Perfectionism and Yoga

I just finished reading the book, Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses.  My friend Lia, over at The Little Cafe at the End of the World was doing a virtual book club on it.  I can’t rave about it enough!  It is full of magical personal insights, so it reads like a self-help book, but it’s as entertaining as the best non-fiction.  That is probably the definition of a memoir, now that I think about it, ha!

I was talking to my friend Lindsey, the other day about self-help books and she said she is not the kind of person that likes to sit down with that kind of book,  that it is laborious for her to get through them.  For me, reading self-help and health books is like popping candy in my mouth.  I love it, it’s relaxing for me, and I barrel through them.  In fact, I was talking to another friend of mine recently, Molly, telling her about some new fact I had just read, and she turned to me and said, “where do you find this information?!  You just know so much!”  I thought about it for a moment, and realized, I just really love to read.  And I am a fast reader, always have been.

But if you are not like me, Poser, is an easy, fun read. It’s one of those books, where because you bought it to be a relaxing, read-in-the-tub kind of book, you sort of feel like a train hit you, because it starts unraveling some deep seated beliefs about yourself.  It is also the best introductory explanation of yoga poses and history I have ever read.

The book is a classic female hero’s journey.  If you don’t know what a hero’s journey is, I highly recommend devouring Pam England’s blog.  She will blow your mind.  Read it all, every single post.  Her blog is like my weekly multi-vitamin for my scattered and mended heart, my Sunday Service.

Claire Dederer, is a crunchy, AP, Seattle, new mom trying to do everything absolutely perfect, in order to consider her self good.

This book made me self reflect on so many things and one of them is this concept of what exactly it means to be a good mother.  I have visited this concept before, when I was doing my advanced Birthing From Within training but that was over 5 years ago and I wasn’t a mother yet.

I grew up with what I consider to be a bad mother, she is a good person, just not a good mother.  And I know that much of the choices I have made in my parenting style, have been to live up to the internal guidelines I have set up for myself of what makes a good mother, based on everything she was not.

For example, for me and my awesomely loud inner judge, a good mother nurses her baby on demand and self weans.  Can you imagine my inner turmoil when I was not given the opportunity to do that?  I had a personal belief system that if I did not nurse, I was a Fuck. Up.   And thus, I had to re-shift my thinking of what constitutes being a good mother for me.  I am reiterating the for me part, because I am talking about how I judge myself, not other mothers.

I learned long ago it’s not a good idea to judge other mothers for their choices, or judge anyone for that matter.  I always say that the specific way in which we parent our children does not matter, only that we bring unconditional love to each moment with them.

So since I couldn’t nurse, the next best thing for a “good mother” to do,  is do everything she possibly can to get her baby to nurse. A good mother does not give up and throw in the towel, a good mother pumps her brains out and does not supplement with formula.  The list went on and on and on.  And I did not deviate.  I stayed on the course, the inner judge whipping me back in line whenever needed, and dammit, by 5 months I got Penelope to nurse.

Then I realized that my list of what makes a good mother is much longer than my birthing and feeding choices.  A good mother makes clothes from scratch!  She makes food from things she grew herself in her garden and then makes a meal from scratch! Hell, even makes laundry detergent from scratch!  She also works out 5 days a week AND does yoga.  She does yoga with her child too.  She cloth diapers and makes chicken stock from bones from a $30 chicken that she drove 4 hours round trip to go buy straight from a farmer because organic chicken from the natural food store is not good enough.

After reading this book, I began to take stock of how much I do, not only because it’s healthy or the right thing to do, but because it makes me feel like I am GOOD.  The energy it takes to try and be good is EXHAUSTING.

Now, I am not saying that I am going to change anything about what I am doing (because then what the hell would I blog about?) but from here on out, I am giving myself a little break if I don’t meet my perfect internal standards.

As Claire wrote in her book:
FUCK IT.  Get over yourself.  You are going to fuck up.  And it will be OK.

What a breath of fresh air.  It was like she just gave me a hall pass for motherhood.  And so I give it you.  Give yourself a pat on the back, you are doing great! Even if you are not growing your own damn food and making your own damn laundry detergent and nursing your baby 24/7.  You are awesome and good just as you are.

About the Author

Hiya! I'm Stephanie. Mama and Baby Love is all about helping mothers on their own personal health and healing journey and enjoying life along the way. You can learn more about me and what I'm all about. Sign up for my newsletter for more tips, info and inspiration!


  1. One, I am going to MAKE time to read this book. Two, it was really nice to read your post. As you know, I'm a single mom. That's SO far from what I ever wanted for my child, let alone myself. So, right from the get-go, I thought I wasn't a "good" mother because I couldn't fully be the mother I wanted to be. I knew there'd be so many challenges, that me and little bit were at a disadvantage and that I alone could never overcome that. I do so much to make up for his dad's absence knowing I can never replace him. I want to do EVERYTHING for my little one, because he deserves it. But, of course, juggling it all alone, I fall short sometimes. It's definitely an inner struggle, daily, to forgive myself and to remind myself that, darn it, I am trying! I think being a mama is a lesson that perfection is not possible to achieve in all areas, and its not needed in all areas. :)

  2. ~*Jamie*~ says:

    Wow! Reading all your expectations of yourself made ME exhausted. I understand completely though, because to me, a good mom is a stay-at-home mom. Which I am not. So somehow I have to try and make up for it, but I can't. No matter how hard I try, I just can't fit 9 hours worth of parenting into 3. But it's ok, because baby boy has a wonderful father who is making the sacrifices to ensure that boy will be raised by his parents, not a daycare. So, somehow, everything will be ok cause boy has parents that love him and would do anything for him (even if having a stay at home dad isn't as good as a stay at home mom!)

  3. Lia Dominique Andress says:

    I am so glad you got these lessons out of the book. These realizations. I had you in mind the entire time because I too have that self-judging thing going on (as you already know). And… it helped me so much. I wish I had had more time to write more in the book club. I barely led any of my own discussions. BUT- the book club will always be there and I intend to go back chapter by chapter and address the poses within my realm. I hope you'll join me there for a chapter or two.

    Love you!

  4. Cassandra says:

    I'm with Monica. I'm not a single mother, but our family is being destroyed financially and my life circumstances don't allow me the opportunity to try to be perfect. In a way, that's a good thing because I have to roll with the punches anyway, and that just falls into how I'm a mother as well. I can do everything in my power to give my baby healthy food, but my power is greatly restricted by circumstance and no matter how hard I try, I could never give her as good as what you are able to offer Penelope. But that meant that I came to terms with my perfectionism a lot quicker and easier because I had no other option. And sitting there feeling sorry for myself certainly isn't conducive to being a good mother.

  5. Stephanie says:

    @Monica, yes, you must read this book! I totally agree, as long as you are always trying to do and be your best, that is all anyone can ask of you. And if anyone judges you or thinks poorly of you, fuck them! You don't need them in your life anyway.
    @Jamie…oh girl, that list is only like a 10th of the entire list I have created for myself. When I mentally go through them all it really does sound insane. Being a stay at home mom, is on my list too. Until I realized that one, I am not the kind of woman who can not do any work outside the home and be truly fulfilled, and two, if we are going to give Penelope everything we have dreamed for her, I need to work and make an income. And so an internal adjustment needs to be made.
    @Lia, I so want to jump over and see what every one else had to say about it. I am curious if it made anyone else as self reflective as it made us.
    @Cassandra…I am so sorry to hear about your financial situation. I know that so many families are struggling in their own ways in these hard economic times. So glad to hear it has made you release and let go your expectations and helped you be happy wherever you are. Good job!

  6. andmybaby says:

    I like the sound of that book, thanks for the tip! We have quite a bit in common methinks… : )

  7. Stephanie says:

    @andmybaby…my pleasure, you will love the book. So glad you are here, looking forward to getting to know you!

  8. thanks for the book reco! it’s funny how we moms get these ideas about what we HAVE to do to consider ourselves good mothers. i’ll be sure to check out that book from my library. definitely interested in reading about the author’s journey.

  9. I’ve been making your freezer crockpot meals for a while now (thank you for the inspiration!), and am not sure how I happened onto this article but I am going to find this book at the library, stat! It sounds like the book every mother should read right out of the birthing gate!


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