Flawed Beauty

In Japan there is an art form called Wabi-sabi that celebrates imperfect beauty. Pottery bowls are intentionally created to be rustic and simple looking, with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and textures that look unrefined. Often there is a chip in the bottom of the bowl. This is not poor workmanship, but a piece masterfully done with thoughtful planning and careful glazing. It’s a celebration of imperfection – an honoring of the flaw’s beauty. I’d like to suggest that we are like the Chinese bowls with our beauty intentionally planned to include all our flaws.

Embracing our humanness means accepting our flaws and finding within them a beauty beyond our culture’s description of attractive. The simple truth is that no one is perfect, and striving for perfection is like a dog chasing its tail. Catching it is impossible. It’s our individual uniqueness, including our flaws, that’s important to true beauty, not perfection. As Brene Brown says, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders we are all in this together.”

It’s the parts of ourself that we don’t like that have the most to teach us. Our imperfections help us make needed change. They show us how to appreciate, accept, and forgive ourself and others, creating the beauty of transformation. It’s the flaw that takes us to places we would not otherwise go, leading us to deeper self-knowledge and meaningful growth. When we look at our imperfections with compassion, we become more generous in our view of others. Compassion frees us to make healthier choices, which makes the flaw a beautiful stepping stone toward fully embracing ourselves.

Sometimes we carry emotional scars that feel like flaws. It only takes one traumatic event to change our life and make it difficult to trust or love again. Often we want to hide these scars, but with patience and an understanding counselor we can be healed. This gives meaning to the scar.

I’ve been watching some of the Olympic games with particular interest in gymnastics. Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, chose to withdraw from final performances because of mental health concerns. What may have looked like a flaw was actually a courageous stand for the needs of athletes performing under tremendous pressure. She is helping to change how athletes are being treated by the Olympic committee, the press, and social media. Her vulnerability made a strong statement as she said we are not “just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day.” She is criticized by some, but heard and respected by most. This represents the beauty of being true to oneself in a challenging situation. It’s the chip in the bottom of the bowl that makes us all human.

I suspect we all have a list of what we would consider our physical flaws. My mother-in-law has decided that in her next life she is going to have smaller feet, a smaller nose, and smaller ears. I have two long surgical scars that I hoped would be fine white lines by now, but they continue to be red and anything but fine. Then I remind myself that those scars represent surgery that saved my life, and the fact that I have life written in scars all over my body needs to be celebrated. They are the physical evidence that support my continued enjoyment of life. To me that is beautiful.

Whatever features we have that are not celebrated by society are not a flaw – they’re our own personal statement of surviving. Let’s not compare ourself to others, particularly those of us who have had multiple surgeries, endured difficult treatments, or lost body parts. Instead let’s embrace the flawed beauty that is uniquely our own. Like wabi-sabi bowls we are perfectly imperfect. Remember the Ray Charles song titled You Are So Beautiful to Me? That’s how I feel about each of you.

Here is how John O’Donohue writes about this, “One can only learn to see who one is when one learns to view oneself with the most intimate and forgiving compassion. Such a glimpse of one’s essence can utterly rejuvenate a life and enable one to find the hidden wisdom in the beauty of the flaw.” We’re all broken, patched and messy, but it’s our flaws that make us unique, valuable, and yes, beautiful. Let’s stop listening to the voices of perfection and welcome who we are and what we look like with open arms. We have all been beautifully created.

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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