How to Speak Your Truth—According to Shonda Rhimes

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you being your true self? How do you speak your truth?

In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes explains the benefits of openly speaking your truth. You’ll be able to live your life without fear and embrace uncomfortable situations with ease.

Here’s how to speak your truth without fear.

Embrace Your Truth

Rhimes realized that when she embraced who she truly was and allowed herself to openly speak her truth—her beliefs, preferences, and limitations—she became less afraid of the things that had once scared her. Rhimes advises you to commit to speaking your truth, regardless of whether or not you conform to societal standards.

Own Your Limitations

Rhimes was a single, full-time working mother, and she had at-home childcare to help her raise her daughters. She committed to being honest about all this to the press. She reflects on how society shames women for having help because women are expected to do everything themselves—have a successful career plus a happy family.

Thus, very often, successful, famous women with children are not transparent about the help they have at home when they are asked to divulge their “secret” to juggling so many different roles in their lives. They act like they can do it all without help, which, Rhimes notes, is largely inaccurate. She decided to combat the shame associated with having help by being radically honest about her own life.

Key Takeaways

It’s okay to have help and be honest about it. No one can do it all alone. Women who have help managing their lives should not hide it. Pretending you don’t have help sets unrealistic and harmful standards for women with fewer resources who feel like they’re constantly failing because they can’t keep up.

Play by Your Own Rules 

As she breezed past the one-year anniversary of her commitment to change, Rhimes embraced a desire that had previously caused her confusion and shame—to not get married. She felt liberated when she finally accepted that this was what she wanted and she could disregard what society expected of her. To get there, she had to have a difficult conversation with her boyfriend, and their differences on the matter eventually dissolved the relationship. But Rhimes describes how, although she grieved, she also felt exhilarated because she felt free to live the life she wanted rather than a life she felt she was supposed to live.

(Shortform note: As a person without interest in marriage, it’s not surprising that Rhimes felt far outside the norm. But, increasingly, she is not alone. American society has long held the expectation and belief that everyone should want to get married. However, the percentage of American adults living without a spouse or partner has risen sharply in the last few decades. In 2019, roughly 38% of adults ages 25 to 54 were neither married nor living with a partner, up from 29% in 1990. Though there are other potential reasons for this decline in partnerships, such a drastic decrease suggests that Rhimes’s decision to not marry does indeed reflect a societal shift on the desirability of marriage.)

Key Takeaways

Society puts people in boxes and imposes rules about how our lives should be. Don’t waste your life being someone you’re not. You can find more happiness by making choices according to your own particular wishes, even if those wishes conflict with what society expects of you. 

(Shortform note: While dismissing society’s expectations can be a liberating act that brings greater happiness, for many, throwing off the burden of these expectations and expressing their authentic selves may not be a safe choice. In many home environments, communities, and societies, individuals can face persecution or discrimination for expressing certain aspects of their identity, such as their gender, sexual orientation, or religion, which makes it unsafe for them to be themselves.)

How to Speak Your Truth—According to Shonda Rhimes

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Shonda Rhimes's "Year of Yes" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Year of Yes summary:

  • The story of a woman who said "yes" to every opportunity for a year
  • How to go from surviving to full-hearted thriving
  • Why you shouldn't be uncomfortable with receiving praise

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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