Why be­ing im­per­fect is the new per­fect

Striv­ing for per­fec­tion is so 2016, ar­gues Cosmo’s Mor­gan Rear­don…

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

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.

Im­age prob­lem

‘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…).

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