Top critical review
March 8, 2019
Boiled down, this book is about embracing and expressing who you are without apology. That message I can get behind. The general layout is first addressing the excuses to let go of that keep you stuck, adopting great habits that set you up for success, and then acquiring the skills necessary to make growth possible.
I’m breaking my review into three parts because I have complicated feelings towards Rachel Hollis. She is a motivator and an inspirational speaker – that you cannot argue with. She knows how to pump you up and how to kick you in the butt to get you going. So there are some things I got out of this book. As with anyone and anything, there are some personality quirks and little things that just aren’t my favorite or not my style. Beyond those annoyances and style differences though, there are some truly problematic things that RH says in this book. She has a large cult following who overlook these things, but they are not okay.
As a disclaimer: I have read her previous book, followed her online for years, viewed her documentary, seen countless live videos and Instagram posts, read tons of email newsletters, and been a general fan of RH for a long time (up until the last few months). So this is not a negative nancy review coming from a cranky curmudgeonly troll. This is someone who sees the immense power in her influence and wishes she’d listen and do better.
Positive things I got out of this book and/or things I am glad she said:
- Rachel discusses how as children we pick up on the behaviors that are going to get us attention, which we generally equate to love. If we aren’t extremely self-aware, these behaviors will remain well into adulthood as ways to earn love and affection, and these habits and believes about who we’re supposed to be can be damaging to our adult growth.
- Letting other people’s support of you/appreciation of you determine how you embrace yourself or live your life is just stupid. “Are you a shadow of who you’re meant to be because someone in your life doesn’t fully appreciate you?”
- She actually addressed feminism and how we culture little boys and girls as children to become the grown men who can actually function in society and grown women who are crippled by the idea that their worth is found in how good they are for other people.
- Basic boundary and schedule stuff. It’s old news for me but a lot of women still have no idea they can actually say no to people, leave toxic relationships, or change their schedule so they’re not exhausted 24/7. So I’m sure this was beneficial for many readers.
- Set aside 5 hrs/week to reach your goal, and treat that time as sacred.
- Aim for feeling centered/grounded, not balanced.
- “Mommy guilt is bullshit.” *claps all around*
- I honestly loved her bit about guilt & shame, specifically in reference to the religious community she grew up in and how it translated into her sex life as an adult.
- “Are you humble enough to suck for as long as it takes you to become better?”
- You’re allowed to do things that inconvenience other people. And in reference to that, “If you’re willing to do it for them, you better be willing to demand they do it for you.”
- I also love her tough love that if you can’t find an hour in your day to yourself, you’re not really living. My first gut reaction is to get defensive of the moms she’s speaking to, but I really do believe this for most people most of the time, and I think this is one of those things that you need someone to tough love you on.
Little things I was not personally a fan of:
- A LOT of pop culture references. The book starts off with a story about a Demi Lovato song, and there are references to Beyonce, Oprah, the Kardashians, Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, and more throughout.
- She is a wealthy woman, and it makes her extremely unrelatable. At one point she said, “You know how when you meet with a nutritionist for the first time and they have you write down everything you eat in a week?” I actually laughed out loud at the idea of her thinking hiring a nutritionist is relatable content. She also recommends you take a weekly date night with your spouse and talks about how they keep their marriage healthy by going on “extravagant vacations every year without kids.”
- Felt a little like a not-so-humblebrag. Lots of talk about her goals being bestseller list, flying first class, her follower count, her makeup, her hair, plastic surgery and her resulting great boobs… Just a lot of status symbols as goals.
Problematic things that are objectively not okay in this book:
- Rachel doesn’t seem to realize that 90% of the things she says are extremely albeist and harmful to people with chronic illness, mental illness, and/or disabilities. Examples: “Still using a diaper at 32? That would NOT be cute.” She says that if there’s anything wrong with you or you’re suffering in any way, in pain at all or unhappy, that you’re not focusing enough on your own self-care, that you just don’t GET “self-care.” I’d like to see her say that straight to the face of someone with chronic illness or chronic pain. She also mentions several times that if you’re not in tip-top shape physically and emotionally, you will have a lot harder time reaching your goals and being successful.
- Rachel is obsessed with weight, appearance, exercise, and body size. Unhealthily obsessed, and it’s not okay. She traipses into fat-shaming several times in this book, which I wasn’t surprised by, but the sheer quantity of mentions of “getting in shape” and “sticking to your diet” and “losing that weight” was actually baffling, I wish I had counted them. Examples: She quotes herself as “severely overweight,” yet has said in multiple places that she was a 12 (maybe a 14?) at her heaviest – to call a 12-14 (smaller than the average American woman) “severely overweight” is objectively unhelpful, stupid, harmful, and fatphobic. She summarizes being overweight as being not the best version of yourself and not the best mom you could be. “It’s so simple to lose weight. It’s so simple to get in shape. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.” - further reinforcing that if you’re overweight it’s because you’re lazy, shortsighted (because you can’t hold out for the joy of a future hot bod when that Chick-fil-A sauce is calling your name), and you don’t have the willpower to look attractive. And my favorite – “There are no overweight animals in nature.” Literally RIGHT after she says that it doesn’t matter what size you are or what your weight is, she says, “There are no overweight animals in nature.” and “The only animals that are overweight are the ones that live in our homes. Pets are overweight. You are not a pet. You are a powerful, beautiful, bold woman, and you will treat yourself as such.” I truly have NO words. And a second favorite – she’s discussing her breast size after babies and says she went from a perfect B to an E cup: “E. That’s a cup size. E as in ELEPHANT, as in ENORMOUS, as in YOWZA.” No joke. Still I have no words for this woman’s opinion of larger bodies.
- Along with weight, she doesn’t seem to know exactly what she wants to tell you about it. Several times she’ll tell you not to live in the “I’m too fat” feelings, and encourages you to change your mindset by writing yourself a letter about all the times your body was incredible, but then she tells you a story about how much she hated her post-baby boobs so instead of learning body positivity, she spent thousands of dollars on plastic surgery. There’s nothing inherently wrong with plastic surgery, but be straight up about whether or not your solution to hating your body is a healthy perspective/mindset shift OR if it’s just doing whatever it takes to make your body look like the idea you have in your head. (Which is obviously destructive, and she doesn’t give quantifiers for people with eating disorders and/or unhealthy relationships to food. All she cares about is – “if you don’t feel good about the way you look, what are you waiting for????”)
- She walks this weird line between acknowledging her privilege and thinking she is where she’s at because of her own merit alone. There was a whole rant in the book about how disappointed she was in some celebrity for not acknowledging they had help with raising kids and running a business, and she talks a lot about all of the professional help they have around the house and with the kids, but still in other places it felt like she just doesn’t get it. She talks about how when she wanted to start her wedding planning business, she just went and got an unpaid internship and dealt with abuse from clients for a long time so she could learn the skills and network. I don’t know about any of y’all, but I couldn’t afford the sacrifice of time (choosing to work for free means sacrificing time you could work for money, so it does in fact cost money to do an unpaid internship), and I don’t even have children. She could afford to do that because her husband had a crazy job at Disney and could afford for her to not make any money, AND they had a freaking nanny full-time. But instead she just says that she worked hard and traded her current comfort for the future end result she wanted. She continues to talk about how she built her business with only hard work, hustle, and a Google search, but also takes the time to point out all the people who helped her in the early stages of her business, even going so far as to say that no one is truly self-made. It’s very confusing.
- Rachel Hollis has a major problem with stealing people’s intellectual property. It’s been in the news for a long time, and I was honestly skeptical that she was maliciously stealing mommy blogger’s quotes and info, but after reading this book, I’m much more of a believer. I counted at least 15 quotes in this book that she pretended were her own idea. No attribution, no citing, no reference to the person who originally said the phrase. She just rolled it into her own content, pretending she came up with it. A list for you: “Hope is not a strategy.” “I love Jesus but I cuss a little.” The quote about how if you’re not in the arena taking punches you can’t criticize me (Teddy Roosevelt quote originally and Brené Brown has been applying it to her work for years). “You can’t take care of anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first.” The quote about aiming at what you can hit vs. aiming higher and flying (has been rendered many times but isn’t original to her). “Be interested more than you strive to be interesting.” “If everything is important, then nothing is.” “If it’s not true for everyone, it shouldn’t be true for anyone.” “You are a combination of the 5 people you hang out with most.” The quote about how the only way you fail is if you don’t try at all and don’t accomplish anything as a result. “If you want to change someone else, change yourself” (seems to be a pretty close rendition of Gandhi’s quote about changing the world). “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.” “Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle.” “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done” (Thomas Jefferson). “You cannot control the circumstances of your life; you can only control your reaction to them.” SHE DID NOT WRITE THESE QUOTES OR COME UP WITH THESE IDEAS.
- Rachel has a serious problem with the working class, and it’s not okay to toss your mom under the bus for making you boxed cake every year for your birthday. C’mon. That’s tacky.
- She states in her section about her mom leaving her dad that it was essentially ridiculous for her mom to move out because “you cannot assert your independence if you don’t have the financial means to back it up.” I don’t have the time or energy to go into how destructive this is as an idea for women in abusive relationships, but it’s severely disappointing that she’d say something like this without thinking it through and that none of her very well paid editors caught this massive mistake. There are other ways she could have communicated the same general idea if she really wanted to talk about how traumatic it was for her to not be wealthy as a child (I grew up fairly poor, so I understand the underlying feelings, but I would share them in way less immature ways), she could have done that. Instead, she tossed out a careless statement that can and will be used to make women in abusive relationships feel like they cannot leave if they don’t have financial independence to do so, and that’s definitely not something we need more of in the world.
- She states that you can go cold turkey on addiction if your why is strong enough (as she did with smoking), and that’s not great. She doesn’t understand addiction or mental illness and continues to pretend she is the equivalent of a mental health professional and continues to spew the garbage that if you only have a strong enough willpower you can get rid of any mental illness or addiction you may have.
The Audible version does include two bonus features: a session from the Rise conference (I didn’t listen to it – the book was already too much and I’ve seen the documentary already) and a meditation on gratitude (which I did listen to. I appreciated her trying to teach meditation, but she could have first done a little research into how to guide meditation well – she didn’t leave enough quiet space for anyone to actually meditate with her. She talked nonstop for the 5 minute duration).
Overall, I would not encourage you to read this book. There were some positive things, but I think the negative and destructive ideas she continues to push at her readers are too bad for me to recommend this book in good conscience.