This week’s conversation is with Glennon Doyle, the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller UNTAMED, a Reese’s Book Club selection.
She’s also the author of New York Times bestsellers LOVE WARRIOR (an Oprah’s Book Club selection) and CARRY ON, WARRIOR.
An activist and thought leader, Glennon is the founder and president of Together Rising, an all-women led nonprofit organization that has revolutionized grassroots philanthropy – raising over $25 million for women, families, and children in crisis.
You might also be familiar with her wife, former U.S. women’s national team soccer star, Abby Wambach, a previous Finding Mastery guest.
In this conversation, Glennon shares how getting sober shaped her life’s purpose… an absolute dedication to telling the truth, to not having secrets, to not having shame, to living as close to integrity as she can imagine.
For Glennon, integrity just means integrated.
Aligning her outer life… her outer words and actions, with her inner self, so that she doesn’t live with two selves. This led her to writing and more importantly, her desire to help others.
We touch on the difference between philanthropy and activism, what drove her to start speaking up about racial injustice, and why this can be a good moment for our nation.
In This Episode:
Why this time is different
I’ve been in the activist world for a long time. It feels to me like people who are in the activist lane, feel a hope that we haven’t felt before. I think that comes from all of these issues that so many of us have been pointing to, for a very long time, actually coming to the surface, and the whole country having to stare at them. That feels like the idea that there’s never any revolution until there’s a big revelation. This feels like a chaotic time, but it feels like a time of revelation where we’re all having as a country to look at things that we’ve chosen to ignore for a long time, and that feels like maybe the beginning of progress. So that part’s helpful to me.
What’s her purpose in life?
My purpose in life is to stay sober. Truly, the entire purpose of my life. Now, in figuring out what helps me stay sober, which is an absolute dedication to telling the truth, to not having secrets, to not having shame, to living as close to an integrity as I can imagine, which is, to me, integrity just means integrated. Like, my outer life, my outer words, my outer actions are integrated or aligned with my inner self, that I’m trying as hard as I can not to have two selves.
What did she learn by getting sober?
So the way I got sober, was through recovery meetings and the magic of recovery for me was finding these spaces where people were, the first time I went to a meeting, I thought, oh my God, these are the first honest people I’ve ever met in my life. I just felt like, oh, here’s where people tell the truth. While we’re all out there smiling and pretending everything’s fine and wonderful and easy, here’s where they come to tell the truth.
Why is telling the truth so important to her?
Because I tell people the truth, they tell me the truth back and that, to me, is just as important. For me to remember that when I tell the truth, and somebody says, me too, it automatically reminds me that I’m not alone and I’m not crazy, and I’m not weird. This is just the human experience. So that’s a part of my purpose, is to tell the truth and to hear the truth from other people. Then the service part, the thing that I found in recovery, which was these people that just fiercely take care of each other is what I’ve transferred into activism.
The quote that changed everything for her
So many people were writing to me suffering, so many people having trouble just keeping food on the table or clothing, their kids are paying their bills and I kept every night going to bed like what is going on? All these people are working so hard. Why is there so much suffering? Then I read one night, I just read a quote from Desmond Tutu that changed everything for me and it said, we can only pull people out of the river for so long until we decided to look up river and find out who’s pushing them in. So that’s when I started asking tougher questions, like creating the connection between wherever there’s great suffering, there’s often great profit up stream.
Philanthropy vs. Activism
The wild thing about philanthropy is if you don’t start acting, if you don’t start looking up stream, you actually become codependent with power. You’re like it’s a great system. Power just gets to keep throwing the people in and you’re over there saying, don’t worry, I’ll pull them out. I’ll keep pulling them out. You’re like a foot soldier.
What drove her to be vocal about racial injustice?
A while back, I was sitting on my couch with my two girls, my two daughters, I have a boy and two girls, until they tell me different, and I was talking to them about the civil rights era. I was talking about Martin Luther King Jr. I was showing them pictures of a march, and my youngest pointed towards a white woman in the crowd of marchers. She said, “Mommy would we have been marching back then with them?” I was opening my mouth to say, yes, of course we would have, like, that’s what I was about to say. My older daughter leaned over and she said, “Oh, no, Emma, we wouldn’t have been marching with them back then. I mean, we’re not marching with them now.”
Why this can be a good moment for our nation
The whole lens that I see the world is through recovery. So forgive this continued pattern in everything we talked about. I remember a friend calling me early on after the 2016 election and saying, “This is the apocalypse, what’s happening.” I remember thinking, okay, I hope so, like apocalypse means uncovering. So, hopefully, this is when all the stuff that we as an American society has been holding down beneath the surface so that we can ignore, I hope it’s all uncovered. So that’s what we see now with George Floyd, with the emphasis lately on police brutality. It’s not that police brutality is increasing, it’s just that cell phones are increasing. So we’re just seeing things be revealed that have always been happening, and that’s what early sobriety is a lot like. It’s just a real big reckoning with all the things you’ve been trying to keep beneath the surface.
The beauty in hitting rock bottom
I am a woman who everything beautiful in my life has come after rock bottoms. The lowest I am on, I can be pretty sure that no matter how painful it is, the pattern of my life is that something beautiful is eventually coming on its way. So whether it was the rock bottom of my alcoholism, and my individual rock bottom or the rock bottom of my marriage, I am someone who has seen rock bottom at the beginning of beautiful things. So that’s kind of how I see this moment for our nation which is, this is painful.
Does she believe people can live without fear of other’s opinions (FOPO)
I don’t know anybody who’s not a raging narcissist who doesn’t care about other people’s opinions. When people tell me that they are finally free of other people’s opinions, I know that that’s a person that is either completely not self aware, or somebody that I don’t want to talk to anymore because it’s just bullshit. We all as humans, we’re pack animals. This is one of the themes of the book, is that we are born with these kind of wild, individualistic selves. We’re all creativity, we’re all imagination, we’re all intuition, we’re all emotion, then our social conditioning starts and we start to be conditioned into our tribe pack, and that can be so many different things. Like, you figure out, okay, I’m a girl, and this is how girls act and this is how girls don’t act. I’m a boy and this is how boys act and this is how boys, I’m a Christian. So this is what Christians believe and don’t believe and who we hate and who we love. I am a Doyle, this is how Doyle’s are. I am an American. So we fit ourselves in to these groups, identities, cultures, because we are pack animals, but the problem is that we are always having to trade some of our individuality for belonging. That’s why we end up in these little cages of gender, sexuality, religion.
How does FOPO relate to “Untaming”
So for me, part of untaming is just being aware of what will happen and not always taking it completely personally. Because every time I step out of line with what my pack expects of me, whether for me, whether that’s white people, like they expect me to stay in line. So when I show up for anti racial justice, people have feelings about that. When I’m a woman who is actually really opinionated, and bold and loud, people have feelings about that. They don’t even know why they have feelings, but they do and that’s because I stepped outside of the pack’s rules for women. When I’m a Christian, who shows up at gay pride parades, who shows up at pro choice rallies, people will have opinions about it and it becomes more and more survivable the more I can see the patterns of human beings and how we all react and I expect that tribal shaming and I know exactly what it looks like. So that’s what I would say. It will always hurt me. It still does. It scares me every time it happens. It hurts me every time it happens, but I know it’s survival-able because I’ve been through it enough and I can see it as a pattern and not personal.
How did she align her inner self with the self that she projects into the world?
I think I finally realized who I was on the inside when I started committing myself to stillness practices. It’s not so woo woo but I think that we live in a culture that is so addicted to exterior things. Like the phones, the podcasts, the TV, the all of the voices that are constantly coming at us that we have forgotten that we have a voice inside of us. It’s just like the noise outside is so constant and so loud, that when you ask somebody who they are, we don’t even know anymore. So this practice that I learned in sobriety and whenever I start getting weird, whenever I start losing it again, it’s because I have not been sitting in the quiet enough. I figured out a while back that if I can commit myself to shutting out all the outside voices, that there is an inner, it’s not a voice. It’s not like I’m hearing voices but it’s an inner knowing, it’s like a gravity, it’s a compass. It’s a settling, that is always kind of guiding me to the next right thing. It’s always telling me the truth.
The point of being alive is…
To constantly be becoming a truer, more beautiful version of the self I just was. The best way I know to keep the coming is to do the thing I’m afraid to do, to say the thing that I’m afraid to say, to face the thing that I’m afraid to face. I have freaking Joan of Arc all over my, like metals and T shirts just to remind myself that the deal is you go straight towards the battle every single day. Whatever the battle is, our tendency is to turn our horse and run the other way, and it will just never work. So whatever the battle is of the day, of your life, of your relationship, of your parenting, of your, do it first. Just get on your horse and just whether you’re ready or not, just go straight towards the battle and that is how I, it never is pretty. I am never doing things in a way where it’s like, wow, that’s graceful. She just nailed that one all the way through. I usually just figure it out as I’m going with but I’m always going towards it.
How has her wife Abby impacted her?
She taught me about control and trust. I realized that okay, I can either control Abby or I can love her, but I cannot do both. Because love requires trust, and we only control things we don’t trust, which changed my entire approach. . So it really is just this beautiful idea of trusting, like taking the control out of love, is what I would say. I have learned all of my skills about feedback from her. She is the closest human I know to loving unconditionally. She actually looks at people, sees everything that’s beautiful about them and loves them for who they are. It’s like she’s as close to a golden retriever as a person. She loves as fully and without condition as like a puppy. It’s just unbelievable to me. It’s inspiring.
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- Finding Mastery 227: Michael Bennett, former NFL defensive end, on Why It’s Time for America to Look in the Mirror
- Finding Mastery 187: Jemele Hill, Emmy Award winning journalist, on Courage, Vulnerability, and Honesty
- Finding Mastery 175: Abby Wambach, FIFA World Cup Champion, on Life After Soccer and Creating Equality for All
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