What the Japanese Can Teach Us About Body Acceptance - RiseEarth

What the Japanese Can Teach Us About Body Acceptance



by Sara Fabian; UPLIFT

Learning to Love Ourselves, Just as We are

You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. – Louise Hay

Looking back on my life, I came to realize that I spent quite a high amount of my precious time trying.

Trying to be perfect. Trying to be appreciated and liked by everyone else around me. Trying to fit in with different groups of people so that I could feel accepted and included, and feel some sense of belonging. In reality, I was using others as an instrument to get what I wasn’t giving myself: Love, appreciation, self-care and self-respect.


I can recall my desperate efforts of ‘making myself beautiful,’ while I was hiding behind tons of makeup. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against being feminine, and I am still using make-up, but I don’t look like I am wearing a mask any longer.

The Old Me used to put on lots of makeup as a daily practice. My face looked no different if I was attending a wedding or going to the gym. The idea of meeting someone that wasn’t close to me (family members or close friends) in all my vulnerability scared me to death.

But here’s what I didn’t know at the time, and what I know to be true today:

In reality, it wasn’t other people I was scared of. It was all about me. I used to perceive myself as not good enough, often making myself small so others would feel big around me. Calling myself names (“Stupid me!”, “Me, again!”) and putting myself down, unable to acknowledge myself for my achievements and taking myself for granted. The only thing I wanted was to be perfect.

The Mirror Effect

I know beauty is entirely subjective and shaped by our minds. Things are as they are: Not ugly or beautiful, not normal or abnormal, and we all perceive reality, filtered through our own lenses.

The same thing is valid for people. We don’t see others as they are; we see them as we are, and everyone is a reflection of ourselves.

Carl Jung called it the ‘mirroring effect’: Everything we either like or dislike in another is a reflection of Self. How could we even see it, otherwise?

My journey to self-love started with the transformational mirror work of Louise Hay. The exercise she offers looks very simple: Take a mirror, look into your eyes and say “I love you.” Start feeling that loving energy in your body, going deep inside your heart. I know it doesn’t sound complicated; but if you haven’t had a harmonious relationship with yourself for years, it’s very hard.

“Loving myself? Isn’t that supposed to be selfish? Isn’t that coming from my ego? What am I doing here? Am I turning into a narcissist now?”–here’s how the voices in my head sounded at the time.

To me, that was a very uncomfortable exercise to do, but I decided to repeat it every single day. You see, new habits are learned by practice–and that’s exactly what happened. After a few weeks, watching myself in the mirror whilst saying “I love you” didn’t feel awkward any longer. Not at all. It was natural, warm and cozy.

Embracing myself with love and compassion was one of the most beautiful gifts I have offered myself. It felt transformational from the inside out, like a rebirth. So I stopped wearing that heavy makeup mask. I didn’t need it any longer. Today, I put on a very little makeup and when I do grocery shopping or for a walk, I don’t wear any.

If this rings the bell for you, I am inviting you to experience another way of understanding beauty and perfection, very different from the norms imposed by most cultures and societies: The ‘wabi sabi’ beauty.

The Beauty in Wabi Sabi

The wabi sabi beauty concept has been promoted by the Japanese culture, and it is based on the principle that imperfections are beautiful. Artefacts are exposed in museums exactly as they are, cracked or broken. And that’s what makes them so valuable; they’ve passed the test of time. The same thing is valid for people. It is our imperfections that make each of us authentic, special, and unique.

Wabi sabi is centred on the idea of radical acceptance of imperfection. It refers to beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. Roughly, wabi means rustic simplicity, freshness and quiet. Sabi is described as graceful serenity, often something that comes with age. Wabi sabi is a concept based on the Buddhist teachings of impermanence, emptiness, and suffering.

Perfection is an illusion. It’s nothing but a ‘pure fiction,’ it doesn’t exist. It is a source of unhappiness and frustration in many people’s lives. It might look like a strength but, in fact, it’s precisely the opposite. It is an enemy, not a friend. A sign of fear. When I know things are perfect, nothing can hurt me; nobody can tell me I’m not good enough. People perceive me as invincible and strong.

Perfection is the result of not feeling good enough and setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. The same thing is behind the wish to look perfect. It is a sign of self-criticism, non-acceptance, and self-judgment. Which is the same as declaring war on our bodies.

Next time you look in the mirror and negative thoughts come up, remember wabi sabi. Your ‘imperfections’ are actually what makes you valuable and unique. I am perfectly beautiful and beautifully imperfect, and this allows me to be ME.

Know you are worthy and beautiful, not because others think so, but because you choose to believe it. Decide you are gorgeous and smart, and see what happens.


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