Wabi-sabi: You Are Perfectly Imperfect

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack, a crack, in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen “Anthem”

Life is unpredictable; life is messy; life has suffering; life is uncertain. But, when nothing is certain, everything is possible.

I am a recovering perfectionist. As I discussed in detail in The Truth Behind Impostor Syndrome, I spent much of my life in a tireless chase for perfection, and it was the catalyst for many internal sufferings. Thankfully, my journey has brought me to a place where rather than obsess or sigh over the inability to meet an impossible perfect standard, I am learning to embrace my imperfections and view them as the opportunities for “light” to get in.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses”

2 Corinthians 12:9

When I came across the documentary “ Minimalism” awhile back, I was inspired and decided to simplify my life with a freedom from “things”. However, once I was no longer a pawn for consumerism, I was still struck by the world’s relentless pursuit for perfection in possessions, outward appearance, relationships, and achievements. Beyond the obsession to acquire more, there is an obsession to elevate life. I believe this leads to stress, anxiety, depression, and judgement.

WABI-SABI

I recently came across the term “wabi-sabi”, the Japanese art of appreciating the beauty in the naturally imperfect world. Wabi-sabi is considered to be untranslatable and undefinable in Japanese culture, so I will do my best to describe its essence from my learnings. Wabi-sabi is seeing the beauty of imperfect things. It is seeing beauty in things that are modest, humble and unconventional. The wisdom behind wabi-sabi is more relevant now than ever as we search for meaning and purpose beyond materialism. It is like minimalism layered with consciousness. The philosophy helps us to see the blessings in our daily lives just as they are; and not comparing reality to what we think it should be.

It invites a pause, a breath, a relief, a peace.

In traditional Japanese aesthetics, ( ) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. ( source)

I am certainly not an expert in the study and I could never scratch the surface of the topic in one post, but I believe introducing this term is helpful to address some of the issues I believe people struggle with — especially what I have experienced as a leader.

AUTHENTICITY & GRATEFULNESS

I have been addressing “authenticity” in a lot of my content. It is a pillar in the search for a path toward a more holistic wellbeing. When we can accept how God has created us, how every detail has been designed to bring us to where we are, and learn to actually live in that truth, we can embrace what is and care for it on a whole new level. When we are constantly fighting to represent something else or compare ourselves to a worldly standard, we are like manufactured goods. The truth is that what is inside will always come out. It is better to learn to be authentic and use all that we have been given to its greatest capacity as a blessing to those around us and the world.

To embrace the beauty in life as it is invites gratefulness, which opens the mind to connect with the heart and see life through a different lens. It moves value from being like a carrot dangling out in front of us to being present where we are. We can see value in what we have, in who we love, in the experiences we have, and in the moments we are living right now.

LEADERSHIP

Wabi-sabi is a beautiful term that brings us closer to the way I believe we are meant to live. It achieves three things: an awareness of the natural forces involved in life, an acceptance of the power of creation, and an abandonment of the idea that we are separate from our surroundings. Most leaders in a position of power become deluded until something hits them smack in the face with the reality that they are not actually in control of everything. This is another reason I believe that humility is a primary characteristic of good leadership. When a leader of an organization understands that they are not capable of ultimate power or perfection, they are more capable and more qualified to lead others.

The term “perfect” stems from the Latin term “perfectus” meaning complete. This term has been on an undeserved pedestal in Western cultures for so long that people are blinded by its unachievable and misguided standards. Even the concept of achieving completeness means that there is no room for growth, and that all is, in fact, done. Wouldn’t that be the same as death?

SUMMATION

“Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” Richard Powell

I believe everyone, including leaders, would welcome the freedom this concept provides in understanding the strength behind imperfections. Only through acceptance and appreciation for our imperfections can we rely on one another and be open to the blessings that our connections are meant to bring into our lives.

When we can learn to approach life with care and affection for the reality of the imperfect, we can be free of any unrealistic expectations on ourselves and place less unwarranted expectation on others. We can live in more freedom to allow our cracks to be the areas where the light enters.

As a tree curves with the wind and magnolia petals fall in a beautiful un-patterned manner upon the ground, nothing about nature is linear or symmetrical or without decay. And yet, what could be more mesmerizing? Life — the fingerprints, scars, laugh lines, mistakes, shortcomings, learning lessons — is itself perfectly imperfect.

Originally published at https://www.alexismaida.com on April 22, 2020.

Alexis is an experienced executive with 15+ years of expertise in strategy, communications, branding, marketing and wellness.

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