Last year, on my 28th birthday, I took inventory of my life. The endless duties of motherhood, the pulls of my romantic and business partnerships, and a challenging spiritual situation, had me going with the flow in the worst way. I was not happy, but I had to perform for everyone around me. I was stuck in a rut, so I read the Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. This book was intended to be a New Year’s read, to set the tone for my year, but hey, I was in a rut, so I had personal development on the back burner. The woman who showed me as a 17 year old with characters from Grey’s Anatomy what I wanted my dream adulthood to be like (lots of wine, good friends, love, achievement, and more ?wine), completely affirmed what I want my actual adulthood to be. It was LIFE CHANGING. I’ve identified four areas of my life where this book resonated, and I’m offering my takeaways on how we can say ‘Yes’ to a more fulfilling life.
I’ve been prone to resting in sadness and abiding in hurt. I let pain overstay its welcome and act as if happiness is an unannounced house guest. You know, glad to see it but wondering when it will make its inevitable exit. Don’t get me wrong, I am a joyful person. I love life, people, music, dancing, food and fun. I love my husband, my children and my family. But for some reason I’ve always been a little lackluster about myself. Whether it’s my body, my word choice, my demeanor, my attitude, or whatever I come up with, I’m constantly critiquing myself. Simply put, self care/love is not my thing. This manifests in the smallest ways, like not putting on lotion. Seriously. I am perpetually ashy. I have not consistently lotioned my body, ever. For whatever reason I neglect myself terribly. I won’t blame it on my kids because motherhood isn’t martyrdom. The fact is I’ve never done it. This was a reflection from the inventory I took of my life.
We’ve all seen Shonda Rhimes’ physical transformation over the past few years. In the book she is open and honest about not only her weight loss journey, but how she got to the moment where she decided to make a change. She recounts how one day she looked in the mirror and did not recognize herself. This brilliant woman, creator and influencer of our language, queen of network television, was also stuck in a rut. She decided to do better by herself. She was intentional about her self care, and said yes to the things she didn’t necessarily enjoy to get to her desired goal. She needed the transformation and so did I. After reading Year of Yes, I took responsibility for choosing to make myself unimportant and for treating myself as anything less than sacred and divine. I forgave myself. And that’s all we can do. Identify how we want to fuel our bodies and souls to feel more like our best selves, and then consistently do those things. Being honest with yourself is the key to starting that necessary self correction. We have to admit to ourselves that we’ve been neglectful about our self care.
There is a hilarious Facebook meme that says “I’m less of a Pinterest Mom and more of an Amazon Prime mom”. This is totally reflective of my parenting style. Generally I am a super low key, hands off, as long as no one is bleeding or dying, we’re good type of mom. This has always been the best way for me to minimize stress and remain as carefree as possible when caring for my 3 little boys. Even though I don’t consider myself to be high strung, I still sometimes find myself getting agitated by my kids just being kids, asking their million questions, and never wanting to be bored. As an entrepreneur I am always on, and that state of being lends itself to short patience and a whole lot of ‘nos’ to my children.
Shonda Rhimes testifies that saying yes to her children actually saved her career. Being a television ‘titan’, as she says, was becoming her identity. Her dream job, while satisfying, fun, challenging, was ALL WORK. And while nothing as impressive and substantial as TGIT comes without dedication, her work had become all consuming. When her ‘year of yes’ intersected with her home life, she was reminded of what really made her tick. When one of her daughters asked her to play, she had to say ‘yes’ because of the commitment she made to do things she didn’t really want to do. This commitment to play may not seem like a big deal to many parents, but I understand this. Sometimes playing with your kids just feels weird, because hello, I’m a grown up. But kids can teach us so much about living well. We are reminded of forgotten promises we’ve made to ourselves, what living without inhibitions looks like, and how to live in moments of unadulterated joy. As working moms we must be as intentional at home as you are with our businesses, by making time to play. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with our children. This looks like dinner with friends, reading a book, and just intentionally scheduling me time and sticking to the promises you’ve made to yourself.
According to Shonda, the difference between overachievers and everyone else is that they just DO. For one year, everything Shonda was afraid of she said ‘yes’ to. Acting, public speaking, galas, she said yes to everything, and said that “The very act of doing the thing that scared me, undid the fear.” The woman that was used to being behind the scenes, put herself into the public eye, and she was AFRAID while she did it. But when she did those things, she did not die. It did not kill her.
So what are you afraid of? What makes you uncomfortable? What do you really want to do, but feel trepidation because you’re not sure how others will receive your work? Asking and answering these questions are ways we can identify what we need to say yes to in our professional lives. In my career there are things I have put off doing because I’m uncomfortable doing them. We are capable of accomplishing almost anything, but we mentally block ourselves from our blessings. Year of Yes teaches us that you won’t magically find the courage to accomplish your dreams, you just have to pursue them in spite of your fear. That is how your confidence in yourself and in your abilities will grow. Commit to doing one thing, everyday that will further your goals, but be sure to include the things that scare you.
Shonda’s ‘Year of Yes’ was inspired by a nudge from her sister who gave her some tough love and admonition. She told Shonda that she ALWAYS said no. This moment was such an earth shaking revelation that it inspired Shonda’s life changes, this book, and in turn all of us who have read it. We have Shonda’s sister to thank for all of this goodness. In the book, Shonda shares that her family and friends keep her grounded. Most of her circle is made up of folks that knew her before she was a household name. But within her circle of friends there was someone who wasn’t actually her friend. As a writer, and lifelong creative Shonda says she’s always “laid track”. Meaning, she fills in the gaps of reality and blurs it with fiction. It’s how she creates amazing stories. Unfortunately, she also started to lay track in her personal life. In other words, she saw what she wanted to see. We all do it, and this book forces us to face reality with the people in our lives who aren’t living up to the roles they once occupied. In Shonda’s case it was her ‘best friend’.
Shonda challenges us all to examine the relationships in our life and check for reciprocity, communication, and actual love. This can be painful and tough to do because love doesn’t keep score, and that’s sometimes the reason these situations manifest. We aren’t keeping track of unanswered messages, absences in important moments, and snarky/hurtful comments because we are blinded by old realities, and sometimes the flat out fiction we’ve created in our minds. My takeaway isn’t to start keeping score, but just to not ignore red flags. We all deserve true friendship, and if someone is taking up unearned room in our lives, we have the power to remove them, or to simply create boundaries and ground rules for how we want to engage with them. We are in control, and being in relationship with someone, with you in particular, is a privilege not everyone deserves.
Giving yourself your full attention is a learned behavior. You have to constantly refuel yourself. Joy, play, love, and work are the things that sustain us. Year of Yes is a guide to busting through the walls of mediocrity that we create on our own. Most of the time, we are the only ones to blame when we have a life that isn’t resembling what we once pictured. While the Year of Yes is a personal manifesto, it is universally inspirational. It reminds us that if we aren’t happy with ourselves, we have the power to change. In fact, the only thing in this world that we can control is ourselves. This is where the heavy lifting comes in. Doing the evaluating and taking inventory of our lives is tough and emotional soul work, but it’s in this work where we find what brings us happiness, fulfillment, and makes way for our best lives.
Comment below and let me know what you’re saying yes to. If you’ve read the book, tell me what resonated with you the most.
P.S. If you haven’t read the book, you can buy it by clicking HERE.
I recommend this powerful Ted Talk given by Shonda Rhimes to accompany the reading of this book.
Timil’s Take is a recurring series where I review books that have a cultural impact and impact my personal life.