5 Ways Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes Will Change Your Life

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Like most women, I wear many, many hats. I am a wife, a mother, a writer, a graduate student, and so much more. Some days, I feel like I’ve got my life together, and other days, not so much. To be honest, on my toughest days, I wonder if there’s anyone out there who “gets me”. Who knows what it feels like to struggle with mom guilt while chasing after your dreams. Or how to balance writing insanely long papers and spending quality time with those you love. 

That’s why I connect so much with Shonda Rhimes and her book, Year of Yes. No, we don’t lead the same lives, but she didn’t become a household name overnight. She, too, had to battle many of the issues women like myself have, and she survived. 

A few years ago, I remember crying to myself, thinking about how horrible I was as a wife and mother. I was putting in so many hours working during the day, only to come home to many late nights reading and writing papers for grad school. My home looked like a landfill, and I couldn’t remember the last time I shaved my legs or washed my hair. (No stone casting, okay?)

How did my mother do it all? I thought to myself. How the heck did she pull it off and make it look so effortless? Why am I failing at being a wife and mother?

Then, I came across a refreshing concept in Shonda’s Year of Yes: You don’t have to do everything alone.

“Jenny McCarthy is my family’s nanny. And I’m proud to say so out loud to anyone who asks. I’m proud to say I do not do this alone.” -Shonda Rhimes, p. 99

There’s such a stigma in many communities against asking for help. We’re told in so many ways that “good women” can slay it all—housework, caring for children, school, career, bake Pinterest-inspired delicacies, stay fit, and cater to our boo thang—all while keeping our curls and nails fresh. 

I’ll be honest, I’ve always felt shame about asking for help. I mean, if I ask for help, I’m weak, right? Shouldn’t I be able to handle my responsibilities all on my own?


There is no shame in asking for help. It doesn’t detract from your womanhood in any way. Asking for help gives you the freedom needed to meet your goals. 

As a kid, I remember hearing my mom say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Okay, I know that may sound a bit morbid because who really wants to think about skinning a cat? I digress. The point is if we stop and think for a bit, we’ll realize there’s more than one way to reach our goals, make chocolate chip cookies, or even write a book. It’s easy to think we’ve got it all figured out and no one else’s approach can stand a chance.

In the Year of Yes, Shonda reminds us:

We all have to acknowledge that our way is not the way. -Shonda Rhimes, p. 109

So, before you get ready to bash someone else’s ideas, take a second to be open to a new perspective. 

Not only do we need to be open to new ideas, but Shonda also reminds us that we must learn to accept compliments. Why?

[W]hen you negate someone’s compliment, you are telling them they are wrong. […] You are insulting them. -Shonda Rhimes, p. 193

We all have things we wish we could improve upon or change. For me, it’s my battle-scarred gut. For you, it may be different. Whenever someone tells me I look great or they can’t believe I gave birth to three children, I can’t lie. It’s hard to accept that compliment because all I can see at that moment is an imperfect body. 

Yet, Shonda reminds us that it’s not our place to criticize someone for their compliment. It is our job to accept those gracious words and say “thank you”. Who knows? Over time, we may even start to believe those compliments and learn to love ourselves a bit more. 

I’m going to keep it real. Writing every day is not always easy (hello sleep deprivation!), but it’s worth it. I know many writers who endorse the need to write something every day, including Shonda. Here’s why:

When you sit down to write every day, it becomes easier and easier to tap into that creative space inside your mind. -Shonda Rhimes, p. 278

I know many of us have had our bouts with the old “writer’s block”, but these days, I literally cannot contain all my ideas. They come to me at the most random times—like while I’m watching Scandal or How to Get Away with Murder. Or while I’m baking honey buttered biscuits with my girls. It hasn’t always been this way, though. I used to struggle to come up with writing topics, but I guess there must be some truth to Shonda’s advice. 

Another truth Shonda reminds us of is:

Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. -Shonda Rhimes, p. 286

Society will tell you your happiness is contingent upon getting that six-figure salary, owning that BMW, the three-story brick home, and having babies with the finest man alive. Let me tell you something, friend. There is nothing wrong with having any of those things, but there is something wrong with thinking you must be who everyone thinks you should be. Many people believe they are experts about what’s best for everyone else’s life. 

The truth is, only you know what you want. You know the burning desires inside of you that won’t go away. You just need to give yourself permission to do it and be the person you were called to be. 

Do you want to create a foundation for women who survived abuse? Do it. 

You don’t want to get married? Then don’t. 

Stop allowing others to push their dreams and ideas of happiness onto you. 

It does feel scary at first to take this stand. I know because I’m dealing with this, too. I also know that when it’s my turn to face the music, I want to say I chose to walk my path instead of someone else’s. 

What about you?

Have you read Shonda's Year of Yes? Share with us your biggest takeaways.