Wabi-Sabi: Finding Beauty in Imperfection

The other day the topic of struggling with our imperfections came up in conversation. My friends and I volleyed back and forth the things we’ve wrestled with over the years regarding our flaws. Disorganization, lack of punctuality, the tendency to be moody, impulsiveness, control-freak behavior, overspending tendencies, and highly emotional outbursts were a few that were thrown out.

When it came to our bodies, the comments got downright brutal. “My wide-as-a-table hips,” “My too-big-for-my-face nose,”My graying old lady hair,” “My Witchiepoo (remember her?) chin whiskers”. “My Mr. Grinch tummy pooch,” “My fat a–,” “My buggy whip arms,” and “My thunder thighs.” The comments went on and on.

Good grief! Will we ever truly believe that nothing and no one is perfect-including ourselves?!!

The Art of Imperfection

Several years ago, an instructor in one of my coaching certification classes mentioned two words I’ve never forgotten. Wabi-Sabi. 

I love saying it because it rolls off the tongue (pronounced wah-bee-sah-bee), but I love it even more for what it means!

wabi-sabi noun: a Japanese aesthetic concept that finds beauty and serenity in objects, landscapes, designs, etc. that are simple, imperfect, and impermanent.

Wabi means “rustic simplicity” and “understated elegance.”

Sabi means taking pleasure in the imperfect and things whose beauty stems from age.

Simply put: There is beauty within the imperfections in life. This means accepting our natural look, flaws and all, and letting go of the idea that we need to achieve perfection. And, if you’re my age, this even means finding beauty in graying hair, thickening waistlines, and those unwanted and annoying chin hairs.

Embracing Our Flaws

Over the years of coaching women, I’ve noticed that there’s one BIG culprit that stands in the way of us loving ourselves. Comparison.

We humans, especially us women, tend to see only the good in others and the bad in ourselves. We often compare our weaknesses against someone else’s strengths.

  • Their long coltish legs with our short ones
  • Their button nose with our pointy one
  • Their snazzy way of dressing with our dowdiness 
  • Their organizational skills with our fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants tendencies

Add in social media, and comparison gets even worse! Social media tends to (not always) be a place where people post only the good things happening in their lives while hiding the bad ones.

Case in point: When’s the last time you saw someone post about:

  • The weight they’ve gained?
  • The strands of gray hair they’ve found?
  • Their parenting failures?
  • Their latest temper tantrum?
  • Pics of them plucking their chin hairs?

I’d guess almost never!

Here’s some great advice I read a long time ago about the “fantasy” of social media:

“Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone’s highlight reel.” 

Ugh, comparison! It’s not even a fair game. It gets us every time. It wrecks our self-esteem, has us wishing for things we’re not meant to have, and has us missing the blessings and joys that are right in front of us..

Bottom line: It’s impossible to live a life without flaws. We are perfectly imperfect and imperfectly perfect (go ahead-read that last sentence again). Problems arise, plans change, expectations are dashed, heartaches happen, we fail, and mic drop for all of you over 50; we get older and discover even more flaws.

And while I’m on the subject of being OK with our imperfections, let’s consider how OK we are with others’ flaws as well. Our kids, our spouse, the annoying coworker, the nosey neighbor, the toxic people you try to avoid, your in-laws — all of them. Let’s cut them some slack; they’re just as messed up as we are.

Wabi-Sabi Inside and Out

Not only does the concept of Wabi-Sabi have to do with people (seeing our imperfection as beautiful), it has to do with style too. When it comes to style and décor, a Wabi-Sabi home uses weathered and old furnishings that give a feeling of peace and simplicity.

Frayed quilts, chipped platters, weather-worn frames, mismatched chairs. I love old things like these. Being surrounded by them gives me a sense of calm and makes me feel safe.

Wabi-Sabi has to do with nature too. We only need to step outside to see imperfections all around us. Jagged rocks. Leaves. Ripples in water. Moss on the side of a tree. Crooked branches. I love to hike and explore the acreage at our cabin. Imperfections are nature’s way of reminding me (us) that flaws can be beautiful.

Let’s start to see the beauty of simple and natural things. They’re all around us. If we slow down from time to time and look closely, we can see them. Doing this is a way to experience the little, almost hidden, gems and joys in our life.

Age is Beautiful

We have a choice: We can see our imperfections as a) negative and something to be avoided or b) beautiful and full of possibilities.

Take aging, for example. I’m the age my mom was when I thought she was ancient. Boy, was I wrong! I’m choosing to look at this season as beautiful, a new start, and full of potential.

Oh sure, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there are times when I look in the mirror and let out a pitiful-sounding sigh. My skin isn’t as smooth and firm as it once was. There are wrinkles around my eyes and above my lips that I wish weren’t there, and there’s peach fuzz growing where it shouldn’t. And don’t even get me started on the strands of gray on my head.

But, you know what? Good things happen with age. Really good things, actually. I’m wiser now. My experiences have been filled with failures and successes, and they’ve truly been the best “teachers” for me. Instead of accumulating things like furniture, decorations, and miscellaneous “stuff,” I’m simplifying and surrounding myself with only the things that bring me the most joy. I’m letting go of hurts, bitterness, and something that used to make me angry. I’m reconnecting with long-lost friends. I’m trying things I had little time for before, like traveling, hiking, volunteering. I’m being selective about who I associate with. I’m accepting my body the way it is and celebrating that it allowed me to give birth to three children and that it’s healthy and strong. And finally, drum roll please, I’m letting go of insecurities that used to hold me back and make me feel inferior. I guess you could say I’ve got a little Popeye the Sailor Man attitude in me because I want others to know that “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”

Can I Get an Amen?

The mold was broken when we were created. We are unique from each other. Each of us is imperfectly beautiful and perfectly flawed (go ahead and read that last sentence again). That’s right. I’m imperfect. You’re imperfect. We’re all imperfect. Be OK with that.

Here’s something to think about: If everyone had a perfect life, it would be dull. No one would mess up, so we’d know nothing about grace or patience or forgiveness or how to overcome obstacles or start over and try again. How boring! Yawn!

Next time you’re hard on yourself, breathe in and breathe out and think Wabi-Sabi. Beauty in imperfection. Ahhh.

Friend, I’m not chasing perfection anymore. I’m pursuing happiness, joy, purpose, and peace.  And the only way I can ultimately find them is in being my perfectly imperfect self. Care to join me?

Hey, before I go, be sure and reach out to me if you need anything. Did you like this blog? Consider sharing it with a friend who may benefit from reading it.



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