Stop Seeking Validation & Holding Yourself Back

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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Are you putting off your ambitions and goals because you’re worried about what other people will think about them? Did you know that other people rarely think about you?

In her book Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis says that you need to stop seeking validation from others and go after your dreams. As it turns out, people rarely think about you or what you’re doing and you could be holding yourself back for no reason at all.

Here’s why you should stop worrying about what others think about you.

Stop Worring About What Others Think

Hollis explains that this excuse keeps many women in a fantasy state and stops them from taking their first steps toward their goals. So what might this excuse look like?

Example: A woman who dropped out of high school and has been raising children for the past 10 years decides she wants to become a doctor. Her first thought might be, everyone is going to laugh at me for having such a huge ambition when I haven’t even finished high school. This fear of other people’s opinions might stop her from even starting. But the truth is, her ability to become a doctor has nothing to do with her starting point. 

(Shortform note: For some, the act of daydreaming or fantasizing is in itself a satisfying act. It’s the reason why planning a vacation is often more exciting than the vacation itself. Why would this be? In our fantasies, we get to enjoy the reward without all of the work and adversity that is required to achieve it in real life. Sometimes, a fantasy is enough. However, you will know something is a true dream when you return to the same fantasy over and over, and it’s not enough to satisfy you.)

The Truth: Other People’s Opinions Are None of Your Business

Despite our paralyzing preoccupation with what other people are thinking and saying about us, Hollis points out this truth: Most people rarely think about you. In reality, she says, most people are much more concerned with themselves and what others think of them.

(Shortform note: A famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt sheds light on this topic: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Doubtful? Ask yourself how often you think about your neighbor down the street and compare it to how often you think about yourself.)

And as for those who are thinking about you? Hollis points out that they almost always view you through their own lens, not as you truly are. Consider these two examples:

Example 1: A person who worries about her own abilities as a mother is likely hyperfocused on motherhood and will judge everyone’s actions through the lens of parenting.

Example 2: A person who is struggling to lose weight is likely to have an emotional reaction to any conversation regarding fitness or nutrition, which can manifest as judgmental body language, words, and tone of voice. 

Hollis maintains that these people’s current situations and their own past experiences color their judgments and are completely separate from you.

(Shortform note: The ones who do think about you are the ones who care about you the most (your mom, for example). Take comfort in knowing that those who care about you typically have your best interest at heart. They may still judge you through their lens, but their intentions are likely good. If you doubt their intentions, see Behavior 4: Stand Your Ground to help you decide whether they deserve to be in your life.)

The Fix: Discern Between Judgment That Matters and Opinions That Don’t

When somebody has a negative judgment of you, Hollis advises that you first determine whether that judgment is real or if you’re assuming it. 

If the opinion is assumed, she says, stop seeking validation and don’t worry about it. It’s not real. It is in your head. 

If the opinion truly exists (you heard it or read it yourself), then ask yourself: Did it come from somebody who matters? Do you know this person and care about their opinion? If you don’t know or care about this person, Hollis tells you to let it go.

If you know and respect this person, Hollis suggests asking yourself: Did they offer their opinion with kindness and love? If they didn’t, disregard it. This person may not have your best interest at heart. If they did offer the opinion with compassion, Hollis tells you to take their words under consideration but don’t accept them as gospel truth.

When in Doubt, Brainstorm With Someone Who Has Your Back

If you begin doubting yourself based on a belief that somebody else has about you, try asking for honest feedback from someone who you know has your best interest at heart. If the person truly cares about you, they’ll point out realistic obstacles that you’re likely to face. This does not mean that the obstacles are insurmountable. Brainstorm with your loved one ways that you can overcome them. 

Let’s take the case of the woman who wants to become a doctor. If she were to hear doubt or ridicule from a family member, she should turn to her best friend, partner, mother (whoever she feels closest to) and say, “I know this is going to be difficult, but it is my dream and I am up for the challenge. Can you help me think of all the obstacles I’m going to face and brainstorm solutions with me?”

Using this method, you will find that those closest to you will want you to succeed and are willing to help you.
Stop Seeking Validation & Holding Yourself Back

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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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