The Lie I've Told Myself for Too Long

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
My lock screen on my phone, courtesy of author Rachel Hollis.

A few weeks ago I decided to pick up a book I’d been hearing a lot about called Girl, Wash Your Face by an author named Rachel Hollis. I stumbled across Hollis on social media several months ago and love hearing about her personal journey (from a rocky childhood to building a thriving lifestyle media company with only a high school degree). Her tone is always confident, brutally honest, while at the same time providing just the right amount of encouragement. Her book is set up by presenting 20 different lies she has told herself throughout the years, and how she has busted through those lies.

The book is a fun and quick read but I had to take pause when I got to the lie in Chapter 12, titled “I Need to Make Myself Smaller.” You see, Hollis is a tiny but fiery woman. She mentioned how throughout her childhood and teen years, her father would call her “Little Girl,” whenever he was trying to explain something she needed to hear about the world. Or just when he wanted her to be quiet. Despite all she tried to do to impress him, performing on stage throughout school, accomplishing a set goal, she felt the need to keep herself small, because she feared that she really wasn’t worthy of speaking confidently about herself. For years, even after she found success, she would downplay what she really did for a living, because she thought she needed to make herself “small” to keep others around her comfortable.

I had to close the book when I read that chapter because so many memories came flooding back. I’m also a small woman (five feet tall soaking wet) and all throughout high school and college, I heard the same thing. “What’s up shorty?” while being patted on top of the head. Or “Why are you SO short?” When you’ve heard that most of your life, it’s hard to find the confidence to stand up in front of a class and read a poem you’ve written or be taken seriously by an administrator you’re trying to interview for the campus newspaper. But I persevered, and kept trying. There would be times I would backslide, through. When I would start to find a measure of success, I’d remember asking classmates to drop me off blocks away from my house so they wouldn’t see where I lived. I would shrink back, telling myself that I was too “small” to think I could ever be a famous writer or make a boatload of money.

I think that is a lie that I continue to tell myself today. People still make thoughtless comments about my height, not realizing how hurtful it is. I brush it off. The other day I was trying to figure out why I had not submitted Between, the first young adult novel I ever wrote, and spent years and two SCBWI conferences polishing, to any agents. I had even gotten a great critique on the first ten pages from a published young adult author at one of the conferences! I wondered if it was because I let that voice get to me, the one that likes to tell me I don’t have a right to want to be any bigger.

So I’ve decided to work on making sure I don’t continue to tell myself that lie. I may be a small person, but that doesn’t mean I have to have small dreams. I may have come from humble beginnings, but that doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of success. As Hollis says in her book, “I get to decide who I am. Every single day we’re alive, we’re choosing this life and this persona.”

I’m curious. What are some lies you tell yourself and what will you do to combat them?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. Her short story, “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women,” received an Honorable Mention in the YA Category of the 2018 Women’s National Book Association Writing Contest.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--You may be tiny--height-wise--but you're huge talent-wise. (You're also huge when it comes to your ability to avoid aging. Good grief! How do you Teflon yourself against wrinkles?)

Lies that I tell myself? Probably that I don't need any help. I've been in a 12-step program before (OA) and thought I could do it on my own. Obviously, what I'm doing is NOT working.

Is that your daughter? Or your sister? ;)

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux, I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm a vampire. Ha ha! Just kidding of course. I don't know, I think I have good genes. My mother is Hispanic and has always looked way younger than her age. I inherited her skin tone and it has served me well. Thank you so much for the compliment! I too have battled with food throughout my entire life, from not eating enough when I was younger to trying to find a happy balance now that my metabolism has slowed down. It's hard to eat healthy and work out enough when every hour of your day is jam packed! I was just trying to figure out today whether or not I have the discipline to quit paying for my Weight Watchers app where I track all my food! And yes, that is my lovely daughter. She is three inches taller than me already and hopefully may grow one or two more so she doesn't have to live with all the "Hey Shorty!" comments like I have!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Awww, that photo of you and your daughter is the cutest! And your arms are looking fantastic from all that working out! :)

I often second guess my opinions and decisions, thinking that I'm not the one to voice this opinion or that I'm not making the right decision. It comes from a place of growing up without parental guidance and also wanting to please everyone. To fix this, I tell myself that it's okay to be wrong about something, and if I'm feeling a certain way, it's worth pursuing. "Feel the fear and do it anyway," is one mantra, and the other one is "Step into greatness now." It's kind of Frank Costanza-ish ("Serenity now!") but my therapist recommended it. Lol. I also just noticed there are some great guided meditations on Spotify, so I'm going to do one in the morning and one at night. They have some for business goals also, and those are quick ones for busy people.

I love the Hollis quote! And I didn't know that about your first YA. Are you going to pursue it? It's great you have two YAs ready to go.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Ps. My husband calls me a vampire. Lol

Margo Dill said...

I feel your pain, Renee, except I have the opposite problem, being just over 6 feet tall. WOW! You are tall, is something I hear all the time. My daughter now too. WE both get sick of it but just try to smile and change the subject. I never comment on people's height or weight but I guess you have to be at an extreme to have experienced this and know how it feels. And submit your YA!

Renee Roberson said...


Yes, I have a 60,000-word YA sitting on my manuscript. It's near and dear to my heart (of course) and was inspired by a classmate's suicide in high school. It's a contemporary story with paranormal elements that centers around what can happen when secrets are hidden for too long. I workshopped part of it in one of Margo's writing classes through WOW! a few years ago. I think I just kept telling myself I could make it better but now I'm thinking I can at least try submitting it a few places while I work on "Under My Skin" revisions and see what kind of feedback I get!

Margo, I'm the same way in that I never comment on people's height. Even when I come across people that are shorter than me, I keep my mouth shut because I know how it feels to point out a person's height (or weight for that matter!)

Mary Horner said...

This is a great post and post-discussion. I think a lot of women have had to deal with some sort of label that was meant to detract from their success, purpose, or goals. We must stay strong!

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