October 22, 2018

Why I didn't like "Girl, Wash Your Face"

I've noticed there's three camps when it comes to this book:

1. There's the readers who think it's marketed as a Christian book, so it needs to follow actual Christian doctrine and it doesn't.

2. There's the readers who think it's written by a rich white woman with no actual "journey" or problems throughout the book.

3. There's the readers who adore it and take the message to heart and embrace the idea of hustling to their goals.

I fall into none of those categories.

Anyone who truly follows Christian doctrine would follow-up with their own research; Rachel did have a few struggles in her life, especially her childhood; and there's nothing wrong with being motivated by her stories and advice.

Now that that's out of the way, I did not like this book for a few reasons.

(Don't get me wrong: I think Rachel Hollis is probably really great at motivating others. I think she wrote a book that can push people and I think her podcast does produce some bits of wisdom. Most of it has already been said before though, so I think she reframes or paraphrases other self-help books.

I also think she's a bit narcissistic and basically wrote a book about how you, too, can be as great as her. I think that she wants to be who Gretchen Rubin was back when she wrote The Happiness Project and inspired people, me included. You know, back before Gretchen got a podcast and started talking about stupid things all the time. Gretchen, to me, is currently insufferable, but I will always love The Happiness Project and there's a lot of value in what she had to say.)

Anyway, this is why I didn't like Girl, Wash Your Face:

1. Rachel talks about not breaking promises to yourself like it's a new idea. She also appears to heavily judge those who do break promises to themselves. I think it's important to realize that most of the population probably doesn't see giving up on a diet or a workout as "breaking a promise". Let's go by Gretchen Rubin's framework of the Four Tendencies, since I've already brought her into this:
Rachel's clearly an Upholder. She's reframing the idea of being an Upholder as being the the only way to be if you want success or victory. This isn't going to work for a huge chunk of people because most of the population is made up of Obligers. My theory is that this is why this book is so popular: an Obliger may look to an Upholder as the model of how they want to be in their habits, so Rachel comes off as looking pretty good concerning habits.

My thought here was really Big deal. I'm an Upholder too. In fact, if I were writing a chapter in a book like this, I could talk about the time that I was up at 1:18am because the dogs were barking and I never actually went back to sleep before my 5am alarm went off and I still went to the stupid 6am Pilates class because I was freaking awake anyway and I was just going to lie there gritting my teeth and being miserable if I didn't go. Even if I was crying angry tears as I left and I just really wanted to hit a wall with a sledgehammer because visualizing that was what made me feel better. But I probably couldn't have done that because I'd just gotten a flu shot the day before and my whole body ached. But off to the stupid (stupid) gym I went because Tuesday and Thursday are my days to go at 6am. It's a deal I have with myself and part of how I structure my week.

I mean, that happened last week, but I never talked about it because it literally doesn't matter. I don't need to flash around my Upholder-ness. I would never (ever) tell anyone that they had to do the same in order to be successful at something.

I like to think that I'm an Upholder who gets what it's like to be an Obliger. I'm married to one (he's also Hufflepuff and I'm Slytherin, so that makes things really interesting). I don't need outside accountability to make myself do something but I would never tell anyone else that they need to be the same way.

But anyway, going by the model of Girl, Wash Your Face, that story would've been a chapter and a lesson in my book.

2. Rachel doesn't differentiate "happiness" from "joy". 
She's very clear that being sad is different from being depressed or dealing with grief, which I appreciate. She said you should be happy "90%" of the time, which is how she classifies herself.
But she doesn't bring up "joy". Joy and happiness are different. Joy is seeking to see the good and believing God will work everything out for your good. Happiness is based on current circumstances.
She had the perfect opportunity to weave in Bible verses on joy in this chapter and she didn't. In fact, the only Bible-speak in this book was really about "God's timing".

I just think she missed a huge opportunity here if she did want to make this a Christian book.

3. The story about meeting her husband.
I'm pretty sure most of us have a story like this and it ends with us meeting someone better. But no. The advice given by this book is to allow someone to treat you badly, walk away, and then take them back hours later and then fourteen years later, you're still together. I don't know what lesson is supposed to be learned from this chapter. At the end, she says she would have been helped by "being prepared" and seeing the relationship for what it was. Well, which is it? Is she saying that she should've not taken him back? Is she telling young women to get out of bad relationships? I don't get the point of her telling this story. It just makes her husband look like a prick.

4. Her chapter on "being further along". 
She brought up how "long" it took her to have a baby. This is a pet peeve of mine: Taking more than a couple of months to intentionally get pregnant and having a doctor's diagnosis of you-will-likely-never-get-pregnant are different. I know my experience colors my thoughts here, but I would think she'd be a little gentler with this topic.
Also, she probably doesn't dread getting older because she's literally already accomplished as much as any 35 year old woman could've hoped to accomplish: a long-standing marriage, 4 kids, a body she is proud of given her chapter on diet "advice", and a career that has made her a millionaire. What.else.is.there that anyone reading this book would hope to accomplish? (Given that her demographic is middle-class white women).
I don't dread getting older because I value my experiences. But when I was in the season of waiting to have a baby (5 years, guys, not 8 months), I dreaded each passing year because it meant my odds were getting slimmer.
I'm not doubting her explanation of God's timing, but it means very little coming from someone who has everything she's ever wanted by age 35. It's just not relatable.

5. I do not like the message of "hustle".
By telling women they just need to work harder and follow their dreams and create a vision board (gag), they are being set up for disappointment. Not because failure is inevitable, but because things don't always work out the way we expect them to or want them to and by pushing the message of "Oh, you're just not hustling enough.." you're just not always being fair to people. Giving "grace" means more than accepting that it's okay if you end up forgetting school picture day. It means maybe your friend quit her diet for reason (back to #1) and Rachel talks about how diets are bad anyway. This all ties together.
Giving "grace" also means not making people feel guilty for not "hustling" enough.

6. I do not want to be the hero of my own story. 
The message at the beginning of the book tells us to be the hero of our own stories. I've tried that already. 
My own plans failed me again and again. It took me giving up and giving in to realize my purpose and what I was supposed to be doing with my life right now.
This is why many readers don't like the book: It's marketed as Christian self-help, essentially, but there's no message of Jesus being the hero of our stories and how it's not always up to us. This is sprinkled through the book through quotes and verses on God's timing but is contradicted with the hero talk.
I don't WANT to depend on me. I have failed myself before and I will absolutely fail myself again. I feel nothing but relief to know that God is in control and He will sort it out and I don't have to work myself into the ground, hammering away at something that isn't meant for me.

This blog post concerning the Biblical perspective that Rachel claims to be about but misses the mark on can explain more if you're into the theology of things.

Did you read the book? Thoughts?

Instead of arguing the religious-lacking or talking about how I really despise that word "tribe" (clique), I really tried to pick out points that haven't already been hammered at in the 1 and 2 star reviews on Goodreads. I gave this book 2 stars just because I didn't hate my dislike-reading experience (a level up from hate-reading, if you will). I'd say a good way to describe it is a version of a female mans-plaining something to other females. 


  1. I'm supposed to be reading this right now for a book club, but the whole premise just doesn't interest me. I guess I don't get the whole motivational, self help genre!

  2. I actually read this book on Friday and thoroughly hated it. I hate self help books in general, so I knew what I was getting into here. I agree with you on all points. The faith thing aside, I cannot take a woman seriously who can only speak in buzzwords (Tribe! Vibes! Vision board! Hashtag goals!). I think her entire lifestyle sounds incredibly unhealthy. And as someone who alway suffers from the stress-induced vertigo she claims to have, maybe it's ok to break a promise to yourself and not go running after drinking all night with your friends. Ugh.

  3. Yep - I'm agreeing - once again - completely with you.
    & I do think this is reaching some people & its helping them or inspiring them - but for me, a big nope.
    As for the husband thing, I was SHOCKED when after hearing what a jerk this guy was, that was the man she married. I had to re-read that to make sure I got that right. Yikes

  4. I definitely agree with several of these points and especially #5. To get anywhere you want to go in life you do have to work hard, but sometimes no matter how hard we try or work, life happens and there are going to be barriers that prevent you from getting to where you want to go. I found the overall theme of the book to be motivational, but I definitely see the points of those in which the book didn't fully resonate with. As with everything in life, we have to take things with a grain of salt.

  5. Your insights are well thought out. I didn’t put much thought into it, but I did read it and quickly returned it to the library. I am glad I didn’t spend money on it! As I was reading I had the thoughts that it was meant for a much younger woman than me (I’m 46) or a woman with very low self esteem. I have heard women rave about it like it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever read. I am a big happiness project fan and the book changed my mind set about many things. Maybe Rachel’s book is more applicable to business women but I can hustle all I want as a teacher without more reward - monetary or otherwise frankly. Lol!

  6. I have honestly had no interest in reading this one. Most likely because everyone else is reading it:) Your points about why you didn't like it both make me not want to read but also to read it to see these points in it. Or if for no other reason than to read the parts about #2 and #3.

  7. I have not had the desire to read this book for many reasons you posted. It just doesn't interest me.

    1. I think it's a new sub-genre of self-help, to be honest. Like a blog in book form. It doesn't teach you anything.

  8. Haven't read it yet and likely won't - for many of these reasons. I was on the fence about it for awhile until I read Alisa Childer's blog post a few weeks ago. If I come across the book, I might read it ... but I won't be going out of my way to get a copy.

  9. I could not agree more with every single one of your points! I listened to it in 2 chunks during long car rides. The very first time she said something along of the lines of "you are the only person responsible for your happiness" I cringed a little but assumed she meant it in a more broad sense, like people won't go out of their way to make boundaries for you. Nope, she continued to say it what felt like dozens of times and by the end I was just profoundly sad for her. Who would choose to put that amount of pressure on themselves?! So many different points, many that you mentioned, made me (listening as a counselor) just groan or gasp. Ultimately it makes me sad because the truth and grace of Jesus don't need to be made flashy or trendy, but she so watered down the power of the gospel to make it all about us. Sorry, I could go on forever! I spend my days basically undoing this message that women get from the world, or from the church, that they have to do it all - what a thief of freedom and joy.

  10. I placed a hold on this book from my library shortly after it came out. Months later (yesterday) it finally came in. The longer I waited for it the less excited I was to read it. Everyday there were more #goals #lifechanging #hustle posts and now I'm not even interested in reading it anymore. -.-

  11. You and I have discussed this. I think you make some solid points. The book certainly isn't for everyone. I enjoyed it but I don't necessarily take it as gospel (no pun intended) or as something I absolutely have to follow. However, it offered some reminders to me about how important I am in my own life. I put my happiness, self-esteem, and sense of success in the hands of others for a really long time. I needed their validation and their help to make me feel good. That was a recipe for disaster. I'm finally turning some things around, so piece of that message really resonated with me.

  12. I haven't read the book and doubt that I do, although I have heard many people rave about it. The points you listed seem like good enough reasons not to want to read it.

  13. Reading THIS post makes me not even care to read the book now. These were a lot of the issues I'd already wondered about with her/her book.
    Haha. Removing it from my list now. Thank YOU! :p


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