Wabi-Sabi Your Life: 8 Ways to Embrace the Japanese Philosophy of Imperfection

February 28, 2023
Emily Wordsworth

The Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi is all about accepting the imperfect and finding beauty in the flawed. It's a way of life that can be applied to different areas of your life, including how you foster your relationships, adapt your home decor to maximise a happier home and how you can better appreciate food. Wabi-sabi is an all-encompassing mindset, but here are eight different ways you can start embracing wabi-sabi in your own life, starting today.

1. Wabi-Sabi Your Mindset

In order to adopt a wabi-sabi mindset, it is important to remember that life is in perpetual flux and that perfection does not actually exist. Try and find comfort and beauty in knowing that nothing lasts forever – the good and the bad. In the tech-driven world we live in, it can often feel like everything needs to be flawless and that mistakes are not allowed. However, wabi-sabi can help us to focus on our mental health by encouraging us to slow down, appreciate what we have, and accept our imperfections, limitations, and state of now.

The best place to start is by being mindful of every moment as it comes rather than comparing ourselves or our lives with unrealistic expectations, this of course takes practice and may be something you’ll grapple with your entire life. But as wabi-sabi encourages us, it’s all about the journey and we must learn to not only accept but also savour the beauty of life, even amongst its ever-changing chaos.

2. Wabi-Sabi Your Relationships

One of the best ways to start incorporating wabi-sabi into your life is by doing so with your relationships. How we connect with other people can sometimes feel complicated and tricky to navigate, but this is all a part of the human experience. After all, no relationship is perfect and there's always room for growth and we must learn to accept the flaws of others too. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for authenticity and genuine connections.

Whether it's with a romantic partner, family member, friend, or colleague, focus on building relationships based on trust, respect, and communication. Always keep your sense of self by knowing your boundaries and what's important to you in these relationships, this way you’ll always feel centred even when facing difficult conversations.

3. Wabi-Sabi Your Home

Our homes are where we gain our most energy, therefore extra care needs to be taken when creating our ideal oasis. When it comes to a wabi-sabi home, it is important to foster a warm and inviting space that reflects your personality. Naturally, there are different degrees of wabi-sabi interiors, but whatever you choose, it should speak to your sensibilities. Many gravitate towards natural materials, reclaimed or vintage furniture and neutral palettes as a way to feel more connected to the earth.

As a rule of thumb, start by decluttering and getting rid of anything that doesn't bring you joy or purpose. Then focus on adding personal touches that make you happy, such as photos, art, plants, and cosy blankets. Remember, your home should reflect you and not what society says it should be.

4. Wabi-Sabi Your Food

One of the best things about wabi-sabi is that it can be applied to any area of your life, including food. Start by being more mindful about the food you're eating and where it comes from. Make an effort to eat more whole foods that are in season and locally sourced, and don't be afraid to experiment with new recipes or ingredients – sometimes the best dishes are the ones that aren't perfectly executed.

Make time to eat and spend time with your thoughts, wabi-sabi encourages us to look inwards and reflect on the moment, note the tastes, smells and textures you are experiencing rather than distracting yourself by eating while watching tv.

5. Wabi-Sabi Your Clothes

We live in a culture that places a lot of importance on appearances, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your personal style for the sake of looking "perfect." Instead, focus on wearing clothes that make you feel your best and reflect your unique sense of style. Also, don't be afraid to mix different patterns and textures – imperfection is key when it comes to wabi-sabi fashion!

As wabi-sabi places an emphasis on finding beauty in unlikely places, thrifting is an apt way to embrace the philosophy without having to buy all new clothes and contribute to the fast fashion cycle.

6. Wabi-Sabi Your Work

It's impossible to find a job that's perfect – there will always be ups and downs no matter where you work and finding focus can sometimes be a struggle, but that doesn't mean you can't find fulfilment in your career. Focus on finding a job that aligns with your values and makes you feel good about going to work each day - never strive for perfection at work, but excellence. Set mindful goals throughout the workday to help keep you grounded in your reality, after all our careers are only a small part of the lives we lead.

7. Wabi-Sabi Your Learning

There's no shame in imperfection when it comes to learning something new, it´s all part of the process. In fact, wabifying your learning process can actually lead to a more fulfilling, judgement free experience because it allows for mistakes by trial-and-error. Just remember, no one ever grew through life by getting everything right. So, whether you're trying to learn a new language or skill, embrace the process and know that there's beauty in the imperfections along the way. Take your pitfalls as an opportunity to better yourself, rather than a sign to give up. Again, place the goal of excellence above perfection.

8. Wabi-sabi Self-Care

The idea of self-care has been so commercialised, that it too can sometimes feel like an act of perfectionism, however self-care is all about honouring what feels best for your mind and body. While that might be a relaxing bath and facemask for some, for another it may be blasting loud metal music and dancing around wildly. Under the wabi-sabi lens, self-care is about listening to what your body is saying and giving it what it needs most. Don't feel the need to make a self-care practice that feels picture perfect, but one that really recharges you and makes you feel more connected to yourself.

Wabifying your life can lead to a more fulfilling existence because it allows for a more human experience free from judgement. Why? Because wabi-sabi embraces imperfection which ultimately leads us back to our most authentic selves. What’s more is that mental health practitioners have found that those who practise wabi-sabi tend to have an increased sense of well-being. So next time you’re feeling hard on yourself for not being perfect, remember that embracing those ‘imperfect’ facets of yourself is one way to lead a fuller, happier life .

"The notion is called wabi-sabi life, like the cherry blossom, it is beautiful because of its impermanence, not in spite of it, more exquisite for the inevitability of loss." — Peggy Orenstein