Accomplished Women: Stop Belittling Your Victories

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Wash Your Face" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why do accomplished women so often belittle themselves? Why do women find it so hard to give merit to their own victories?

Many accomplished women consciously or unconsciously belittle themselves to make others feel more comfortable. Ambitious women may also hesitate to admit their dreams out loud out of fear of being judged or mocked.

Keep reading to learn why accomplished women should start celebrating their success instead of hiding it.

Accomplished Women Shouldn’t Hide

Many accomplished women consciously or unconsciously make themselves smaller to make others feel more comfortable. Becoming smaller means they downplay accomplishments and goals to be better liked and accepted. They mute themselves for fear of being criticized by others.

For example, Girl, Wash Your Face author, Rachel Hollis, met very accomplished women who called their businesses a “hobby” to keep expectations low or because they were afraid of being judged.

Some ambitious women hesitate to try something new because they fear failure. They stay silent when they have so much to contribute. They hesitate to admit their dreams out loud out of fear of being judged or mocked.

Part of the problem is that when other people don’t understand us, they’re not fully supportive. Working, accomplished women fight their way through a patriarchal system of men who don’t understand ambitious women. Working moms get backlash from stay-at-home moms and others because they don’t understand a woman’s desire to work. To gain the support of others, we try to be what they want, often hiding parts of our personalities and who we truly are.

Accomplished Women Hiding May Stem From Childhood

Hollis also spent years making herself smaller to fit into the expectations of others. Her father wasn’t verbal with praise unless she did something well, but mostly he wanted silence. She learned not to make noise if he didn’t want to interact. 

Her dad didn’t understand his young daughter, so he unintentionally muted parts of her that made him uncomfortable. He called her “little girl” disparagingly, implying she didn’t know what she was talking about, didn’t understand life. 

This attitude affected her into adulthood, with the tendency to make herself small showing up in various ways. For example, if you asked her what she did for a living, she’d say she had a lifestyle blog — not a media company she built from the ground up with millions of visitors, while also speaking, writing and raising a family. She had learned not to be boastful, because as a child she was told she was just a little girl who didn’t know what she was talking about.

She turned down many growth opportunities for her business out of fear of failing, worrying she wasn’t smart or good enough to lead her company into bigger waters.

Stop Living as Half of Yourself

Rachel Hollis came to realize that she was making herself small, but in truth she had big dreams and goals that required faith, courage and audacity. She wanted her lifestyle media agency to be huge — positively affecting the lives of millions of women and improving the lives of her employees. She wanted her company to uplift women, changing the world for the better. Hollis wanted accomplished women to talk about their achievements with pride.

She realized she couldn’t achieve her big goals until she embraced all sides of her personality — even the ones that might make others uncomfortable. You can’t be big and small at the same time. When women mute themselves to make others more comfortable, they are denying who they are truly meant to be. In terms of the author’s Christian perspective, God made us unique and special, and we are fully meant to explore our dreams and talents.

She vowed to stop making herself small — she would no longer live as half herself because her whole self is hard to handle for some. She battled through “mommy guilt” and came to accept and embrace the fact that she loved working.

When she adopted her daughter, she vowed to raise her to embrace all aspects of herself and never mute herself to morph into someone else’s idea of who she should be. She is raising her daughter with a new narrative, one that says one parent isn’t solely responsible for who her daughter will become, and that having a mom with a full-time job doesn’t mean she isn’t loved and cared for. Her daughter will understand that moms can have a career, and it doesn’t affect how much they love their children or how committed they are to their families.

Hollis’s sons will be told by society that they have endless options; she wants her daughter to have this too. She can work or stay at home — whatever her choice is.

These messages apply to all women: When you acknowledge and accept who you truly are, you won’t lose yourself. Understand that your dreams are a road map to your calling, so don’t let someone else’s opinion of you determine your worth.

Tips on Living as Your Full Self

Remember these strategies when vowing to live as your full self:

  • It’s OK to offend people. Many women are people-pleasers, but this can stunt our progress. If someone approves or doesn’t approve of you, that’s not your problem.
  • Make a bold choice. You get to decide who you are every day. (For example, the author got a tattoo to symbolize that she is exactly who she wants to be.)
  • Seek inspiration from books, podcasts, or speakers. Consume content that speaks to areas in which you want to improve yourself, and you’ll gain nuggets of wisdom.

Accomplished Women: Stop Belittling Your Victories

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Rachel Hollis's "Girl, Wash Your Face" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Wash Your Face summary:

  • Why you should accept that life can be messy
  • How seeing that you're in control of your life can help you live more joyfully
  • The 20 lies you might be telling yourself

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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