Five Strategies to Prevent Perfectionism: The Thorny Side of Self Care by Lisa Towles

Let’s welcome back Lisa Towles as she shares with us “Five Strategies to Prevent Perfectionism: The Thorny Side of Self Care.” Enjoy!


Asking for help seems like a good place to start this month’s guest post.

I’m delighted to have been invited by renowned writing coach and teacher, Beth Barany, to guest blog periodic posts here and I’ve generally themed them around Strategic Self Care.

Asking for Help

What’s so hard about asking for help, and why don’t we do it more often?

Asking for help implies that I don’t know everything, that there’s a gap in my knowledge or capabilities and that I’m neither invincible nor perfect.

Really, I’m not??


Asking for help displays vulnerability, and makes you admit that you can’t always meet all of the demands of your life.

Who can, though?

Woman's head on table

The Challenges

I love talking about this part of self care because it’s related to perfectionism, which is one of the thorniest aspects of all.

Why thorny?

Self care is challenging because we must admit that we need care in the first place, and not everyone is willing to do that.

If you haven’t cultivated self-awareness and are not yet accustomed to self reflection and checking in, the whole idea of self care might feel frivolous or bewildering.

Fear not — self care is easy, and you can start with something like this: sit in a quiet spot, close your eyes, put your hand on your chest and ask yourself, “How am I doing right now? What do I need?” 

Even if your resistant self says, “I’m fine; I don’t need anything”, that’s okay.

You’ve still taken the time to pause and ask the question. It’s a good start.


Perfectionism is my dirty little secret.

I talk all the time about how I’ve moved away from toxic patterns of perfection. How I’ve worked with counselors and coaches of all types to bring more kindness and mindfulness to how I relate to myself.

I have tools and meditation that I use to effectively cut myself slack, allowing myself to make mistakes and be okay with them.

But the truth is, some part of me still wants to be superwoman and able to somehow do everything and be everything to everyone.

I’m a work in progress and that’s okay.

The important thing is that I now know how to recognize old patterns and what to do when I see them.

Person holding a book

For writers, perfectionism is especially tricky.

When you’re preparing a manuscript for publication, you really do need to strive for perfection in the context of editing and proofreading.

So how do we reconcile these two opposing agendas?

We want our book to be as perfect as it can be prior to publication, removing all errors to create the best possible experience for readers.

But editing and proofreading – whether we’re doing it ourselves or working with a publisher, is incredibly challenging, intensive, and detailed work.

Here’s a question:

How do you bring Strategic Self Care to the final stages of manuscript preparation?

It is possible to balance productivity and self care. Below are some tips for meeting your output goals while managing your emotional wellness in the process.

Women talking

Five Strategies to Prevent Perfectionism

  1. Take frequent breaks – I like the Pomodoro method of 25-minute sprints followed by short breaks to keep you on your game without getting burned out.
  2. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to help you share the load – the more eyes the better.
  3. Allow yourself to make mistakes – find areas of your life that don’t require the same precision as book editing. and allow yourself to complete a task without meeting your normal high standards (or even leave it incomplete).
  4. Set Mini Goals – Set a schedule to meet your productivity goals but be mindful of your morale. If you start to feel frustrated and your sense of dread and overwhelm kick in, step away.
  5. Treats and Rewards – I recommend 1 chocolate chip cookie for every ten pages edited.

Typing on computer

More Support

I’ve finally created a website for my Strategic Self Care work, where you can read about my 5 pillars:

  • Celebrate Small Wins
  • Grieve Losses
  • Saying No
  • Perfectionism
  • Asking for Help

And if you’re in need of writer-self-care and don’t know where to start, I’m happy to offer a 15-minute free coaching session. Email me at to connect.



Lisa TowlesLisa Towles is an award-winning Bay Area crime novelist and a passionate speaker on the topics of writer support and strategic self-care. Her June 2022 thriller, Hot House, was a #1 Amazon Bestseller (Kindle) and won First Place in the Book Fest 2022 literary awards in the category of Mystery & Crime. The Ridders, a new political thriller, will be released on November 30 by Indies United Publishing.

Lisa attributes part of her success to the fellowship and support she gets from membership in Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and also from her trusted relationships with local, independent bookstores. Lisa has an MBA in IT Management and works full time in the tech industry. Check out The Ridders on her publisher’s website to read an excerpt, watch the book trailer, and read editorial reviews. You can also pre-order it on Amazon.

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  • Lisa, this is an interesting and fun post, especially the chocolate chip cookie. But only if you throw in a cup of hot chocolate.

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