The Japanese Concept of ‘Oubaitori’

Sometimes learning a vocabulary word in a foreign language opens up a whole new concept to us. This is the case with the Japanese word ‘Oubaitori

Everyone has heard the phrase “Don’t compare yourself to others” before. One Japanese concept carries a similar meaning and might be the source of confidence that you need during these trying times.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the lives of people around the world. For most of us, it’s meant a mixture of social-distancing and lockdowns. Being stuck at home all day every day has led many of us to spending more time than ever consuming social media.

For some people, social media has been a positive outlet, allowing them to share their interests and achievements while social-distancing. For others however, it’s had the opposite effect. Seeing people post their latest accomplishments leaves many people with a feeling of disappointment in themselves – What have they managed to achieve during this time?

It can be easy to start comparing yourself with these picture-perfect snapshots of other people’s lives. But do we ever take the time to stop and think about the things that we’ve achieved? Isn’t our own personal growth worth something?

One Japanese concept that strongly focuses on the importance of self-development is Oubaitori.

Oubaitori – What does it mean?

Oubaitori is written as « 桜梅桃李 » in Japanese. Each individual character represents a different kind of blossom: cherry, apricot, peach and plum.

While these four different blossoms look very similar at first glance, they all bloom differently and have their own distinct shapes and smells. Yet despite their differences, each and every blossom is proud and beautiful in its own way. (more on Japanese flower vocabulary words here)

The concept of oubaitori takes this idea and applies it to people. Just as blossoms bloom differently, people grow and develop in different ways too. Everyone is different, and should be proud of what makes them unique.

The meaning of oubaitori is that, instead of comparing ourselves to other people, we should be focusing on our own growth, and valuing what makes us special.

The benefits of practicing oubaitori

Comparison is the thief of joy” is a famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt which perfectly encapsulates why you should practice oubaitori. Once you stop comparing yourself with others, not only will you be happier in daily life, but you’ll likely feel more confident too.

Another important benefit that it can give you is that it can improve your motivation towards completing your personal goals.

An ordinary person might find themselves being discouraged and lose motivation when comparing their own progress with others. However, someone who practices oubaitori will be able to find motivation from looking at their own growth and progress.

5 ways to bring oubaitori into your daily life

While it’s easy to think about changing your lifestyle, it can be difficult to find practical ways to implement oubaitori into your life. Here are some ways to actually make the change you need:

1. Be kind to yourself

One of the key parts of oubaitori is the idea that we need to appreciate ourselves. This means that, instead of tearing ourselves down for our mistakes, we should be looking positively at how we can improve and grow in the future.

We should also be celebrating our accomplishments and successes, as that allows us to grow more confident in ourselves.

Of course, it’s not always easy to treat ourselves kindly. When you’re struggling, it can be a good idea to think about our needs. “What do I need to be happy?”. You don’t need to treat yourself, but you should always be working towards your own happiness.

2. Be grateful for what you have

Putting extra effort into being thankful for what we have is a great habit to have. Not only does it help you realize the good in your life, but it can also help stop you comparing yourself to others. It’s also a great way to notice your own personal growth too.

There are a lot of ways to work on this habit. You can keep a diary where you talk about what you’re grateful for that day, keep a list of the things you’re thankful for pinned up somewhere, or even just remind yourself what you’re grateful for each day. (more about expressing gratitude in Japanese)

It doesn’t have to be a big action, just thinking about what you have is enough.

3. Change the way you use social media

As mentioned previously, consuming too much social media can be a quick way to awaken negative feelings and cause you to start making comparing yourself with others. If you find yourself feeling that way, you should look at making some changes to how you use social media.

One important thing to consider is the content you follow. If you find that there are particular pages or people that cause you to start comparing yourself with others, it’s probably best to unfollow them for the time being.

Having a small circle of friends and family on social media can be a good way to create a positive online environment for you to enjoy.

If you’re trying to reduce the amount of time you spend using social media, you can try a few different methods. For example, deleting social media apps off your phone, giving yourself a limited amount of time to use them every day, or even deleting your account altogether can be effective ways to reduce your time online.

4. Understand that everyone has their own circumstances

It can be easy to compare yourself to others, but you should always keep in mind that everyone’s journey is different. People like to show off their achievements but rarely talk about the work they put in to get there. What might seem easy to them is often the result of hard work.

It’s also worth remembering that people develop at their own pace. Whether it’s due to their environment, upbringing or even just their personality – People have strengths and weaknesses. What might come naturally to you won’t to someone else, so don’t be disappointed when the reverse happens.

5. Take inspiration from other’s successes

Being able to take inspiration from someone else’s achievements and using it to further develop yourself is a really important part of oubaitori. Rather than letting negative comparisons take over, being able to say “If they managed to achieve that, so can I!” is a great skill to have.

This not only leaves you in a more positive mindset, but also opens the door for personal growth. Whether it’s motivation to continue pursuing your own goals, or inspiration to learn something new, you will surely find yourself achieving more than ever before.