Celebrating flaws, age, and imperfections with Wabi Sabi

written by Anubhuti Arya

photo by Cottonbro

In today’s day and age, there is an increasing pressure on us to strive towards perfection— whether it’s an illustrious career, the perfect relationship, a solid social circle or a fit, athletic body, we want and must have it all. We’re constantly hustling to build the most perfect life, both offline and on social media. The advent of social media has only amplified this pressure- we must curate the perfect feeds, adequately sprinkled with proofs of our achievements, and appear as our best self at all times. But is such a state of perfection realistic or achievable? In most cases, this ginormous goal always remains out of reach, and causes us to constantly be in a ‘self-critic’ mode. This has led to young people facing burnout, anxiety and serious mental health issues at the worst, and a general sense of lack and insecurity at the best. 

In a culture that constantly reminds us of our flaws and keeps us trapped with the pressure of never being good enough no matter how hard we try, Wabi Sabi is a refreshing world view that offers great respite. This age-old Japanese philosophy urges us to appreciate the beauty of flaws, and accept the fleeting, transient and inherently imperfect nature of life itself. It iterates that since perfection is a state of completion, it can never really be achieved, as everything in life and nature is constantly in flux, never reaching completion. It thus inspires us to treat life as an incomplete, imperfect journey, as opposed to the final, perfect destination. It also encourages us to find beauty in flaws, and accept the imperfections in our lives with grace. With this simple shift in our mindset, it can become easier for us to accept any challenges that life throws at us, without going into the self-critical mode that most of us now are so familiar with.

 To understand this profound philosophy better, we must understand its components Wabi and Sabi. Wabi reminds us to appreciate the beauty in the humble and simple pleasures of life, laying a greater importance on spiritual wealth as opposed to chasing material affluence. Similarly, Sabi deals with appreciating the transient and fleeting nature of life— it is concerned with the passage of time, and how all things grow, change and eventually decay. Together, Wabi Sabi is an elegant philosophy encourages a mindset of graceful acceptance, not in a painful, stoic way, but in a way that helps us find genuine beauty and a profound sense of character in our flaws as well as in the imperfections of our life. 

Adopting a Wabi Sabi mindset in today’s fast-paced world might help us go through life with increased calm and grace, and effectively reduce the anxiety around not being good enough. Since total acceptance is one of the important pillars of Wabi Sabi, it also encourages us to not fall apart in the face of challenges that are beyond our control. When this long-standing philosophy extends towards aesthetics, it helps us to admire art and fashion that is more raw and natural as compared to being perfectly polished. It helps us realize the unique character and stories behind handmade and vintage objects as compared to mass-produced machine goods. In essence, Wabi Sabi might just be the antidote we need in a stress-riddled world that is hyper-fixated on an unrealistic pursuit of perfection.

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