Rachel Hollis and the Dangers of Curated Imperfection

In the age of social media, we have access to unlimited influencers and brands. Depending on how much time we spend online and who we follow, our perception of reality is greatly shaped by the pictures we see, the recommendations we take and the words we read on tiny screens and in books. These images and words are often created and promoted by avatars with impressive numbers of followers. 

Rachel Hollis and the Dangers of Curated Imperfection | Houston Moms Blog

The Appeal of “Curated Imperfection”

Rachel Hollis is one example of one of these wildly successful influencers. Her bestseller Girl, Wash Your Face has been the subject of much praise {over 6,000 5 star reviews on Amazon} and criticism since its release in February 2018. By reading just a few pages of the book and a quick tour of her social media platforms, it’s easy to see why Hollis is so popular. She is an excellent writer and speaker, she’s beautiful and stylish, she has cute kids, and her schtick is motivating women to put away their excuses and achieve their wildest dreams. Oh, and she does all this while maintaining the claim that her life is just as “messy” and imperfect as any average mom’s. What’s not to love?

The problem with Hollis’ and so many other influencers’ “curated imperfection” {as named by writer Laura Turner} is just that :: it’s staged. For every picture of a “frazzled” mom with a large following cradling a cup of coffee in a {perfectly} messy bun, there’s likely 20 others on her camera roll that didn’t make the cut for Instagram. Behind every YouTube video to “Stop making excuses and go for your dreams” is the privilege of an able-bodied woman who is also financially able to take those risks without compromising her family’s security.

So is this popular “curated imperfection” genre really a problem? Can we pick and choose which parts of these influencers’ messages are applicable to us and throw out the rest? Is it appropriate to criticize them or should we just keep on scrolling past the content that we find problematic? 

Is “Curated Imperfection” Really a Problem?

As scary as it is, our perception really does become our reality. When we are bombarded day after day with images of wildly successful social media influencers giving us a “behind the scenes” look at their lives, we begin to take those images as reality, and not the meticulously staged, perfectly timed unreality they actually are. Also, these images tend to focus on aesthetic “messiness” {dirty dishes piled in the sink, no-makeup faces, children throwing tantrums} and not the actual, pervasive messiness of motherhood that no one wants to talk about- crippling anxiety, losing our temper and screaming at our kids, or a marriage hanging on by a thread, for example. When we compare the two, it’s easy to fall into the shaming belief that our own messiness is far too much to admit to. 

Another issue is that “curated imperfection” is almost exclusively targeted to a certain demographic of white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, financially secure women. In some ways, this causes privileged followers of this genre to have an extremely narrow view of the world and not consider or speak up for moms in the margins facing racism, poverty, and mental or physical health issues.

Certainly, reading motivational books and gazing at beautiful images on Instagram isn’t wrong. And if seeing a famous person’s sink of dirty dishes makes us feel better about our own crusty pots and pans, great. But when we start comparing our own everyday imperfections to those projected from our iPhones, the images can have the opposite of their motivational intent. When we focus on “messiness” in the world as exclusive to our own demographic, we harm women in the margins shouting at us, the privileged, to stand up and fight against the social injustices they face.

Is our Criticism Appropriate?

Social media influencers and content creators who enjoy the perks of large platforms and online popularity {which often lead to financial compensation} must know that a price of their success is criticism. And the larger the following, the larger and louder the criticism. Just as the existence of a free press serves as the gatekeeper of our democracy, so does criticism serve to keep online influencers and writers in check. Of course, online influencers are imperfect, human beings. Every one of them is going to have views and produce content that is problematic to someone. It is possible to follow and admire someone and not agree with 100% of their views. 

Criticism is a gift. It causes us to reconsider and refine our beliefs and perceptions. It opens us up to new ideas and allows us to listen to the stories of others. Obviously, it’s not appropriate to troll people online, make threats or use derogatory or dehumanizing language in our criticism. But, we can thoughtfully articulate and debate. It is also important that we carefully examine who we follow online and why, what books we buy and recommend, and what messages we internalize about our own unique lives because of the influence of content creators. 

How do you determine who you follow online? Do you read reviews and criticism of your favorite authors and content creators? What are your thoughts on the “Curated Imperfection” genre?


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3 Responses to Rachel Hollis and the Dangers of Curated Imperfection

  1. Avatar
    Vanessa December 11, 2018 at 1:33 pm #

    “Another issue is that “curated imperfection” is almost exclusively targeted to a certain demographic of white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, financially secure women. In some ways, this causes privileged followers of this genre to have an extremely narrow view of the world and not consider or speak up for moms in the margins facing racism, poverty, and mental or physical health issues.”

    I am not a fan of Rachel Hollis and I definitely agree with some of this criticism, but I wonder if everyone with a platform has a responsibility to speak out against societal ills and inspire their followers to work for social justice. Rachel Hollis is popular because she is good at what she sets out to do (motivate women) and that seems enough for me. In my life, I am inspired to work for the dignity of all human beings in my Church. I guess we live in a secular age where we don’t want to be preached at in the pew, but we ask that of our “influencers.” Personally, I am fine with going to Dorothy Day for inspiration in areas of social justice and leaving the self-help/lifestyle tips for these kinds of bloggers.

  2. Avatar
    Heather Mieloszyk April 17, 2019 at 10:18 pm #

    Great article. I love the line “we can thoughtfully articulate and debate.” Influencers are sellers. We all need to remember that. Curated imperfection is just a sales angle.

  3. Avatar
    Christy December 5, 2019 at 9:21 am #

    If you did your research, you would learn that she did struggle in a dysfunctional home as a child, she found her brother after he committed suicide, she only has a high school education, she lived on ramen starting a career in LA, she’s struggled in her marriage, and she fights debilitating anxiety daily. She gives hope to people and emphasizes that you are not a product of your circumstances. She is a Christian that is finding a way to show love to those with different beliefs or without faith. She is sharing biblical truths without blatantly quoting scripture and is reaching so many people that would feel turned off by other more evangelical ways. She is so much more than just her books and she has worked her butt off to get where she is today! Her life’s work is to create more women leaders that can breathe life into their communities. She is an inspiration!

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