The Latest Rachel Hollis Drama Highlights a Problematic View of Women and Money
Have you heard about the firestorm that Rachel Hollis started on Tik-Tok? Here’s a link to the video if you haven’t seen it.
Rachel Hollis is the author of two books, “Girl, Stop Apologizing” and “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Unfortunately, she’s also known to stir up some controversy and this came to a boiling point on April 2021. Rachel posted a video on Tik-Tok in response to someone calling her “privileged AF” and “unrelatable” because Rachel hires someone to clean her house twice a week.
“No, sis. What makes you think that I want to be relatable?” — Rachel Hollis
Then she proceeded to rant about how waking up at 4am is part of the reason why she deserves her success. Seriously, can we all stop with the 4am=success speech? You know who else is up at 4am? Mothers who have to feed their infants, insomniacs, and other hard-working people who aren’t millionaires. Anyway, I digress.
Even though I agree with the folks who said that Rachel did not handle the situation well, and her responses (and apologies) were tone-deaf, I’m not here to add any more to that. Instead, I want to focus the conversation on the shaming of women when it comes to money.
Women are taught not to be too ambitious, otherwise they are being greedy, and they need to step back in line. When women are making money, climbing the ranks, and flexing about their accomplishments, there’s backlash —from men and other women. They are called words like “privileged” or “unrelatable.” People make up stories that the she slept her way to the top, she used her parents’ connections, or it’s actually her husband’s money. There is this insidious belief that there isn’t enough for everyone; there is only a limited amount of success, and if she is winning, then you will lose.
During my early adulthood, one of my top deadly sins was jealousy; I was envious of women who were more successful than me, and I would secretly gloat when I saw them fail. This was promptly followed by a guilt-induced hangover; I felt horrible for thinking this way and I couldn’t understand why I felt threatened by their success. We don’t see enough women, especially women of color, in high positions of power in the world, so it feels like there are limited seats for us at the table. We end up fighting each other, when we really should be fighting the patriarchy. But this article is not about fighting the patriarchy either (well, not entirely). It’s about diving into the beliefs women have about money, and how these beliefs shaped our views of ourselves and the world around us.
The Immigrant Hustle
Growing up in a Korean immigrant family in Northeast Philadelphia, we didn’t have a lot of money, but I never thought of us as poor. Our family had what we needed and a little bit more if we could afford it, but splurging was out of the question. I didn’t have a Cabbage Patch doll, my brother didn’t play with Hot Wheels, and we both longed for a Sega. My mom bought clothes in a size large so I could grow into it (I’m still waiting for that to happen). We ate home-cooked meals everyday except on Sundays. After Sunday mass, my dad took us to a fast food restaurant based on coupons in that week’s paper. We always asked for extra ketchup packets, and the dashboard of our car was filled with leftover napkins and straws.
My parents never put the burden of money on us, even when we were old enough to work. The bills were paid, food was on the table, and clothes were clean. There were wrapped gifts on birthdays and Christmas. For summer vacation, we went on family camping trips and barbecued at the public parks. I didn’t feel like I missed out on Disney World or any other quintessential American childhood experience because that wasn’t in my realm of reality.
My brother and I knew not to ask for too much because we saw how hard our parents worked. They reminded us that we wouldn’t have to hustle like they do if we did performed well in school and went to college. Even though my parents did an excellent job of shielding us from feeling poor, I learned the power and the ugliness of money at a young age. I witnessed how it can tear apart relationships. I saw how greed can influence good people to make awful decisions. I didn’t like the power that money had on people so I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be driven by money. My motivation would come from helping other people; at ten years old, I decided that I would grow up to become a teacher. For the first ten years of my professional career, I stuck to industries that required the most empathy (education and non-profits), but also paid the least.
Trading Time for Money
My dad taught me a lot about saving money, as well as how to responsibly use a credit card and build good credit. These lessons alone were game changers; I built up a robust savings and paid off my student loans by the age of twenty-seven, even on a teacher’s salary. Over time, my need to save became an obsession. I tracked every single purchase on a spreadsheet and monitored my bank account daily. If I didn’t need it, I didn’t buy it. Rather than clipping coupons or buying in bulk, I chose to buy sparingly and shopped at discount stores.
If I had to choose between saving time or money, I chose money ninety-percent of the time. I drove further away to save $0.03 on a gallon of gas or spent an hour online comparing prices from different websites to purchase a single item. Even when someone else spent money on me or I received free samples, I didn’t use them and stored them away for a special occasion. The irony was that the special occasion never arrived by my standards, which meant that the items stayed in the drawer.
I prided myself for being smart with my money, but I ignored the fact that I was depriving myself. By only focusing on what I needed, I rarely let myself enjoy the money that I made. Heaven forbid if I made a mistake and paid a fine or fee. I berated myself for being careless and obsessed about what I could have done with that money. That’s how I justified depriving myself.
Further into adulthood, I realized that money is what made me feel safe. Money meant independence. I didn’t have to rely on anyone and the money gave me choices. I was constantly terrified that I would lose it because truthfully, I didn’t have any faith in myself. I was afraid that one day people will see me as a fraud and no one will hire me. This is why I didn’t negotiate a salary or ask for a raise at non-teaching jobs. I outworked others and did more than what was expected because I was told that I could accomplish anything if I worked hard. Unfortunately, that lesson did not age well.
Channeling that “Brad” Energy
In 2018, I found myself unemployed and miserable (long story short: I married into the military and moved to the middle of nowhere). I decided to go back to therapy and after interviewing several prospects, I settled on a therapist that was totally unexpected.
Let’s call him “Brad.” Brad was a white male therapist in his early forties and when we first met, I was immediately wary. I never worked with a male therapist before, and my introverted-Philly-girl threw up walls as soon as I sat down. During our first session, I felt put off by him. He wasn’t arrogant or rude; he was just so forward and I was not ready for it. Also, how could this man relate to my experience as an Asian woman in her early thirties? We were basically total opposites. I decided not to go with Brad and chose a female therapist.
About four months later, I was back in Brad’s office. I acknowledged that my biases made me blind to the fact that Brad’s approach was what I needed. Our sessions morphed into a blend of therapy and career coaching; Brad helped me face my occupational trauma and unpack what was holding me back. He also taught me what I jokingly called “white man energy.” This energy battled the toxic beliefs I had about money, such as:
- “I’m not motivated by money” → “I can’t be manipulated to do something that is out of character for money, but I should still be paid my worth.”
- “Money doesn’t buy happiness” → “Money can remove obstacles and buy you time. That time is freedom do what brings you joy.”
- “Money is evil.” → “Greed is evil.”
Time is our most precious resource. They say you can make more money but you can’t make more time. But you can buy back time by spending money. Rather than trying to do everything, outsource the tasks that drains your energy if you can afford it (like having someone clean your house). Or alternatively, start saying no and setting more boundaries. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy or spoiled. You’re being thoughtful about how you’re spending the limited time you have on this Earth. When you start valuing your time more than money, you’ll recognize your own worth.
Brad taught me that it’s not the employer or market’s job to determine my value; those are standards to consider but they are not an accurate representation of my worth. In the past, we were able to calculate someone’s salary based on their years of experience and degree level, but that was when people stayed within the same industry. If you work in highly empathetic industries such as non-profits, it doesn’t mean you should be paid a low wage. You are being paid to do a job, not volunteer. When I was underpaid or working for free, my time was wasted and my productivity dropped. If I was paid what I was worth, then I could have spent some of that money for someone else to complete other tasks so I could focus more on nurturing my personal and professional growth. Plus if that meant I could support someone else’s business by hiring them, that is a win-win all around.
One way to flip the jealousy on its head is to turn inward when the envy bubbles up: ask yourself, “What is it that I feel like I’m lacking?” Then reach out to that person and say, “Hey, congrats on [insert thing you are jealous of]! I would love to learn more about how you accomplished that. Could we connect sometime to talk about it?” Believe it or not, people are eager to share what they learned with others, especially if it means that they can talk about themselves.
Ladies, we need to start talking about money and uplifting each other when we see each other succeed. We need to normalize spending money to save time without being accused of being privileged or unrelatable. If we can normalize spending thousands of dollars on handbags, then we should be able to [guilt-free] hire someone to clean our house so we can spend that saved time with our kids, building our businesses, or just taking a well-deserved nap.
Someone once called me tacky for talking about money. But here’s the thing: I’d rather be tacky and rich, instead of tacky and poor. After all, wouldn’t the money be better off in the hands of someone who wants to wield the power for good?
At Hey Ms. Lee, we’re teaching high-performing women how to be successful without the hustle and grind. We are disrupting hustle culture by calling out workplace BS and toxic positivity. We are creating connections by sharing our raw and authentic stories. Join our community by signing up for our email list at www.heymslee.com.