Why being imperfect is the new perfect
Striving for perfection is so 2016, argues Cosmo’s Morgan Reardon…
I’m not going to lie, I really struggled writing this feature. I wrote three different intros but, being the perfectionist that I am, I didn’t think any of them were good enough. And quite frankly, this one probably isn’t much better, but I’ve decided I’m OK with that, because I’m embracing wabisabi. It’s not a side order for your sushi, it’s an ancient Japanese philosophy that embraces all things imperfect and encourages you to find delight in the simpler things – like peanut butter on sourdough instead of fancy unicorn toast.
‘Wabisabi is modest and humble. It’s wellworn jeans, weathered wood or an unrestored antique chest,’ says Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers *. But before you dash out to your local Vinnies to grab some cracked plates and preloved clothing, it goes deeper than just how you decorate your home.
The wabi-sabi life
‘In an age when we’re all so concerned about gaining more possessions and getting ahead in life, wabisabi is about taking a step back and going with the flow,’ says Amanda Gruhn, a Gestalt psychotherapist at Therapy Duo (Therapyduo.com).
Gruhn might be onto something. According to a study from the University of Kansas, women of our generation are burning out faster than men because we are striving for perfection in our careers and all other aspects of our lives. Can you blame us? With phrases like ‘girlboss’ and everyone being encouraged to ‘lean in’, we’re constantly comparing our selves to those who are slaying it in startups, rising up the ranks of corporate ladders and smashing the Likes with their perfectly filtered pictures on Instagram.
‘Now more than ever, women are under pressure to work harder and look better,’ Gruhn says. ‘I have more and more young women coming into my practice who are getting everything from breast implants to labiaplasty at such a young age because they want to be “perfect”, but it doesn’t always equal happiness. The idea of wabisabi is that we’re born imperfect. Your hair colour, your wrinkles, they’re all reflections of your life. A large part of unhappiness comes from not accepting who we are.’
She’s right! What’s so great about being perfect carbon copies of each other? Who doesn’t have a soft spot for imperfectlyperfect gals like Lena Dunham or Jennifer Lawrence? They’re the kind of people you can imagine having a wine (or 10) with because they openly admit they don’t have their shit together. Admitting you’re not perfect is actually incredibly endearing – and embracing it can be really fulfilling. ‘When we see celebrities who are willing to be a bit of a goof, it really speaks to us,’ says Gruhn. ‘It’s actually very freeing to just accept who you are.’
So how do we incorporate it into our everyday lives? ‘Change the motivation behind the things you do,’ says Gruhn. So instead of working out because you want to achieve a ‘perfect’ bod like Gigi Hadid, hit the gym purely because it’s good for your health and wellbeing. And rather than catching up with pals because you feel like you need to appear popular and upload the perfect brunch pic to your Instagram, go because you genuinely enjoy their company (assuming you do, that is!).
My wabi-sabi self
It sounds simple enough so I’ve decided to sprinkle a little wabisabi on my own life. Since moving back to Australia after two years living abroad, I’ve found myself trying to play catchup with all my gal pals, who, in the time I’ve been gone, have gotten engaged, promoted, started companies and bought houses. Rather than feel disappointed in myself about the fact that the most expensive item to my name is a leather jacket, wabisabi tells me to abandon my pursuit of perfection and, instead of dwelling on what I think I’m lacking, be grateful for what I do have. In the two years I was in the UK, I may not have saved enough money for a house deposit, but I made some amazing new friends, snorkelled between tectonic plates in Iceland (#humblebrag) and learnt a ton of new skills working there. For that, I’m grateful.
Next I took a long, hard look in the mirror because wabisabi says we need to appreciate our natural selves more. As hard as it is to not cringe at the sight of the new fine lines around my eyes, I remind myself they’re a result of all the laughing’tilIcried pub sessions with friends. The freckles are from spending all day in the pool with my nieces and nephews, and that extra squish around my tummy is from drinking copious amounts of Prosecco in Italy. And when I think of it like that, I have nothing to be disappointed about. Oh my God, I totally just wabisabied myself. Still not convinced? Jessica Alba is a fan. If it’s good enough for Jess, it’s good enough for me (errr, not that I’m making comparisons or anything…).