Mental Health Moments: Five Wabi Sabi Mantras To Help Alleviate Perfectionism

By Kaylin R. Staten

Wabi sabi is the Japanese art of embracing imperfection, whether it’s at home, work or inside your own head. The term comes from “the Japanese words wabi (to be alone, not to be bothered by other things, to simplify) and sabi (the beauty of passing time).”

For perfectionists like me, wabi-sabi is a foreign invader in our daily walk toward unachievable perfection. We can’t wrap our minds around it. Why would anyone want to be seen an imperfect? Essentially, the more flaws you have, the more interesting you are.

To ease my perfectionism, I created a list and supplemental graphic of mantras to remind me to live a life of wabi sabi. It’s on the hutch of my desk, my iPad screen and my Hourglass Media binder.

Here are five mantras to help me ease the weight of perfectionism:

Remember who you are.

I’ve battled against authenticity my entire life due to my obsession with perfection. I have hidden my true self in so many situations for so long that it almost seems I am that other version. It took me 25 years to begin to realize who I am, and I still have issues with it sometimes. When I started to peel back the layers and deal with situations head-on instead of allowing them to bury and fester, I realized who I am. Authenticity is one of the most attractive attributes you can possess. Even if someone doesn’t like you for who you are, there will be plenty of people who love you and every quirk about you.

I will say, though, I am proud of my teenage self for rocking those classic TV and “Star Wars” shirts to high school -- before vintage and geekiness were cool.

Live what you love.

Life would be terribly mundane and most likely hard to bear if you didn’t do what you love every day. Even if you’re stuck in a job you hate or are discouraged because you haven’t achieved a goal yet, find the silver linings. Are you building the skills that will help you at your dream job, and are you taking the steps necessary to reach your outlined goals? I’m very fortunate because I adore my career and telling people’s stories for a living. I eat, breathe, sleep, talk and daydream in stories. This mantra reminds me that love is the center of my universe, and it’s present within each pillar of my life: God/spirituality, marriage, loved ones, career, travel, honoring legacies and more. I use it to measure everything in my life. If I don't love a sweater, I won’t keep it. If a professional endeavor does not serve me, I may begin to phase it out.

The only way is through.

I believe resilience is a superpower. It doesn’t matter if you have tried 999 times and failed. Try #1,000 could be the breakthrough you need to achieve a goal or outlast an emotion. You cannot achieve anything if you sit there and do nothing. While everyone has days in which they sit on the couch. watch Netflix, eat junk food and lament about a current life issue, doing that every day will hamper your efforts and general self-esteem. I have bad days. All of us do. What makes the difference is that I push myself to make it through the challenges, even when I feel like I can’t muster enough energy to go on. I’m also very blessed to have a support system that picks me up when I am down. Here’s to you, husband.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

I have also struggled with comparison my entire life. Without delving too much into it, I will just say that the source arose from childhood and remains to this day. Most of the time, I am able to push past it, but there are times that comparison overwhelms me. My “other Kaylin” voice prods at my sanity with competitive words and phrases. When you dwell so much on what other people are or aren’t doing, you lose parts of yourself until you are a shadow of who you were and could become. You begin to lose your positively and happiness.

Embrace imperfection.

This mantra is the heart of wabi sabi, and it’s one I say to myself several times daily. I’ve wanted to be perfect my entire life, but really, wouldn’t that be boring? Life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows. We appreciate the ups and highs because of the downs and lows. Without them, the straight and narrow path would be boring and lead to feelings of unfulfillment and just an overwhelming sense of blah. Embrace who you are, no matter how imperfect you see yourself or others see you. I’ve made mistakes in my life: shown my truest road rage, dated the entirely wrong people, forgotten to send a press release on time. But, I’ve also been patient, dated (and married) the right person and have sent more than 500 press releases on time. Every yin has its yang.

My personal and professional mantras for 2019 and beyond. -Kaylin R. Staten

My personal and professional mantras for 2019 and beyond. -Kaylin R. Staten

Please note: These blog posts are not clinical, although we will provide symptoms and other information. These posts are based on my experiences with anxiety and mental health in general.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit a website like Mental Health America to learn more.

Mental Health Moments blog posts are every other Tuesday of the month. Our CEO and contributors highlight what it's like to live with a mental health disorder and continue to fight the stigma through storytelling


Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.