7 months ago · Leah Fogt · 0 comments
I was really looking forward to reading this book, as I had heard wonderful things about Rachel Hollis. I was introduced to Hollis’ work through a good friend who invited me to see the Hollis’ film, “Made for More.” I had mixed reactions to the film, but I enjoyed her energy and positive attitude. There was a lot of hype leading up to the release of this book, and I have to say, the title totally got me! I love the message it sends about allowing yourself to feel – even if it means the “ugly cry” that makes mascara run – but then washing your face (literally or metaphorically) and taking care of your business. It suggests a healthy balance of emotional authenticity and practical perseverance.
The book was definitely well marketed, as there was quite a buzz before the book was even released. It was all over social media, and people were talking it up right and left! Not surprisingly, Rachel Hollis is a blogger and knows a ton about publicizing and internet marking. Many of my friends and clients were also anxiously anticipating the book, having heard all the excitement. The trendy cover and catchy title definitely got a lot of attention before the book was even available. However in general, I felt let down once I actually got my copy.
The book’s structure is pretty straightforward, and one that kept me reading. Essentially, each chapter presents a lie Hollis’ debunks. For example Chapter 1 is entitled “Something Else will Make me Happy.” As a therapist, I find this reminiscent of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in that the goal is to root out unhelpful thinking habits (cognitive distortions) that keep us unhappy and unfulfilled. While Hollis attempts to share lessons she has learned in her thirty-some years of life experience, she never boasts to be an expert in self improvement, psychotherapist, or guru. Personally I respond to that transparency in two ways: 1. Good for you, Rachel, for being honest and humble, and for bravely sharing your story. 2. While personal experience can produce a wealth of wisdom, most people are more apt to rely on the work of qualified professionals and researchers.
All that being said, I really enjoyed the simple and conversational writing style. Hollis writes with just as much energy as she speaks! The light, “girl-talk” style made this an easy read, though there were moments in which the tone became a little preachy, though Hollis’ openly acknowledges the influence of her upbringing having a Pentecostal Preacher father. At times witty, at times brutally honest, Hollis tackles some of life most difficult challenges in a very accessible way.
Despite her quippy style and clever sayings, I was disappointed in the book’s content. I found the book hard to relate to. Many of the examples Hollis shares from her personal life are just hard for me to connect with. I personally cannot relate to dieting so I can fit into a gown to wear on the red carpet with my husband, nor does saving up for a designer handbag motivate me. I am not a party planner for the stars, and I don’t hob nob with celebrities. Translating some of Hollis’ examples to my lifestyle was essential for me to personally find meaning in much of this book. Along the same lines as relatability, “Girl, Wash Your Face” seems to be geared toward a very specific audience: wealthy, heterosexual, Christian women who are wives and mothers. If that description doesn’t fit you, there will likely be chapters or portions of this book that you struggle with. I did.
Standing alone, each chapter has the potential to be inspiring and helpful, however the book in its entirety is contradictory at times. For example, in chapter one, Hollis talks about the value to gratitude and finding contentment in life, not always looking to the next goal as the source of happiness. “When I finally achieve _______, then I’ll be happy” is no way to live life. However, in chapter two, Hollis advocates for such a strong sense of drive and focus on a goal and not putting off working on your goal or looking to the future. There are moments where she supports healthy self-care habits and pacing oneself, however seemingly in the next breath she endorses sacrificing healthy sleep in order to achieve. She cautions about using alcohol as a coping strategy but then later identifies wine as a form of self-care. Certainly any of these tidbits of advice in and of itself could be argued as helpful (e.g. someone who doesn’t struggle with alcoholism might celebrate with a glass of wine after achieving a goal, and that’s not necessarily unhealthy), but her messages overall are a little contrary and could be confusing to someone in search of solutions.
One thing I always look for in any self-help book is how the author addresses counseling, and as much as I was disappointed in the book in general, Rachel Hollis did not let me down here! She shares a little about her own experience with personal growth, healing, and trauma recovery. She does not shy away from acknowledging the role mental health care has played in her story, nor does she deter her readers from seeking help. Therapy can help with a lot of the lies she challenges in her book, and I applaud her for encouraging others to consider working on areas in which they feel stuck with a trained professional.
I give this book a C+.
This book is not without value, but it wouldn’t be my first recommendation. Overall I found it a little superficial and contrary, though well intended. A savvy reader with a critical mind can certainly glean some benefit from this read, but it is far from the groundbreaking book I hoped it would be. My response? Girl, go to therapy! 😉
Hollis, R. (2019). Girl, wash your face: Stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.