Perfectionism is the worst. Trying to make everything perfect is so draining and ultimately paralyzing. Personally, I always love starting projects – gathering a bunch of great ideas and intentions to make something awe-inspiring and life changing. However, I almost always fall short, burn out, and eventually give up. Perfectionism has been keeping me down and keeping me from expressing myself every day.
You might have noticed that Thrive or Survive hadn’t been updated in a couple of months. It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s not even because I’ve been too busy, honestly.
Okay, so I have been pretty busy throwing a big anniversary party and adopting a rescue doggie, and planning our upcoming road-trip. But the main reason for the radio silence on Thrive or Survive is that I’ve been frustrated with myself. Friends and family have asked me why I haven’t been posting anymore. I’ve started so many posts, then gotten frustrated and deleted them. There is this gap in between what I want to say, and what I am getting across. And it drives me insane. I can’t bring myself to publish anything that isn’t “good enough”. And I never think anything I do is good enough.
Do you know the feeling? I don’t want to say or post the wrong thing, so end up not saying anything. I don’t want to seem like I am “trying too hard”, so I limit myself. Perfectionism is embarrassing; I’d rather just pretend like I couldn’t care less. Because even though I try to make everything perfect, that achievement gap is still there. Perfection just isn’t attainable. Even though there isn’t anyone pushing me to be “perfect” anymore, after years of abuse, I always push myself too hard and judge myself too harshly. I’ll never be perfect, and I am damaging my potential by trying to be.
During the past year, I’ve been taking a hard look at my perfectionism. It started with my wardrobe and beauty routines. Now, I’ve been examining other aspects of my life through the same critical lens – my daily routines, my home, my diet, my relationships and interactions with family members, and even my social media presence. I’m quitting perfectionism.
Around the same time I started examining perfectionism’s place in my life, I kept seeing the term “wabi-sabi” pop up in articles and social media posts (loved Caroline’s quick intro). At first, I thought it was just another sensationalized trend, like the hygge craze that’s spread like wildfire over the past few months. Like hygge, wabi-sabi has cultural and historic roots. It’s a Japanese concept and world view based on appreciating the beauty and authenticity of nature’s impermanence, imperfection and incompletion. To me, wabi-sabi is the opposite of perfectionism, and in many ways the opposite of our western culture. After reading and learning about wabi-sabi, I’ve never felt empowered to leave my perfectionist tendencies behind.
Western Life through a Wabi-Sabi Lens – Examining Impermanence, Imperfection & Incompletion
Impermanence is usually either avoided and or ignored by our culture. We add many preservatives to our food, slather anti-aging products on our skin, and refute glaring evidence of global warming. Instead of celebrating our lives and acquired wisdom, it is common for us to joke at elders’ opinions and joke that we’re turning “29 again”. On the flip side, wabi-sabi celebrates the fleeting beauty of nature. The worn patina of a cherished serving platter, the wilted vase of flowers, the laugh lines on a loved one’s face, are beautiful signs of time well spent.
Items with so called imperfections are often relegated to the clearance rack, or worse, the trash bin. Instead of celebrating unique features, we presume everything should be shiny and new all the time. But where’s the charm or personality in that? Handmade items are infinitely more special and longer lasting that mass-produced crap. Imperfection is beauty, and we’re short changing ourselves by claiming otherwise.
Incompletion doesn’t have to be a sign of failure. Instead, incompletion shows striving and progress. We shouldn’t be afraid to show our life or works as they are, in-process. Keeping everything picture-perfect at all times is exhausting and limiting. Instead of only inviting guests over when your house is spotless or rushing around cleaning before they arrive, don’t worry about it!
I’ve had this scene in my head recently. It’s simple – A creek in the middle of a forest. I’m strolling alongside the stream enjoying the surroundings. The clear water is traveling straight and smooth, with a gentle flowing sound. But a little farther up, the stream isn’t so calm. There are some large rocks and logs disrupting the water’s flow, causing it to rush around around them and crash into the sides of the banks. The stipulations and judgments I place on myself disrupt the ease and flow that I’m seeking. Going around the self-created roadblocks is stressful and causes nothing but confusion.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring the concept of wabi-sabi and talking about how I’m applying it to the details of my daily life. I’ve been reading some books from the library and reflecting in my journal about what impermanence, imperfection, and incompletion mean for me here and now. I also put together the wabi-sabi mood board above and some printable images to remind myself to go with the flow.
Printable Images: (click to enlarge and print)