In today’s entrepreneurial world, it’s common to hear people describe themselves as self-made. I’m not sure, however if there’s anyone who fills that bill more appropriately than Rachel Hollis.
Hollis was well-known in Los Angeles as an event planner and blogger for nearly a decade before she rose to prominence in 2018 with her self-help book Girl, Wash Your Face.
Born and raised in Kern County, California, Hollis has lived a fascinating, often difficult life, which she has spoken and written about extensively. At age 14, Hollis discovered her brother after he took his own life, and she says that she carries that pain with her to this day. Hollis describes her childhood as tough, but she remarks that all the difficulties she’s been through have set her up to do what she’s doing today, which is working not only as a media personality and writer, but also as one of the country’s premier coaches for women.
“I always get back up,” she tells me. “I have failed in a million ways. I have sucked at things I wanted to do. I have been told no, I have embarrassed myself, and I always get back up and I always go again.”
Hollis has had to confront this part of her personality and ask herself why it is that she never lets life fully get her down.
“I’ve been looking back over the past five years and trying to identify, like, what is it?” she tells me. “I ask myself, what are you doing that makes it so that you can rise above negative feedback and criticism and people not believing you, and, honestly, [it’s] imagination.”
Hollis tells me that no matter what she faces in life, she never loses sight of the life that she imagines for herself, and that that vision is what gets her through the hard times.
In addition to this imagination of hers, Hollis has had to look at some hard truths from her past, and adjusting her behavior and working through those difficulties has changed things for her. “In the past, I know I’ve made a lot of bad choices, because I was wanting love from others,” she says. “I am a recovering people pleaser, and I spent so many years grinding myself to nothing trying to be pretty enough and thin enough and all these things, because I thought if I am that way, then you will love me. One of the most profound experiences of my adult life was understanding if I knew what it was that I was trying to get, I could generate that in myself. So, I made this decision that I would never again pursue love in unhealthy ways.”
Like most successful women living in today’s society, Hollis isn’t without her share of internet haters, but over and over she chooses to rise above and push forward to the next thing, trying to offer what she can to her readers. That includes her latest book about her experience during 2020, called Didn’t See That Coming.
“In March, when we went into quarantine, I was in the midst of editing the book that was meant to come out this year, which was all about health and women’s relationship with their bodies and all the things that we’re raised to believe about ourselves,” she says. “I tend to write with a lot of humor and a lot of irreverence, and I was reading this book right at the beginning of Covid and everyone was so scared … I was scared, there was so much fear and pain and all of these things, and I just thought, this is the wrong tone. If I’m going to put out a book in 2020, I don’t want it to be silly. I don’t want to be telling ridiculous jokes.”
Hollis called her editor and shared her feelings, and her editor asked what she’d prefer to write instead. Hollis says she sat down to write, and the ideas started flowing.
“There are no answers for how to handle a global pandemic in 2020, but there are a million tactics about how you deal with the side effects,” she says. “How do you deal with anxiety? How do you deal with fear? How do you deal with pain or loss or grief? And, unfortunately, because of my earlier life, I had a lot of experience with navigating those things.”
Hollis asked herself if she could put a collection together from everything that she’s learned in her life that might help others in dealing with these kinds of challenges. She admits that this book doesn’t have her usual tone of lighthearted self-help, but feels that it’s needed. “This book is not for everybody,” she says. “This is a book for people who have gone through something hard or are going through something hard and you just want some support, and you want some ideas and one or two jokes to hopefully give you some levity in the process.”
The year 2020 was difficult for Hollis. Not only was she affected, as we all were, by the pandemic (all of her company’s events were canceled), but she also went through a divorce with her partner of more than a decade. She moved into a new house of her own and learned to navigate letting go of any pain or resentment from the separation and to work with her ex collaboratively to separate while prioritizing their four children. Still, she has found things to celebrate. Perhaps it was that rough childhood she talked about, or all of her years of navigating her trials, failures, and successes, but through it all, Hollis remains master of her own destiny.
“For so much [time], you’re doing these things and you’re failing and you’re going again and you’re standing back up and you’re doing it in obscurity,” she says. “With nobody rooting for you and not making money and nobody cares. And I really believe that number one, there’s joy in that journey. That we get to be the masters of our own fate. We got to say this is what I’m doing. Good, bad, or otherwise, this is what I’m doing with my life. And very few people can say that.”
More of my interview with Rachel Hollis here: