Why you’re going about recovering from perfectionism all wrong

Catherine Andrews
7 min readSep 13, 2021

Stop murdering your village of weirdos.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who works with sensitive people so they can stop second-guessing, make decisions confidently and live the life they’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here. And you can follow me @catherineandrews on Instagram.

Happy Sunday, Soothers. The idea for this week’s Soother percolated in my brain after reading this (as per usual) excellent advice essay from Heather Havrilesky at Ask Polly (it may be subscribers only). It’s worth a read but the issue boils down to this fact: the reader realizes she is dealing with perfectionism, and it’s impacted her life in so many negative ways, and now she’s trying to stop being so perfectionistic. Of course, the only problem is that SHE MUST STOP BEING SO PERFECTIONISTIC!!! Which is, of course, itself…perfectionism.

Havrilesky catches on to this right away, leaping in with this paragraph:

Wow! Do you see what you just did? You took your current challenge — to accept yourself and embrace the present moment — and turned it into an all-or-nothing quest for perfection! According to you, you can either love yourself and accept death immediately or you’ll never find lasting love or enjoy your job or have a single friend under the sun! YOU CAN EITHER SWIFTLY CONQUER THIS EXISTENTIAL PUZZLE (that humankind has struggled with, often fruitlessly, for thousands of years) OR SAY GOODBYE TO JOY FOREVER!

Havrilesky, is, of course, correct, but I have so much empathy too for the advice seeker, because her perspective is how for most of my life I tried to succeed, to gain acceptance, to reach the sacred destination on a hill of being a perfect person.

I meditated. I journaled. I worked out. I went to therapy. I read self-help books. I did rigorous skin care. I tried to curb my introverted tendencies and receive friendship and social invitations. I got on the dating apps. I tried not to be angry. I tried to see things from multiple perspectives. I tried to have compassion for…

Catherine Andrews

Teaching awakening + healing through vulnerability + self-compassion. Finding hope in a messy world. Author of the Sunday Soother. http://catherinedandrews.com