Girls, Stop Apologizing and Stand Your Ground

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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Why does Rachel Hollis say that women need to stop apologizing so much? In what ways do women often allow others to convince them to quit?

The people around you won’t always be supportive of your dreams—that’s a fact of life. But if you let their negativity bring you down or allow it to derail your goals, then you’re essentially apologizing to them by quitting. Rather than back down, Hollis says, you should stand your ground.

Here is Hollis’s advice for unapologetically chasing your dreams.

Stand Your Ground

Hollis explains that when you let others derail your plans, or talk you out of your dreams, you’re apologizing to them through the act of quitting. You’re essentially telling these people, “I’m sorry I tried to do (fill in the blank). I’ll stop now.” She says that when you face adversity, it’s crucial that you stand your ground and stop apologizing.

The Big and Small Conundrum: Living Your Dream Out Loud

In a video interview with Tom Bilyeu, Hollis discusses her childhood conditioning of being both “big” and “small” simultaneously. She was raised to be “big” in the sense that she received attention only when accomplishing great things. At the same time, however, she was taught to be “small” in that she was not to speak her mind or vocalize her dreams. In her adulthood, this conditioning manifested as she found herself (in the beginning) building her business in secret—afraid to appear arrogant in her ambitions yet driven to overachieve. 

If you’re pursuing your dreams in secret, as Hollis was, it will be much easier for others to derail your plans. Perhaps the first step, which Hollis doesn’t mention in this section of her book, is to make your goals known to everyone around you. If others know how important it is to you, that could eliminate many of the problems Hollis discusses in this chapter.

How Others Convince Us to Quit

How is it that other people can have such power over us? Hollis says this power can manifest in a few different ways. Sometimes we give up not because anyone asked us to, but because we feel left out, guilty for putting our own interests ahead of others’, or try to have it both ways. 

For example, if you don’t want to miss Friday night out with your friends, you might put aside your diet, or your late-night website coding, or your book writing, to participate. Hollis says this habit of putting aside your goals to appease others at best will slow you down, and at worst, derail you completely.

(Shortform note: Are you being pressured by your friends, or are you “self-peer pressuring?” In both cases, a desire to fit in with others dictates your actions. When you self-peer pressure, you imagine that others are judging you, and you change your behavior based on those thoughts. The next time you consider sacrificing work on your goal to go out with friends, consider whether the pressure is self-imposed—simply knowing that it’s internal is often enough to help you resist.)

Other times, someone may ask you to give up your dream through passive-aggressive manipulation. Why, though? As Hollis explains, they may feel left out or left behind while you grow as a person. More often, however, she believes it is because they have been inconvenienced. What does the manipulation look like? Hollis tells us that it can come in the form of complaints (“It’s getting hard for me to watch the kids all the time while you train for your marathon”), questioning (“You aren’t drinking at all anymore? What about margarita night?”), or teasing (“Oh, she’s too healthy to eat pizza with the rest of us fatties, somebody get the girl a salad!”).

Even though it’s hard to persevere, Hollis insists that giving in to the whims of others is the easy way out. To help you resist the temptation to quit, she provides some truths to recognize and strategies to implement.

Strategy: Non-Aggressive Communication

It will be difficult to stand up to peer pressure if communication and confrontation are a struggle for you. 

Sheryl Sandberg offers some tips for what she calls being “delicately honest” in her book, Lean In. One tool that she offers is to present your issue as an opinion rather than a fact. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and your husband keeps bringing home fast food for dinner, it would be better to say, “When you bring home fast food, it makes me worry that you don’t care about my goal to lose weight,” rather than a factual statement of “You don’t care about my goal.” 

It comes across as less aggressive and is more likely to spark an effective conversation.

Some Truths

Hollis points out that a need to give and take is part of life and relationships. Sometimes you will be the one making sacrifices for the other person. She stresses that it will not always be balanced, but it should be balanced over time.

Healthy Relationships Aren’t 50/50

There may be times where you’re giving 90% and your partner 10%, and vice versa. This might happen when you or your partner is going through a major life event. For example, if your husband’s mother died, you would likely assume most of his normal household responsibilities while he plans the funeral and deals with the estate. Conversely, if you were taking a rigorous three-month course, he would help pull your weight during that time. 

The important thing is to recognize that it is all fluid and temporary and should balance in the long run, not the short term. 

In fact, even if you have the positive intention of maintaining a balanced relationship, attempting to maintain a 50/50 relationship can lead to the destructive habit of scorekeeping.

Hollis also stresses that it isn’t your responsibility to convince others to believe in your dream, and they’re not obligated to support you. The onus is on you to believe in yourself. Once others see you sticking with your goal and see the results of your hard work, they’re more likely to show support and cheer you on.

(Shortform note: If you rely on outside sources to keep you motivated, you’re likely to give up. Intrinsic motivation (the act of doing something when there’s no external reward) is longer lasting. With intrinsic motivation, the act itself is the reward.)

Strategies to Stay on Track

If someone is actively derailing your progress, Hollis recommends you start by asking yourself if this person should be in your life. It is rare that the answer will be no, but it needs to be considered. 

For example, is this person being toxic and cruel? Are they mocking you when you have asked them to stop, or disregarding your boundaries? If so, she says you might need to cut off contact with this person, because they’ll never support you and will only drag you down.

(Shortform note: One sign of a toxic friendship is if you always feel bad about yourself after spending time with someone. It doesn’t matter whether the person is overtly trying to put you down, or whether they’re doing it implicitly through words, actions, or even body language. The important thing is how they make you feel.)

Hollis says that while some people don’t deserve to be in your life, most of the time, the person derailing you is doing it unknowingly or believes they have good intentions. The key with these people is to prepare before seeing them. Hollis has four strategies for preparation:

First, she recommends you start by rehearsing the conversation so you feel comfortable standing up for yourself, as opposed to being caught off guard in the moment.

(Shortform note: It could be helpful to first imagine the absolute worst-case scenario and practice that conversation. Afterward, imagine a scenario that is more realistic and rehearse it. Finally, imagine a best-case scenario and how you would engage in that. The practice has roots in stoicism, and the belief is that if you have mentally prepared for a negative reaction, you won’t recoil if it occurs.)

Second, if it helps, she suggests you prepare physically by listening to upbeat music to get yourself energized and feeling powerful. She acknowledges that this isn’t a strategy for everyone, but it works for her.

(Shortform note: What makes you feel physically at your best? For Hollis it is dancing to music; for others, it might be doing push-ups, taking a long shower, putting extra effort into your hair and makeup, or calming yourself with some yoga poses.)

Third, she says if you can take an action they might challenge before seeing them, do it. This way they can’t talk you out of it. For example, complete your workout before meeting with your friends so you don’t end up skipping it. Or do your work earlier and show up late to the party instead of trying to excuse yourself early.

(Shortform note: Preparing before seeing others will not only lessen the immediate peer pressure; it will also prevent more pressure in the future. Because you aren’t watching the clock, checking your phone, or worrying about getting stuff done, your loved ones will recognize that you are fully engaged and this quality time is banked. As a result, the next time you need to decline an invitation, they will be less likely to argue against it.)

As a fourth and final strategy, Hollis recommends that from the beginning, try to avoid inconveniencing others through careful planning.

Hollis has already taught us that inconveniences are part of life and can’t be avoided completely. However, she believes that if you know ahead of time that you’re going to put a burden on others in some way, you should try to find ways to help as a way of showing consideration. She says this will help empower you to stand your ground when somebody questions you for prioritizing yourself.

For example, if you know that you’ll need child care and it will be hard for your partner to leave work, line up a babysitter before having the conversation with your partner.

(Shortform note: Hollis’s suggestion to avoid inconveniencing others appears on the surface to undermine her previous arguments and the premise of her book, as her typical stance is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ruffle feathers in the pursuit of your dream. However, this section brings nuance to the concept of living unapologetically. It teaches you the importance of remaining considerate and treating others respectfully while pursuing your goals.)

Girls, Stop Apologizing and Stand Your Ground

———End of Preview———

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

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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