237 | The Recovering Perfectionist

In this week’s episode we are joined by Caroline McGraw. She is the creator of A Wish Come Clear, where she helps people trade their perfectionism for possibility.

I first “met” Caroline in 2017 when she invited me to take part in The Confidence Course. She hosted conversations with more than 30 guests who shared their unique insights on confidence.

In this week’s show I ask her how on earth she managed to stay on top of that without serious burnout…she has some great tips to share!

No More Perfectionist

Recovering Perfectionist

Caroline has delivered two popular TEDx talks about perfectionism. It is something she knows all too well. But she has learned that perfectionism doesn’t define you.

Many HSPs and introverts are perfectionists.They carry a crazy belief; that we must do everything and we must do it right. The recovering perfectionist recognises that this is an internal demand. It cannot be satiated and simply isn’t true.

“I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more that a deep existential angst the says, again and again, ‘I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Anne Lamott describes perfectionism as the belief that if you hit every stepping stone in your life just right then you won’t have to die. Or a belief that you have the power to make “nothing bad happen”.

This is clearly untrue. So the call to become a “recovering perfectionist” is an invitation to realise that even if you do everything spot on (hit those stepping stones) you will still die.

No Choice

You have no choice but to be a recovering perfectionist if you want to move forward in a healthy way. It’s not a real decision to make. Perfect is impossible. So it’s a choice between accepting imperfection and enjoying the gifts of it. Or living a life of stress and inner pain, going after something that doesn’t exist.

But there is another terrible byproduct of pursuing perfectionism…it doesn’t allow for the messy beauty of the real world to get in.

The Navajo Rug

“In a Navajo rug there is always an imperfection woven into the corner. And interestingly enough, it’s where “the Spirit moves in and out of the rug…Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection. (That’s just delusion and an attempt to control the uncontrollable.) True perfection is the ability to incorporate imperfection! There’s no other way to live: You either incorporate imperfection, or you fall into denial. That’s how the Spirit moves in or out of our lives.” – Richard Rohr

What if you are fighting against allowing the truly beautiful stuff is trying to get out into the world? What if you are blocking that space where the breakthrough is moving?

When things happen that feel like mistakes or “wrong”, rather than trying to eliminate them, be open to the possibility that it’s actually pointing you in the right direction. When you realise you can’t be perfect and that you cannot control everything, you open up the possibilities to the mysterious and beautiful.

Trying to Do Things By Ourselves

Perfectionism breeds the temptation to try and do things alone, and to not ask for help. A big part of recovering from perfectionism is seeking and accepting help. Accept guidance in areas you want to make a breakthrough.

  • A perfectionist might beat themselves up about the fact that they are not doing it right yet.
  • A recovering perfectionist accepts imperfection and finds assistance from others.

First step is admitting you could use some help. Second step is finding the right person/source of help.

Temperament and Accepting Imperfection

When you allow yourself to be yourself and accept all that this brings, it makes you less aware of what you think you should be. You can just be yourself without constantly holding that up against how you feel you should be different.

  1. Accept Yourself
  2. Make Practical Decisions With that Acceptance and Knowledge in Mind

In this episode we talk about what this looks like in reality.


Free Perfectionist Recovery Toolkit: Available at A Wish Come Clear


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