Girl, Take A Seat: How Rachel Hollis is Spreading a Harmful Message to Women

Trigger Warning: We know some of you like this book, and that's okay. This is just one mom's opinion.

Girl, Wash Your Face is the bestselling book by blogger Rachel Hollis and, to put it plainly, it has taken the world by storm. Hollis is a self-professed Christian, and her book is considered to be a “Christian” self-help book, published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher. Her message, on the surface, is one that many women, and moms especially, need to hear: Love yourself. Put yourself first. Make yourself a priority. It’s become massively successful, spending 33 weeks on Amazon’s non-fiction most-read list.

It must be said that Hollis is a fantastic writer; she writes in a conversational style that makes you feel like she’s your best friend. In many ways, she tackles issues that people might be too afraid to discuss: weight, sex, relationships. But is it really a positive message for women? Or is it just more damaging rhetoric wrapped in a pretty package?

Just be happy, mama!

Hollis repeatedly writes about how women need to understand that they are responsible for their own happiness, and that true happiness can only come about when you let go of the lies that society tells you. On its face, this may not seem bad. Her whole argument is that we’re all strong enough to overcome any obstacle, and if you can’t be happy, then just try, try again, and try harder until you are. That can certainly seem motivating — until you stop and take a second to think about it.

It’s easy for someone like Hollis (more on that later) to preach this kind of message, but for most people, it’s not as simple as pushing yourself to be happy. Not everyone led the kind of overly privileged life Hollis had. Here in the real world, where we aren’t all wealthy and entitled, we get stressed over bills. We worry about feeding our kids. We get frustrated because we can’t afford nannies to step in when we’re in over our heads or babysitters to give us a break, and our kids are wearing on our last nerves. We get lonely because we don’t have the time to see our friends as often as we’d like, and so our days are filled with little-to-no adult conversation. We have a hard time accepting our new post-baby bodies. We’re tired and stressed and frustrated, and so maybe we pick a fight with our spouse. And on and on it goes.

Is it possible to work past these things? Of course it is! But it’s also normal to be sad. Or angry. Or tired. Or stressed. Or frustrated. Sometimes people go through difficult times. Sometimes they have a mental health disorder, and can’t just make themselves be happy, no matter how hard they try. The point is, vapid encouragements to simply “be happy!” are shallow nonsense that ignores the realities of the world — that not everyone has the money or ability to change their job, change their spouse, go on a dream vacation, get therapy, or even afford decent health care.

Drop the fat friends?

One of the most offensive sections in her book involves weight. She slams women for being overweight, making a failure to lose weight, saying it’s not just a health issue, but also a moral failure. Consider how she describes a friend she asks the reader to imagine who loses weight, but then gains it back:

Y’all, would you respect her? Would you count on Pam or the friend who keeps blowing you off for stupid reasons? Would you trust them when they committed to something? Would you believe them when they committed to you? No.

Or how about when she calls being overweight equivalent to settling for a “half-lived life”?

Humans were not made to be out of shape and severely overweight. You can choose to continue to abuse your body because it’s all you know … You can choose to settle for a half-lived life because you don’t even know there’s another way … But please, please stop making excuses for the whys.

She glibly writes about how she “revokes permission” for women to lose track of a goal, a diet, anything, and even goes so far as to say that she doesn’t trust these people. What kind of friend is that?! Hollis conveniently ignores that, yet again, not everyone has led such a privileged life. Some women are mourning the life of a baby they lost before they even had the chance to hold them. Others had a child that got cancer and died. Still others are survivors of domestic abuse, cancer, sexual assault. And Hollis just hand-waves that away. You have no excuse for gaining weight after starting a diet, and if you do, you’re literally an untrustworthy human being who she would drop from her life.

Ignore my privilege

The worst part of Hollis’ book is how utterly and completely tone-deaf this woman is. Let’s be clear: This is someone who (as she repeatedly reminds us) was on the Forbes “40 Under 40” list. She runs a multi-million dollar company, she’s published numerous books, she sells weekend couples’ seminars which cost almost $2,000 (yes, really). She sells an image of authenticity that, in actuality, is very fake. (Those perfectly messy photos of her on Instagram in perfectly sloppy sweats with a perfectly messy bun is not real — it’s manufactured.) She talks about dreams like owning a vacation home in Hawaii and buying a $1,000 purse. She has a full-time nanny that allows her to travel and work and do what she pleases. And these are all perfectly fine things! It is not bad that she is wealthy and successful, has had to endure limited trauma in her life, and has accomplished all that she has.

But the problem is, that’s not attainable for most people. And it’s not an experience most people will ever be able to have. Her mantra that if you just work hard enough, hope enough, try enough, you can accomplish anything is straight out of prosperity gospel-doctrine, which I suppose is where the “Christian” part of her book comes in. But in real life, for people who aren’t white, thin, insanely wealthy, or able to afford nannies, you can’t necessarily just will things into being. You can’t always make yourself be happy. You can’t always make yourself be thin. You can’t always make yourself overcome infertility. You can’t always make your marriage happy. You can’t always make yourself become wealthy. It’s the fact that Hollis is utterly clueless to the reality that so many people live an existence so different from the life she leads that perhaps is so galling.

So really, if there’s anything Hollis needs to hear, it’s this: Girl, take a seat.

Cassy Fiano-Chesser
Cassy Fiano-Chesser is a Jacksonville native and mom to six kids. Her husband is a Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient. She works from home as a blogger and a freelance writer, and they currently live in the Argyle area of Jacksonville. Benjamin is their oldest, born in 2011, and he loves being a big brother. Wyatt was born in 2012, and he has Down syndrome. Ivy came next, in 2013, followed by Clara, born in 2015, who is a diva-with-a-capital-D. Rounding out the brood is Felicity, born in 2017, and Lilly, born in 2007. They love discovering things to do on the First Coast and going on family adventures, as well as cheering on the Jumbo Shrimp and the Icemen.

129 COMMENTS

  1. To the writer of this post: we should be friends, for real! 100% agree with this.

    To people who disagree: We are entitled to our opinions, it may work for you, may not. Not every single book written is will speak to everyone. Regardless everyone is allowed our own opinion, but respecting a difference of opinion is what makes you more authentic as a person. As a society, we have gotten away from the comment of “I respectfully disagree, because of xyz” and start accusing and at time verbally attacking. Go look in the mirror and enlighten yourselves on how to be a better human. Rachel Hollis fan or not.

    My opinion: I borrowed a copy from a friend. Bluntly, I stopped pretty early on because it sounded like a dumpster fire of a 2 am pinterest self help quote bender. Just my two cents. I mean it’s a self help book so people who read it are either seeking self help advice or are just jumping on the bandwagon of the hype. I personally didn’t care for it but other people loved it. If it speaks to you, by all means run with it. For me, I wouldn’t have sought it out personally.

  2. I’m sorry, but her father was a pastor at a church… not someone wealthy. She was not born into wealth, she created her wealth- which she explains in the very beginning of her book (when she was 17 and moved to LA, dropped out of college, and got a job). Later in her book she explains that she was so broke that she was surviving off of the 99 cent store because she could barely afford rent.

    Also, the quote that you mentioned “Y’all, would you trust her?… No.” That wasn’t about weight. It was about someone who repeatedly broke promises and blew off their friends.. someone who was unreliable. Not someone who’s overweight. And she wasn’t actually talking about another person; She was saying don’t break promises to yourself.. you wouldn’t have a friend that repeatedly broke promises to you…

    You are totally entitled to your opinion. However, I think that you should be more informed before the next time you decide to share said opinion with the public.

  3. You are the exact example of why other people’s opinions of you DON’T MATTER. I have read both her books and I can promise you that if she read this article she has enough self confidence that your opinion doesn’t matter. The refreshing thing that I LEARNED from Rachel Hollis is that you are entitled to your OPINION, bless you, from which I (or anyone else who supports her or has their own opinion about her) can comfortably move on without your words having any impact on their mind, goals, etc…

    I do believe that you exhibit the exact type of person that loves to pick apart something that is obviously doing something good form millions, YES MILLIONS, of women and turn it into a judgement fest to possibly make your own self feel better. But hey, that’s none of my business! You do you! I think your opinions would have been more well-received if they came from a place of your heartfelt advice rather than a place of pushing your believes by demeaning someone else! Stay positive!! 😉

  4. I also don’t get the hype about this woman or her books. She touts the same self-help tropes that have been around forever. I think she just markets it in a different, cute, made for Pinterest kind of way. But I don’t find her advice particularly eye opening or even original. I also find her language and general approach to be overly cutesy. All of the “hey girl” and “girl boss” stuff is a bit much for me as a 33 year old grown ass woman.

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. I read her book and a few chapters in got REALLY annoyed and angry, but couldn’t clearly understand why exactly. You are so on point with the mental health issues.
    I only want to defend Rachel in that she did lose her brother & potential adoptive children. Those are forms of trauma as well.
    Everything else is so on point, and I have not been recommending this book to anyone since I read it. Lol!

  6. I was pretty bummed to learn that she had a full time nanny, halfway into reading a second book by her. That’s great for her. I wish I had a nanny. I have four kids and thought if she could do it, I can do it too! Now I’m not so sure. I wish there was a woman mentor out there who I could really relate to. Maybe I’ll have to be that for myself.

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