I have been studying Japanese lately, and I am finding Japanese a very interesting language in many ways. One of the things that is so interesting is that there are words for concepts that are not expressed easily in English. One of these words is ganbaru, which roughly translates to “doing one’s best” or “hard work.”
One of the things that is quite interesting is that in Japanese the phrase, “Ganbatte kudasai!” is used in a similar context that the phrase “Good luck!” would be used in English, and is said when someone is about to undertake a difficult task or some other endeavor. The rough translation of “Ganbatte kudasai!” is “Please do your best!”
I have to say that I really like this usage. It says so much that is very important, I think. It is especially important for the work of reclaiming our Hestia as an important and even sacred space. I am not sure about anyone else, but I know that I have compared myself to others and felt that I am not good enough or organized enough to undertake such a journey. I was certainly not able to do much around the house when I had a demanding career outside the home. I was (and still am) in awe of women that are able to raise children, have a job outside the house, and still maintain a semblance of order in their home. There is a lot of pressure on women to be able to do it all, and do it all well, in the present day and age.
As you can see from previous articles, even now that I am winding down my previous career and even without children, I am having trouble with juggling my projects and endeavors. The phrase and the concept behind the phrase, “Ganbatte kudasai,” is really quite helpful.
This concept is important because it helps me remember that the important thing is doing my best. I am sure that I am not alone in worrying whether my best will be “good enough.” There are so many expectations placed on us, both by our world and by ourselves. It is easy to say, “Oh, this is impossible. I will never be good enough, so why bother.” The concept of ganbaru is so helpful with this. The important thing is not the result; the important thing is that I am doing my best!
This may seem quite strange for us, but I am learning that in Japanese culture, ganburu is actually an abstract concept, which is not related to any particular activity. I think, though, that there was a time when this was understood even in the West. I remember as a child, we would get separate grades for effort. I do not know if this is still the case, but I do know that I have heard that scoffed at, with the idea that it is achievement, not effort, that is what is important.
Yet, I think that there really is a value to effort and to doing our best, regardless of result! I am thinking of my days in school…at every level from elementary to graduate studies. There was something satisfying about doing my best in a class that was very difficult for me, and that getting a B (or even lower grade) in a difficult class was much more satisfying to me than getting even the top grade in a class that was easy. Indeed, it sometimes felt embarrassing to get a good grade in a class that I had not worked very hard at.
I have gone on a little bit of a tangent here, but I think that this concept and idea really is important. The idea of this blog is not to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed or that they are “less than.” Our society has a funny attitude around the home. It is considered shameful if our homes are not in order; however, efforts to maintain our homes are not valued. I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “So, what are you going to do all day?” when I have talked about closing my business. Some are satisfied when I talk about starting an astrology practice, but when I say that I am going to be a housewife, the looks are quite dismissive. It is almost like people think that houses maintain themselves by magic, or something. It really is a lot of work!
So, in the face of all of that, I think remembering the concept of ganbaru is so important. It is not expected that anyone is perfect, just that she is doing her best!
So, to all my readers….”Ganbatte kudasai!”
And for myself, “Ganbarimasu!” (“I will do my best.”)
For more about the concept of ganbaru, here are some wonderful articles on the subject:
There is also a new blog that has been started by a friend of mine about learning Japanese, if anyone is interested: