Shonda Rhimes Says Yes to Success

Shonda Rhimes Says Yes to Success

January 20, 2020
Most people know Shonda Rhimes as the visionary behind TV phenomena like Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal. Her shows are the kind of television that people gather to talk about around the water cooler. But if you listen to her self-narrated audiobook, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person, you’ll know that Rhimes wasn’t always the Hollywood titan she is today. Some days, she still can’t quite believe what she’s accomplished.

While other showbiz greats might tell their fans to stick with it, work hard, and believe in themselves if they want to succeed, Rhimes opens up about what happens once you find that fame. After achieving her dreams, she found she still couldn’t say yes—not to dinner engagements, not to interviews, not to anything else. Deep down, she was still afraid of failure. Facing that fear gave her the strength to finally say yes to the life she’d earned.

Being Brave
Rhimes might have been considered a shy kid, but that just meant that she preferred to focus on her creativity. Her introversion wasn’t a character flaw or something she had to change, but she also nursed a deep fear of messing up. This led Rhimes to decline opportunities to connect with others. Soon, she realized that while this state of affairs might be comfortable, it wasn’t good for her. Dismantling that fear meant saying yes to everything that she wanted to decline. It took a year for Rhimes to transform her life through the power of that one little word, but she made it. Dealing with her anxiety made her braver and happier.

Mindful Openness
The term impostor syndrome is familiar to many successful people. If you’ve ever experienced the nagging doubt that you can pull off a project, then you've experienced this effect firsthand. Despite her many triumphs, Rhimes worried constantly about making embarrassing social mistakes. It was part of why she tended to decline opportunities. Then, when she started to mindfully accept them instead, she found she could accomplish more than she’d ever imagined. Saying yes, she found, wasn’t about fulfilling obligations, but about respecting herself. When she believed in herself, good things came into her life. Throughout her eventful year, she was saying yes to her own joy.

Dealing with the Pressure
Successful people rarely rest on their laurels. Instead, the same drive that propelled them to the top of their field pushes them to keep striving, which often takes a toll. Rhimes discusses how successful people, particularly women, can feel as though they need to do it all, be it all, and pretend they never need any help from outside. Rhimes’s admission that she’s not perfect stands as an example that everybody is human. Part of being happy is learning to love the imperfect, unique, beautiful person you really are.

Accepting Compliments
Over her year of saying yes, Rhimes found that the social pressures she experienced as a successful woman made it hard to accept compliments. This isn’t uncommon! Many of us have found that saying yes doesn’t just involve events and adventures. Learning to accept compliments may be the hardest piece of the happiness puzzle.

Rhimes’s experience teaches us to say, Yes, I did great! This may be one of the greatest lessons she imparts in Year of Yes. Just like Rhimes, we’ve all worked hard for what we’ve earned in life. Let’s follow her advice and say yes to ourselves!

Anna Gooding-Call is a librarian and writer. She contributes to Book Riot and ForeWord Reviews.

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