"As Christian women, have we set the bar too high for ourselves? Are we striving to achieve our own version of the American dream, some sort of Focus on the Family all-star clan where the kids all love each other, while also reading above grade level and excelling in at least two extracurricular activities?"

So asks Amy Spiegel in her new book, Letting Go of Perfect: Women, Expectations, and Authenticity (B&H Books), in which the Tennessee native aims to expose the "manmade construction of expectations and stereotypes that steal our joy and make us crazy." Wife of 14 years to Jim, who teaches philosophy at Taylor University, and mother of four, Amy and I recently curled up in adjacent wicker chairs to discuss ways that we can resist bowing to the image of the "perfect Christian woman," instead caring for ourselves and showing grace to each other.

What led you to write this book at this point in your life?

I tell a story in the book about going to a prayer meeting with six other women and feeling really inadequate, and then at the end of the meeting realizing that all the women, who appeared to be spiritual superwomen, struggled with the same feelings of inadequacy. The pressures we put on ourselves to be perfect are not from God. I realized that if even these super-spiritual women felt those pressures, then the message of freedom needed to be shared.

You write about the importance of maintaining your own sense of self in the midst of a life largely dedicated to caring for others. How do you practice self-care?

Probably the most important thing has been understanding myself and embracing who I am. Just because you take on a new role like "mom" or "wife," or move to a new town, doesn't mean you stop being who you are. And who you ...

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