi.
Based on Buddhist teachings, at its very simplest, Wabi Sabi represents the aesthetic theory that everything is perfect not despite imperfections, but because of them.
Wabi-Sabi is very loosely translated as “wisdom in natural simplicity”. How this relates to us as human beings has many interesting and varied facets, and is widely dependent on the person being asked.
The Wabi Sabi concept has its roots in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and presents an image we can easily relate to. 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. But in dealing with what we perceive as imperfections, realize that they are just that – perceptions that may or may not be rooted in truth. 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, free from the judgment of others.
Of course, it is easy to be critical of ourselves, especially in today’s fast-paced, materialistic, perfectionist society. It is important to take time daily to remove yourself from that scenario in order to hone in on 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 of 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, and those experiences are to be celebrated, even if they hurt at the time we were going through them.
In viewing ourselves more kindly, we can see that all the places we have experienced pain or challenge have built us up. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but those experiences have made us stronger, more resilient, and through them, we have learned to persevere.
In Wabi-Sabi, the “broken” person is stronger, more beautiful, and more perfect because of all these lessons.
One interesting way to view yourself within the Wabi-Sabi philosophy is to pinpoint something that you view as a flaw, and begin to think of ways you can try to view that flaw as a benefit instead. For instance, if you are critical of your large feet, instead view them as being able to carry you solidly wherever you go because of their size. For me, 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 it’s fleeting nature.
When an object is created in the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, it is not created to be symmetrical, perfect, or free of imperfections. It is these imperfections, intended or happening by chance, that create the value of the object. It is the same with us as human beings! We are beautiful just as we are.
One author, Richard Powell (Wabi Sabi Simple, Adams Media, 2004) describes it simply, “Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
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