Book Review: Girl, Stop Apologizing
I just finished reading Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis.
As an empty calorie style self-help book, it wasn’t the worst. As a God-centered character development book, it had a huge amount of questionable content. For a much more wholesome review, I suggest reading this one from The Gospel Coalition.
I read and reviewed Hollis’ first book, Girl, Wash Your Face a while back. This new book was much of the same. To recap my position from the last one: it would’ve been just fine and dandy and shallow if she had left Jesus out of it, but she didn’t. She dragged Jesus into it and messed a bunch of things up. Seriously. For my review of Girl, Wash Your Face, click here. For a better review of it from Alisa Childers, click here.
Hollis did it again, but differently. It’s as if Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, and Joel Osteen all melded together into the body of a moderately attractive female with an affinity for Instagram, party planning, and self-centered affirmations and then published a book.
Hollis talks a lot in this book about her Instagram feed and her various other social media platforms. I actually looked up her Instagram page. Do you know what I found? An incredibly likable, persuasive, successful woman with a functional looking family. Her books also heavily project this, primarily because she talks incessantly about how successful and likable and relatable she is.
Her likability and relatability are part of the issue with this self-centered ideology she champions. Studies show that, generally, we’re more likely to trust and follow the advise of famous/successful/good-looking people. Hollis’ social media feeds have all of these qualities.
It’s because of these qualities that this ideology is so hard to speak out against. It’s incredibly difficult to say, “No, this is wrong” to someone we find likable and relatable. Hollis repeatedly refers to herself in the book as “Your friend, Rachel.” That kind of positioning makes it substantially more difficult to objectively read any book with a critically thinking mindset, which is how all of us should read any book in which someone is telling us how to improve or change our lives.
Before I dive in to the plethora of questionable content, let me address the good stuff in the book.
Over and over and over and over again, Hollis pleads for us to acknowledge our wants, desires, dreams, wishes, hopes, etc. It is healthy for us to know what we want, hope, and dream to have. If it’s what we should want, hope, or dream for is a different question altogether. But the starting point of owning our desires and whatnot is good.
She repeatedly beckons for us to be take responsibility for ourselves and to own the fact that we are in control of our behaviors. No blaming others for what we do or shirking responsibility for how we act. We are responsible for how we conduct ourselves. This is also good.
Hollis also challenges us to form healthy habits and to become organized. Exercising, drinking more water, and having a solid routine are all good, functional things.
Unfortunately, that’s about where my agreement ends. Let’s start at the beginning.
“…when you understand that you don’t have to justify your dreams to anyone else for any reason, that’s the day you truly begin to step into who you’re meant to be…you focus in on the dream you have, you do the work, you put in the hours, and you stop feeling guilty about it!”Page xii
Firstly, not every dream should be pursued. Secondly, assuming it’s a worthwhile dream, not every dream can be pursued when you’re married or have kids. When you have a spouse or kids or both, sometimes your dreams need to be put on hold because there are other more important things, like the spouse and/or kids. More on that later.
“But first, we’ve got to stop living in fear of being judged for who we are.”Page xiv
Hollis uses the word “judging” to mean more of condemning behavior than just forming opinions based on evidence, like how the dictionary defines it. Judging is a good thing; it’s helps us determine what is right and what is wrong. Condemning is a separate act from judging. We’re not to condemn others. Judging is fine.
Also, sometimes we should be in fear of being looked upon poorly by others. We’re all profoundly broken people; not everything we do is always good and not all parts of us are 100% beautiful all the time. This type of thinking only aids the ideology that everything about everyone is always acceptable no matter what. Trust me, that’s very far from the truth. Just look at R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, or Jared Fogle.
“What am I willing to give up in order to get it? That’s what it boils down to. Not whether or not you have the time, but whether this goal you have is so compelling, so beautiful, so necessary to your future happiness that you’re willing to trade your current comfort in order to achieve it.”Page 23
In this section, Hollis is talking about radically sacrificing things in order to follow her dreams to increase her happiness. She boasts about cutting back family time, parenting responsibilities, spousal quality time, and other adult responsibilities just to make herself happier. This continues throughout the entire book. At one point Hollis says that she did it so her children could see what a successful woman looks like and so her husband would have someone to respect. She portrays this radical selfishness as profound selflessness.
How can you tell if it’s selfless or selfish? Because Hollis says she’s doing it because it’s what’s right for her and her happiness.
“You are enough. Today. As you are. Stop beating yourself up for being on the beginning side of yet, no matter what age you are. Yet is your potential. Yet is a promise. Yet is what keeps you moving forward. Yet is a gift, and you are enough to get to the other side of it.”Page 36
This is another common theme in the book. You being enough and everything you need to succeed is already within you. From a biblical perspective, that’s a load of penguin crap.
She talks about God and her faith and says some Jesusy words, but none of it actually lines up with biblical principals. Seriously, has she not read anything in Psalms or any other book from the Bible for that matter? One of the huge, and I mean huge, themes of Christianity is that we’re not good enough by ourselves, which is why we desperately need a different, better source for help. And that ain’t us.
“After all, their happiness matters more than yours does, right? They matter more than you do. The only way to be a good mother, daughter, sister, friend, or whatever is to show up for the other parties exactly how they want you to, when they want you to, right? Ladies, you get one chance at this—literally only one chance at this life—and you have no idea when your chance might be over. You cannot waste it living only for everyone else. I don’t mean that you should be wholly selfish. I don’t mean that you should assume life is only about you and what makes you happy. Part of being in a family or a relationship or a community means showing up for others. The problem is that most women I know don’t struggle to show up for others; they struggle to show up for themselves.”Page 42
She says that part of being in a family/relationship/community means showing up for others, but this passage is legitimately one of the few times in the entire book where she mentions that sometimes other people come first. Needless to say, I’m not convinced that this is actually sincere, given the overarching theme of the book.
There is also something to be said here about the selfishness that is inherently anti-biblical. Last time I read stuff in the Bible, it was quite fond of the idea of selflessness and self-sacrifice and putting others before oneself as an expected behavior.
“I don’t care what religion you were raised in. You weren’t taught guilt and shame by your creator. You were taught guilt and shame by people. That means whatever your people thought was shameful is what you learned to be ashamed of. Whatever your family or the influential people in your life thought was something to feel guilty about is what you have guilt about now.”Page 49
Guilt is biblical. So is anger. And just like anger, our guilt function can malfunction. When the anger function isn’t working properly, it can wreak havoc and mess up a lot of things; it’s the same way with guilt. When the guilt function is working
Shame is also a good thing when we do something shameful. Let’s go back to R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, and Jared Fogle: They did a lot of bad, awful things. Things they should be ashamed of. If their guilt and shame functions were functioning properly, perhaps they would’ve been more repentant of their shameful acts. If they were shamed more when their behaviors started to manifest, perhaps it could’ve prevented things from becoming worse.
“So I don’t put the laptop away. I remind myself that this is part of the deal, that these boys of mine will always know what hard work and dedication look like. I remind myself that someday when they’re grown men it will never occur to them that a woman can’t start and build and run a successfulPages 68-69
company,because that was always part of their reality.”
Here Hollis is talking about not putting her laptop away at her kids’ karate practice. I get it, people have to work sometimes. But Hollis talks about this being a consistent behavior. She says that it’s so her kids will know what a successful woman looks like, but given the theme of the entire book, that seems to be another thin veneer for selfishness.
“Let me say it again: this behavior doesn’t have a place in your life. I don’t care if it’s coming from your sister or your mom or your boyfriend. Nobody deserves verbal and mental abuse, and every time you allow it to happen you’re giving that person permission to treat you that way. You are not required to put up with it just because you always have. To recap, we’ve got two kinds of negative substantiated opinions. The first comes from a place of love, so you’re going to be a grown-up and consider it but not accept it as gospel truth unless it feels right to you. The second isn’t meant to be helpful but destructive, and therefore you should reject it.”Page 74, emphasis mine
I agree! Verbal and mental abuse
The part I want to focus on here is that emphasized sentence. Hollis said earlier in the book that our perception is
Interestingly enough, if she would have more of a God-oriented and biblical outlook, then we should constantly be trying to align our perception with God’s and what he wants. Not what we want and what we think will give us the most happiness. It’s much harder to kick good, loving people from our lives when we’re being jerks or when we have bad behavior if we all have a God and biblical-oriented disposition.
“I’m a hustler, baby. —JAY-Z”Page 76
She literally used a Jay-Z song to open a chapter. A few paragraphs later she explains why: “So I’m bringing in Jay-Z lyrics just for my gals who are chasing down a dream, who want something more and aren’t afraid of hard work and audacious goals!”
Can you guess what the lyrics of that song are? They’re awful. Essentially, Mr. Z is attempting to get a woman, or women, into bed with him and he’s trying to lure her/them into that bed by buying her/them stuff. But much more graphically. Since this is a relatively family-friendly website, I’m not going to post the lyrics. But you can read them for yourself here.
I really hope that by “audacious goals,” Ms. Hollis doesn’t mean that women should be encouraged to get into bed with men who buy them things. Regardless, using lyrics from that song to motivate women to work hard for success and whatnot seems kind of…bad.
“…someday I would be rich. I’m not supposed to say that, I know. Social media is filled with hundreds of male CEOs and self-made entrepreneurs who tout the power of wealth and the justification for achieving it. But, if you’re a woman, it’s frowned upon. It’s impolite. It’s not something good girls do.”Page 78
I’m not sure who she’s been talking to, but pretty much everyone I have ever talked to about successful women do not care if a woman is rich and/or successful. This section of the book almost reads like she’s trying to make a non-issue a scandalous thing. Really, it’s 2019. Come on. Successful and wealthy women
y’all, if I had to stay at home with them full-time, I’m not entirely sure any of us would survive. It’s not my spiritual gifting. It’s not in my wheelhouse.”
In this section Hollis is talking about how she’s not spiritually gifted with the spiritual gift of parenting. Or motherhood. Or being a stay-at-home-mom. I’m not sure which one, but regardless, they’re all wrong. None of those things are spiritual gifts. And I have never seen or heard of any of them being listed as a biblical spiritual gift.
Parenthood is an awesome burden and a duty. To label it as a spiritual gift, which it isn’t, and to then say that because it isn’t your spiritual gift you can justify shirking off some of that responsibility is incredibly selfish.
Two pages later, Hollis states, “Hustle is my love language.”
Does she mean hustle like the Jay-Z song? If so, that’s über questionable. I read The 5 Love Languages. Hustle isn’t one of them. Honestly, it sounds like it’s just another excuse to be selfish.
“Heck, it doesn’t matter what your family, your closest friends, or your spouse think about your dreams either. All that really matters is how badly you want those dreams and what you’re willing to do to make them happen.”Page 83
I’m married to a super driven woman, so I think I’m especially qualified to have an opinion on this one: This is super selfish. It absolutely does matter what your spouse thinks about your dreams. When you hitch your wagon to another person, they are no longer just your dreams; they become our dreams. That whole “two becoming one” thing from ye olden Bible isn’t just referring to sex. It’s two people melding into one in all aspects of life, at least when it’s functional and healthy and God-centered.
“You’re allowed to take time away from your kids, even if it’s an inconvenience to the person who has to watch them. You’re allowed to do something, even if it makes your partner uncomfortable.”Page 91
Secondly, I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to get consent from your partner before you do things that will make them uncomfortable, at least in some contexts.
Thirdly, even in other contexts, you’re supposed to communicate with your partner about things that will make them uncomfortable! Discussion. Communication. Self-sacrificing. Placing their needs above your own and vice versa.
“The list of dreams is how that future vision manifests for you.”Page 100
Hollis challenges us to do some vision boarding, which is where we write our dreams and things on a board and if we focus on the vision board and those things on that board, then they’ll manifest themselves because of our thoughts and our attention to them becoming reality.
I won’t get into the vision board stuff too deeply here. I did write an article about it a while back, so you can read that here if you are so inclined.
But the short story is, from a biblical worldview, vision boards don’t work. Nor are they compatible with the Christian ideology.
“Here’s the thing, though. My priorities are super straight. Here theyPage 147
are: Myself, my personal growth, and my faith.”
According to everything biblically accurate I have ever read about Hollis’ faith, which she claims is Christianity, her priorities are out of whack. You are last, God is first. The other stuff is shuffled somewhere in the middle, but from my understanding of the Jesus stuff, a central tenant of Christianity is following Jesus first, which means putting others before yourself pretty much all the time.
LikeLady Gaga says, baby, you were born this way. It’s not your job to make yourself fit into anyone else’s ideal.”
Lady Gaga? Really? The lyrics to this song are genuinely awful. And pretty antithetical to the God stuff.
Also, who counts as “anyone else?” Does Jesus count as anyone else? He had quite a bit to say about what ideals we should fit into and imitate, namely, his.
Yes, Hollis’ family may be relatively functional and healthy. Yes, she’s incredibly likable and relatable and seems to genuinely believe the ideology she talks about so voraciously.
But it’s still selfish. It’s still incredibly self-centered. It’s still wrong. It’s still petty. It’s still focused on primarily solving middle-class-related problems (money, success, superficial happiness). And it’s still completely contrary to the biblical principles that she rips out of context over and over and over.
Hollis being likable and relatable while spreading this inherently selfish ideology is what makes it so insidious. It’s insidious because this radically selfish belief system is presented so innocently and so lovingly. This self-serving ideological beverage Hollis is serving to thousands and thousands of people is incredibly sweet and satisfying. But it isn’t just kool-aid on a hot summer day; it’s emotional antifreeze.
It’s also worth noting that happiness and joy are two completely different things. We’re not always going to be happy. We should not always be happy. Happiness is an emotion and emotions are fickle.
However, we should always be joyful. Joyfulness is a struggle for everyone at times, and it’s totally possible to be unhappy and joyful simultaneously. Joyfulness is an outlook on life. From what I gather, it’s much more fulfilling than happiness.
Below is a clip from the John Adams miniseries about joy. This has long been on of my favorite clips to watch.
Wanna be joyful? Take a few pointers from John Adams.