Writtenby Elisabeth Knauer-Turner, M.S.
Changing through Reframing or Wabi Sabi: Finding Perfection in Imperfection
We all know it when we see it: billboards advertising simple and affordable weight loss procedures, commercials encouraging ladies to fit into their bathing suits for summer, TV shows with golden bronze beauties, the customized facebook ad for the best bra for perkiness. They’re just ads, it doesn’t mean I have to believe it. I tell myself all the time. But then I’m going through my daily life, putting makeup on, looking in the mirror, trying on outfits to go out, trying to get my hair just right before an interview. And my mind gets caught up in it … I wish I could get more tan than red in the sun, I wish I didn’t have that little scar on my left cheek, I wish my hair didn’t get so oily by the end of the day, I wish my stomach was flatter.
How do you restrict yourself? Judge yourself? Criticize? In our world, and in my profession (psychology), it is easy – even encouraged – to look for laws. Look for imperfections. What don’t you like? What needs to be fixed? What can you change?
One healthy thing we can do is change our minds. As a feminist therapist, I encourage my clients to change their thoughts through reframing. We can feel empowered by not adhering to what society, our friends, our families, or even we expect, want, and think. But this exercise of reframing can be easy to forget and hard to do when we’re caught up in just day-to-day living. And I’m guilty, myself.
That list of what I “wish” for came too easily, now that I think about it. And especially since these are things that I just can’t change – my skin tone is out of my control, that scar is permanent, I can’t (and don’t want to) wash my hair multiple times a day, and while I could work out more and eat healthier, my stomach will most likely never be like this.
So reframing is something that I’m trying to do more of in my life. And I was inspired after reading this article, “How I Learned to Love My Muffin Top” (shout out to Traci Lowenthal for the facebook post!). The author, Arielle Ford, shares before and after pics (not the kind you think of), her personal story with weight, and her discovery of “Wabi Sabi” – finding perfection in imperfection. (Which sounds much more attractive than reframing, in my opinion.)
Now I’m trying to practice Wabi Sabi whenever I find myself frustrated, angry, worried, or scrutinizing anything that is out of my control. My skin doesn’t need to tan because I have my beautiful freckles that symbolize my bubbly personality (and who doesn’t want to have “sun kisses”?). That scar on my cheek usually isn’t even noticeable (thanks again to my freckles!), and everyone bears scars of some sort – whether they are visible or hidden inside our hearts, because we are all human. My hair gets oily because that’s exactly what my body is supposed to be doing, and it’s a sign that everything is working. And my stomach is so soft when it’s not perfectly flat, and as Arielle Ford puts it, reminds me that I “get to eat delicious, nourishing food,” usually made by my loving husband Collin. J
It’s harder, and is a much slower process, than thinking of flaws and imperfections. But that’s because that’s not what we’re used to, and that’s not what we’ve been taught to do, and that’s why we have to train our minds and practice it. Like everything, it will come easier with time and practice. Not having my mind preoccupied with negative thoughts allows me to live in the moment, loving others, and enjoying life. Loving ourselves comes first, then we can focus on what we can change in our lives with confidence. And think of the difference we can make, telling our stories, spreading the word, and having countless people practicing wabi sabi and ultimately changing the standards of perfection.