Girl, Rachel Hollis has your back

Adrian Liang on May 15, 2019
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Rachel_Hollis_225.jpgRachel Hollis is no stranger to writing or to business success, but her 2018 nonfiction book, Girl, Wash Your Face, was a blockbuster by any yardstick.

The number-two best-selling hardcover book on Amazon.com in 2018, Girl, Wash Your Face taught readers about the lessons Hollis learned as she became an events planner, a blogger, a wife and a parent of four children, and the successful founder of TheChicSite. But really, the book encourages readers to do what its subtitle says: “Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be.”

In 2019, Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals reached readers’ hands. Blazing with Hollis’ fearless, candid, and irreverent voice, Girl, Stop Apologizing breaks down her advice into three sections: excuses to let go of, behaviors to adopt, and skills to acquire.

We spoke by phone with Hollis about her book, her desire to help women embrace the value of their dreams and goals, and her willingness to expose truths about being successful that others prefer to kick under the carpet.

Adrian Liang, Amazon Book Review: Can you tell me about the meaning of the title of Girl, Stop Apologizing? Because I read it as meaning one thing before I started the book, and when I got to the end I realized I was… kind of wrong.

Rachel Hollis: So, ironically, I wanted to call the book Sorry, Not Sorry. I loved that Demi Lovato song when I was in the midst of writing it. And I loved this idea about not apologizing for who you were, not saying sorry for being bold or loud or different or extra or having a personality that everyone doesn’t totally agree with. And we wanted to play off the word “girl” since Girl, Wash Your Face had been such a big deal, and frankly even my fiction books have the word “girl” in the title. And that was what came to us. This idea of stop apologizing.

For me, for so many years, I didn’t necessarily say it verbally, but I apologized in the way I lived my life — meaning I wasn’t my true self, I played it small, I didn’t want to admit who I was or what my dreams were — because I didn’t want to make other people around me feel uncomfortable. And just taking ownership of who I really am was when I started to have true freedom in my life. And I hope that this is a guide, or at least my ideas help other women do the same.

Dreams and goals are big themes in Girl, Stop Apologizing. What do you see is the difference between a dream and a goal?

I don’t know anyone in the world who doesn’t have dreams. So I think dreams are these things that we imagine. It’s like this beautiful future: I’d like to get out of debt, or I’d like to get healthy, or I’d like to own a beach house — or fill in the blank. We all have a bunch of different dreams about what a possible great future could be.

I think it becomes a goal when you have a plan. It becomes a goal when you’ve got action steps to take to turn it into something. When you actually start to lay it out and figure out “How I going to get from here to there?,” then it’s something that becomes a bit more tangible than this ethereal “Wouldn’t it be nice if…?” Now we actually are headed in a real direction.

One of my favorites among the behaviors that you recommend is something called “Stop allowing them to talk you out of it.” It’s not letting people talk you out of doing something dangerous like driving a car while blindfolded, but about being talked out of positive things like a new business plan or a wellness goal. Can you share with me situations that you’ve run into like this and how you’ve handled them?

I think we’ve all experienced this but don’t put words to it, but I hear it so much from my community. It’s definitely something I [experienced] when I started to get healthy, how much flak I got from my family. I grew up in a predominantly southern culture, so we like to deep-fry everything and cover it in gravy and a little cheese. When I decided to try to really go on a health journey and eat foods that were a blessing to my body and take better care of myself, I would go home for a holiday [and] everyone would dog-pile: “I can’t believe you’re not going to eat turkey!” “I can’t believe you’re having salad!”

For so many reasons, I think other people try to hold us back from doing things that they don’t understand or that maybe challenge where they are in their own journey. Women in my community will talk about wanting to get in shape, and they go get a gym membership, and their husband doesn’t like that they’re taking any time away or that he has to watch the kids. So they’ll let other people talk them out of their goals because they’re made uncomfortable by them.

One of the things that I really want women to understand is that you have just as much value — and I hate that I even have to say this! — you’ve just as much value as any man. Your goals, your dreams, your hopes, your desires for your life are just as powerful and important as your partner’s. And it’s so essential that you give yourself at least as much credit and autonomy over your own life as they are allowed to have over theirs. So even if it’s something that they don’t like… Like my career, for instance. My husband is very pragmatic and he’s married to a huge dreamer, and that sometimes causes friction because if you’re pragmatic, you want to play it safe, you want to make sure everyone’s okay. I would tell him these big lofty goals, and it would freak him out. And to try and keep me safe, he would do everything that he could to talk me out of the thing that I was working for.

You know, I remember when I first wanted to be an author. He thought that was crazy. And I would wake up at 5 a.m. before the kids got up for school, and I would write. And he loved me so much, but he it was sort of like, Aw, babe. Come on. Like, Don’t try. Don’t aim so high. And look where we are now.

So I just want women — honestly, anyone reading this, but really, truly women, I think, struggle with it most — to understand that the goal and the dream… they have value because you have value. And even if nobody else understands them, that doesn’t mean that you should give up.

So what about people who don’t believe they have value because they’ve been told that they’re not worthy of believing in? How do they find that light to guide them into believing they have their value?

I mean, I hope — I really hope — I feel like there has been an incredible shift. And maybe it’s just because I find myself in the personal development space in the last handful of years, but I really feel there’s a shift in the culture and in media right now. There are so many incredible teachers, and social media means that we are so much better connected to people all over the world. I would encourage anyone listening — even if it’s not [to] me! Plenty of people, I’m not their jam, and that’s fine — but you should find a teacher, you should find a coach, you should find a mentor. And it doesn’t have to be in real life. You can find that person on social media. My mentors? I have some of the greatest mentors in the world. Tony Robbins, Dave Ramsey, Oprah Winfrey. They have no idea who I am. For years, these people mentored me through their books. They mentored me through their podcasts. They mentored me through YouTube videos. And I absorbed that wisdom like a sponge.

So if you need the motivation, if you need the encouragement, I love to remind people that this exists on the internet right now for free. I mean, you’re listening to this Amazon podcast. [Ed: This interview was recorded for the Amazon Book Review Podcast.] Go on Amazon! Not only are there so many incredible books you can buy, if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can go read, like, a billion books in a month. There’s so much incredible information out there to inspire you. So even if you don’t yet have that belief in yourself, start hanging out with people who are confident. And by hanging out, I mean absorbing through media. And you will start to feel it, too.

It’s like that old saying, right? You are the combination of the five people that you surround yourself with. So if you’re hanging out with people who are not confident, if you’re hanging out with people who are down on themselves, who are negative, who don’t have that self-belief… the chances of you being the one that emerges making a change are pretty limited. But when you start to hang out with people who are the kind of person you want to be? It is shocking how quickly your mind-set begins to shift.

So you’ve become a mentor through your books and through your podcasts, but you’re also extremely honest about how much help you have in putting up Instagram photos and blog posts and podcasts and running your business in general. You’re not trying to pretend that you’re working alone in a small room in your basement. So when did it become important to you to let people see behind the facade of a one-woman show?

I write about this in the book, but there was a time years ago where it was the first time that the audience started to realize there were a team of people — a small team, four or five — who helped me produce my blog. But I had mentioned it one time, and it was the first time that the audience understood that I wasn’t by myself. And there was such backlash because of it! And I felt so sad, I felt so insecure, and I really struggled with the criticism.

So for a while I just pretended. I wouldn’t talk about anything that I knew would upset people. I didn’t talk about child care. I didn’t talk about my team.

And over the years, a couple of things happened. One was I just got a thicker skin. It is impossible to do this work if you don’t develop a thick skin, number one. And number two — I talk about this in the book, too — but there was this moment when I was watching the Today show, and I will not say her name but there was this very famous woman who was on the Today show who was launching a new product line. And she is famously a mother. Her husband is super-famous too. And [the Today show] were just like, “Man, you’re an author, and you’re this [famous star], and you have these businesses, and you have these children. How do you do it all?” And she giggled and was like, “I’m just really, really organized.” And my heart dropped.

At the time I was in LA — I lived in LA for years and years — and I had worked with the entertainment industry a ton, and so I know, given the level of celebrity this woman has, she’s got maybe more than one nanny, definitely a housekeeper, definitely a chef. All these businesses: she’s got a team, she’s got assistance. I know that. But the mom in Ohio, the mom in Oklahoma, the mom in Fort Lauderdale… she doesn’t. And so when this celebrity with all of these things — and her perfect hair and her perfect-looking life — tells the world that she can have it all because she’s just super organized….? It is a disservice to every single woman who watched that. Every single woman who now feels less than.

Because real life is, I haven’t shaved my legs in three weeks. Real life is, I have four kids; I might not get a shower today. Real life for most of us is trying to make it work. And when you are not honest about what this really takes? You take the wind out of the sails of every woman who is aspiring for her version of more and now doesn’t feel like she can get it because she thinks that you really do do it all by yourself.

And so after that happened I was like, I will be the person. I will stand on the stage. I will write it into the book. And when I wrote that chapter, my husband was like, Oh, people are going to crucify you. He’s a pragmatist, so he’s like, Babe, do you really want to say that? Yes, I do, because here’s the deal: The men who are leading businesses, the men who are writing books…nobody is surprised that they have a team. Nobody is surprised that Jeff Bezos has a team of literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people who help him make that company run. But me with my four kids, and doing all of these things — producing these events, writing these books, speaking on these stages — I’m supposed to do it by myself? That’s insane….

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I have all the help. I have a full-time housekeeper. I have a full-time nanny. I have an assistant. These are all the things that it takes to keep me operating at the level that I need to do. And I think that if you’re not familiar with a business and how intense it is — if you don’t understand why all of those things are necessary but if you aspire to this — and not everyone does! — but if you aspire to them, I want you to know that at least for me, this is what it takes for me to operate at this level and still be able to show up for my children and my husband the way I want to.

Your story reminds me of the term “mommy blogger,” which because “mommy” is the first word and “blogger” is the second word, it’s like somehow being a mommy is more important [to the job] than being a blogger — as opposed to just calling somebody “a blogger.”

I don’t even really like the term “mommy,” because “mommy” sounds sort of patronizing. Any time that we are adding [a qualifier] to something… I don’t want to get punched in the face for this, but I hate the term “girl boss.” I hate that. My husband isn’t called a “boy boss.” I’ve never called him a “boy executive.” So why am I a girl boss? No, I’m just a boss. And being a boss, being any of these things, is incredibly difficult and so much time. Being a blogger? My goodness, talk about a job that is, for most of us, so thankless for so long. And you just keeping showing up for this audience, and the consistency, and you’re trying to figure it out. Don’t belittle what she’s done by saying, Oh, she’s a mommy blogger. Please, it is so much more than that.

When I was reading Girl, Wash Your Face, I had these aha! moments, and one I try to keep front and center is your advice to keep your promises to yourself. But what are the aha! moments that readers are talking to you about with Girl, Stop Apologizing?

Funny, with Girl, Wash Your Face, there were such totally specific things [people mentioned]. That was a huge one. With Girl, Wash Your Face, it was stop breaking promises to yourself. And the other one that was really big for people was other people’s opinions. Those were the things that I’ve heard of the most.

With this one [Girl, Stop Apologizing], it feels like — more than anything I’ve ever written — everyone is taking her own thing out of it. I haven’t heard a clear, Oh, this is what I’m struggling with. The idea for some people of just digging into excuses… like looking at that [reasoning] as an excuse instead of a real thing that’s actually holding me back. Even just questioning whether or not these things have value — like believing that you don’t have time or believing that to fail would be a bad thing — even just questioning that, for some people, is really powerful. Whereas other people have talked about the end of the book, when I’m discussing skills.

A lot of the things, like confidence, isn’t necessarily something that a lot of people equate as a skill. A lot of my readers have said, Oh, man, I always thought of confidence as something you’re born with, not something you can acquire. So even that shift in thinking [is powerful]. Yeah, I don’t know that there’s a specific one that I’ve heard of most. I hope, honestly, that with anything I’m doing, I just helping you shift your perception.

Even asking yourself the question of whether or not something is true or if you just believed it for so long that it has become a tenet in your life… Even that is so powerful to helping you make change.

So what’s next for you on a book-size scale and on a wider life scale?

So on the book side, I’m writing the next book.… It’s due this fall. As a company we’re really excited. My husband’s first book comes out in 2020. He’s writing literally the guy’s version of Girl, Wash Your Face: What are the lies that men believe? Which I think is going to be really interesting. I’m just starting to read through that one right now.

And our biggest thing [is] a huge women’s conference that we do every year [and starts on June 13]. This year we’ll welcome 11,000 women from all over the world, which is so bananas.... There’s a documentary about last year’s conference which lives on Amazon.

Excellent! Congratulations, and congratulations to your husband as well. I understand that you guys have been going through a lot of life shifts, but you appear to be handling it pretty well.

[Laughs] Honestly, the truth is that working together is not easy. It’s not easy. But it’s also been like everything in our life. I think everything in my life and everything in our relationship — even when it’s hard — we come out better people. So it’s been an interesting year to navigate, and I think anyone who’s listening who works with their partner can attest to that. But my gosh, have we gotten stronger. We got stronger and better at communication. And we are figuring it out as we go along for sure.

Great. Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate your taking the time.

Of course. Thank you so much.


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