Rachel Hollis: Girls, Stop Apologizing & Making Excuses

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

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What four excuses does Rachel Hollis say you need to let go of? In what ways could you be sabotaging your own goals?

In her book Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis outlines the most common excuses women make for not chasing their goals. She examines each excuse and explains why they are false and how they can be overcome.

Here are the four most common excuses and why you need to stop making them.

Excuses to Let Go Of

In her book Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis says that before you can acquire the behaviors and skills to help you succeed, you must first develop the right mindset. To Hollis, this means letting go of excuses and embracing a mentality of positivity and perseverance.

Excuses are a tool of self-sabotage. Hollis explains that excuses are paralyzing beliefs that serve no valuable purpose and stop you from even trying.

In this section, Hollis goes through the most common excuses that she hears (and once believed herself) for why you can’t live your dream. She takes each excuse and strips it of its power, reveals the truth beneath, and provides you with strategies to conquer it.

(Shortform note: In The Magic of Thinking Big, author and Ph.D. David Schwartz theorizes that people tend to make excuses in one of four areas: health, intelligence, age, and luck. Schwartz acknowledges that we are all born with advantages and disadvantages in life. For example, you can’t help it if you’re born with a disability. The disadvantage itself isn’t an excuse, but when we lean on our disadvantage as the reason we don’t succeed, then it becomes an excuse. He stresses that those with advantages and the wrong attitude are less likely to succeed than those with disadvantages but the right outlook.)

Excuse 1: Good Women Don’t Focus On Themselves

According to Hollis, society expects women to care for everyone else, and the phrase “a good woman” is typically synonymous with “a good wife and mother.” Hollis goes on to say that because society expects women to run the household, they are often looked down upon for having career ambitions.

Hollis argues that women must shed this excuse because when you’re being true to yourself, you’re better able to care for those you love. When you’re fulfilled, you’ll be better in all of your relationships. Hollis says that the only way to live a full and happy life is to be open and honest about your dreams, goals, and desires.

(Shortform note: The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted society’s lack of respect for women’s career paths. According to a survey conducted by Seramount (a consulting firm that studies workplace inclusion), about one-third of moms in the workplace had to quit or reduce their hours during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 and 2021, with most citing a need to take care of their children during school closures. However, the government didn’t prioritize child care as a pandemic issue to address.) 

Excuse 2: I’m Not Capable

Once you decide that you’re worthy of having your own dreams and goals, Hollis says the next excuse you’re likely to tell yourself is that your dream is too lofty, and you’re not good enough at (fill in the blank) to accomplish it.

Hollis says that believing you’re not capable is an excuse because the truth is, everybody struggles at the start of something new and challenging. She believes that it’s not important to be naturally good at whatever you’re doing. Rather, you must have the willingness to be bad at it for a long time

(Shortform note: When you embark on a new goal, it may be helpful to research what the typical learning curve is. For example, how long does it take most people to train for a marathon if their starting point is zero? How long does it take most people to complete prerequisites for medical school? This isn’t to say that you should compare yourself to others if your learning curve is steeper or slower; rather, having this information ahead of time likely will ease your worry if you’re worried about your starting point.)

Excuse 3: I Have No Free Time

Of all the excuses Hollis highlights, she says the most common one she hears is “I don’t have time.”

Hollis puts forth a simple truth: You won’t find more time. Instead, Hollis says you need to make time by redesignating what fills your hours. She stresses that you can replace any activity with a different activity; the choice is entirely yours.

Hollis recommends you start by “making” five hours available each week to work on your goal by reducing or eliminating other activities. Be intentional about how you schedule your time, and prioritize the parts of your life that are most important to you. 

Timeboxing: A Technique for Balancing Your Schedule

Hollis recommends you redesignate your current hours, but she doesn’t provide a clear strategy for how to do it. Nir Eyal, author and investor, has a simple but effective strategy for managing the time you already have. Described in his book Indistractible, timeboxing is the technique of preemptively blocking out chunks of time on your calendar and designating them for certain activities.

What this looks like: On your calendar, schedule your entire day or week using different colors and categories. For example, you might spend from 5 to 7 p.m. each night cooking and eating dinner with your family. You might be tempted not to include items on your calendar that you routinely do every day (after all, you don’t need the reminder), but you will want to put them on there anyway, as you will see next.

Why it works: There are two major benefits to timeboxing. First, it allows you to keep balance in your schedule. If you are worried about work-life balance, you can take a quick glance at your color-coded calendar to see where the bulk of your time is being spent. Second, this method keeps you on task. It is easy to get caught up in a project and find that suddenly your entire day is gone, and you haven’t even touched the rest of your responsibilities. Giving yourself an end time will ensure that you don’t waste time.

Excuse 4: I Can’t Have It All

You have stopped caring what other people think of your dream, but now you worry that the other areas of your life will suffer. Hollis insists that this fear that you can’t have it all is an excuse that will hold you back. 

Many people aim for balance in life but Hollis believes you should instead strive to be “centered,” which means to feel content and at peace with all areas of your life. Hollis believes that the easiest way to achieve contentment and relieve yourself of guilt is to intentionally prioritize the important moments. Rather than focusing on the number of hours you spend on family, friends, work, and so on, Hollis advises you to be intentional about when you focus on each. Go for quality over quantity.

Are Being Centered and Being Grounded the Same Thing?

Two phrases that are often thrown around in conjunction are “being centered” and “being grounded.” But are they interchangeable? According to Psychology Today, while they’re similar, they’re not the same. 

To be grounded is to live in the present moment. You aren’t dwelling on the past or worrying about the “what ifs” of the future. There’s a peacefulness that occurs when you live only in the present. How does this relate to goals? Well, let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. Instead of focusing on the past (I’ve never been a runner) or fixating on the future (How will I find time in my schedule to train the longer runs?), focus on living in the moment: I am running one mile right now.

To be centered is to have a place to return to—a value that is paramount over others and can be thought of as a destination. Using the previous example, if the most important thing in your life is your family, use that as your center and work your marathon training around your time with them. 
Rachel Hollis: Girls, Stop Apologizing & Making Excuses

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Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Stop Apologizing summary:

  • Rachel Hollis's lessons she learned while building a multimillion-dollar company
  • Why "having it all" isn't something you should aspire to
  • Why women need to stop trying to fit society's idea of a "good woman"

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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