Glennon Doyle on What’s True and Beautiful, and the Lies We’ve Been Told
We’re THRILLED to launch our new “Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire” series, and our first guest lives all three of those traits in such an inspiring way. Glennon Doyle is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior and she’s back with her rawest book yet: Untamed, which explores how women untangle themselves from the lies they’ve been told about their bodies, their voices, their minds and their places in the world. Glennon’s also an activist, and she’s the founder and president of Together Rising, an all-woman-led nonprofit that has raised over $22 million for women and children in crisis. Glennon recounts her own “untaming” through an unblinking examination of her upbringing, her first marriage, and her struggles with an eating disorder and alcoholism. She encourages all of us to examine what we want and implores us to lean into those things—not letting anyone tell us that what we want isn’t achievable. Glennon believes that because what most women want is true and beautiful, if we chased all we wanted, “dreams would be realized. Corrupt governments would topple. Institutions would fall so that we could rebuild lives and relationships and nations that are built on justice.”
Glennon: The things that we are taught to be ashamed of always turn out to be our gifts. That’s what women like you and I and so many people in the world are figuring out. We’re the ones with the knowledge that it was all supposed to be more beautiful than this, so we are the ones who will make it so.
Jen: Welcome to For the Love of Being Fierce, Free and Full of Fire series here on the For the Love Podcast with me, Jen Hatmaker. Today we’re talking to my friend Glennon Doyle about becoming untamed.
Hey, guys. It is Jen Hatmaker here. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast.
As always, I am delighted you are here, and right up front, I’m going to tell you this: you are going to love today’s episode. Okay. This is the culmination of the last, well, really all of my life, to be honest. This is a really big sweeping idea, because today, we start a brand-new series called For the Love of Being—you guessed it—Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. I looked at my team and I said, “This series is going to be right around the time we’re about to put this book into the world, and I want to build it in strength. I want to have on powerful guests who are living deeply fierce lives, deeply free lives, full of fire, and creativity, and innovation, and power, to be honest, power. I want to put conversations in front of my listeners that inspire them, and move them, and sink deeply into their souls, and give them permission to live free and wild.”
This woman and I have been living and learning and growing on what feels like parallel tracks over the past few years. She is a sincerely wonderful friend. In fact, I’m going to say something to her very specifically about a moment in our friendship toward the end of this episode that I definitely want you to hear. She’s also a teacher for me and a leader for me. Her example has meant a lot to me, and I cannot wait to share this conversation and my friend Glennon Doyle with you today. She’s the greatest.
In case you don’t know her, she is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Love Warrior, which NBD, Oprah picked for her book club, you guys—boring. She’s also the New York Times bestseller of Carry On, Warrior. Then her newest book right now is called Untamed.
I loved my conversation with her today. I’m going to tell you this, if you haven’t read Untamed yet, as soon as this podcast is over, or while it’s still going on, go get it. Go get the book. You can come thank me later. Okay? I’ll tell you, what you’ll learn from page one is that Glennon is the textbook definition of free. She is, she’s free, and she lays the path for the rest of us, too.
She’s also an amazing activist and a speaker and a thought leader. She’s sought after literally the world over. One of my favorite Glennon things is that she’s the founder and the president of Together Rising, which is this all-woman-led nonprofit that today has raised over twenty-two million dollars for women and families and children in crisis. So, so powerful. Interestingly, their most frequent donation amount is just twenty-five dollars, which goes to show you the power of women coming together for the good of the world. We are so mighty, so fierce.
She was named as one of OWN Network’s SuperSoul 100, and I couldn’t agree more. Glennon lives in Naples, Florida with her wonderful wife, Abby Wambach, who I love, love, love, and their three kids. Do you remember how much wisdom and courage Abby was dishing out? She was on the For the Love of Finishing Strong series on this show. If you haven’t listened to that, I’ll link to it. Go back and do it. You guys went bonkers for that episode for good reason, because the two of them, Glennon and Abby, boy, what amazing human beings and what a force for good in the world. It’s all coming in hot at you right now. Buckle up, people. I love her. You’ll love her. I’m so happy to share this real and true and raw conversation with my friend, Glennon Doyle.
Jen: Hi. I’m so happy. I am so, so, so happy to be hearing your voice right now.
Glennon: Ditto. I mean, Jen, we have to publish books to speak to each other.
Jen: It’s dumb. You’re not wrong. Why? We’ve got to do better.
Glennon: “Why do you write?” “So that I can do podcasts and talk to friends every once in a while.”
Jen: Oh, it’s been too long and I’ve missed you. I’ve talked to Abby more recently than I’ve talked to you—except for with our fingers, how we type and text, which is my preferred mode of conversation anyways.
Glennon: Well, are you going to tell people the thing that I did that was so heroic when I made the vegetables? Because I just think we should lead with that.
Jen: I agree that that is the lead story here. This is outside of your bounds. Let’s just be really honest. You pushed against the edges, and you made roasted vegetables, and I felt something. It stirred me. It moved me. How’d they taste?
Glennon: Well, I mean, I don’t think we need to focus on outcome as much as we do input. We worry about our input. We can’t control it.
Jen: You’re right.
Glennon: We can’t control things like how food tastes.
Jen: Fool’s errand. We simply put the things on the pan, and that is our work. That’s our work.
Glennon: I mean, I will tell you that that night we had mac and cheese.
Jen: I’m still really proud of the effort. I’m not going to kid you. I just thought that was really impressive. I know that Abby does the majority of the kitchen work in your marriage, and so this is just a real, real show of love, not just for her, but frankly for me.
Jen: Okay. Listen, you know that my community loves you. We have a lot of crossover in our community, which is precious to me. We’ve just got a lot of the same amazing women walking this life next to us.
I told you before we started recording, I want to talk to you about your book for a million years. It is really special and it is really marvelous. I see you in it, and I hear you in it, and I am raising my fist. I want to dive right in.
Of course, you’ve got a new book called Untamed, and it’s powerful, Glennon. It’s really powerful. You’ve always been a powerful writer. That’s part of your just inherent gifting, but this is it, man. This is it. I’m like, “This is it!” as I’m reading every page. I told you, I’m going to send you a picture of where I’m at in the book, and all my dog ears, and it’s virtually every page. It’s almost every single page I’ve read, and I’m going to tell you some of my favorite parts in a minute.
I learn a lot from you, I’ve always learned a lot from you, and I loved the way you started this book. It’s kind of the metaphor that you weave throughout it. Is it okay to ask you to talk about Tabitha? Is that a secret?
Glennon: No, of course!
Jen: Can you talk about how you started the book, and what it meant, and tell that story for us?
Glennon: Yeah. I mean, the ideas in this book have been on the tip of my tongue since I was ten years old. This is what I’ve been trying to say since I was a little girl. But, you know, as a writer, you have those moments where you see something in the world and it’s just like a perfect metaphor for something you’ve been feeling, or an invisible idea that you’re trying to make visible.
That happened to me a couple of years ago in the very beginning of thinking about getting these ideas down in a piece of art. I was at a safari park with Abby and the kids, we were going to this event called The Cheetah Run. I mean, a freaking safari park, it’s like a zoo. It’s like my nightmare. We’re tripping with children. It’s 100 degrees. We go see this Cheetah Run.
We’re standing there in the million degrees, and the zookeeper comes out to talk to the crowd, and she’s holding the leash of a Labrador Retriever. Now, I’m not a scientist, but I was like, If this person tries to convince me after I have paid twelve dollars to see this freaking cheetah run that that lab is a cheetah, I’m drawing the line.
Jen: That’s it, that’s it.
Glennon: So she says, “Do y’all think this is the cheetah, Tabitha?” We say, “No!” She says, “You’re right. This is Minnie. This is Tabitha the Cheetah’s best friend. We raised Minnie alongside Tabitha so that Tabitha could learn how to live from Minnie, so that Minnie could help tame Tabitha, and now Tabitha wants to do everything that Minnie does. So Minnie will run the Cheetah Run first while Tabitha watches and remembers how it’s done, and then Tabitha will run the race.”
So we all stand there on the—I want to say sidelines because I live at soccer games now, but they weren’t really sidelines. We all stand there and watch.
Glennon: Minnie the Lab runs, Tabitha watches. Then the zookeepers very carefully open this cage, this big cage that this cheetah is in. This cheetah, Tabitha, walks out of the cage. It’s just like rippling with these incredible muscles. She’s just regal and royal and powerful, and then she sits there and the zookeeper starts this like little Jeep thing, and there’s a pink stuffed bunny tied to the Jeep thing. And Tabitha, of course, has been trained to chase this pink stuffed bunny. We count down three, two, one, the Jeep goes, the bunny flies, Tabitha runs after the Jeep, she gets to the finish line in two seconds. The crowd goes wild, and the zookeeper throws her a steak and she kind of just flops down in the dirt and starts chewing this gross old steak.
And everything just crystallized for me. Everyone was cheering and I was like, Oh, this is familiar. A wild cheetah can be tamed, so can a woman.
Jen: Yeah. Dang.
Glennon: This is what I have been doing my entire life. I have been chasing these dirty pink bunnies that zookeepers somewhere taught me to chase.
These are the things that we’re told from the time we’re little, that, “This is what a good woman does, and this is what a good mother does, and this is what a good daughter does.” All of these ideals and the expectations and shoulds and supposed tos is that we just keep chasing when they tell us to, and we don’t stop until we die, right?
Glennon: I mean, the amazing part of that story is that after that happened, and I had that feeling of, Oh my god, I am a cheetah who has been trained to be a lab, and I’ve been chasing dirty pink bunnies my whole life, and that’s why I’m exhausted and overwhelmed and underwhelmed. That’s why I don’t feel loved and don’t feel seen and don’t feel like I’m unleashing my purpose in the world.
So I’m listening to this zookeeper go on and on. This little girl raises her hand and she says, “Does Tabitha miss the wild?” The zookeeper says, “Oh, no. Tabitha was born in captivity. She’s safe here. This is a good life for Tabitha.” I’m listening to her say that, and Tish, my daughter, she nudges me and she says, “Mommy, look.” While this little lesson is going on, they have put Tabitha in this small fenced field. And Tabitha, everything has changed her. Her posture is different. She’s upright, she’s walking, she’s stalking the periphery of the fence, and she’s looking past the fence, and everything about her has changed. And Tish goes, “Mommy, she turned wild again.”
Glennon: What I wrote in that is I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to be like, “What’s happening to you right now? What’s happening inside of you?” I knew that what was happening was she was thinking, she was imagining, she was thinking, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I just feel like my life was meant to be more beautiful than this. I can picture wide open savannahs and nights filled with stars and stalking and hunting. But then she’d look at the zoo, right? She turned back around and looked at the zoo, and she’d think, Oh, but this is all there is. What’s inside of me can’t be real, because this is all I can see. Right? This must just be good enough.
And that’s what we’re told over and over again, that what we can see is all there is. But we know, right?
Glennon: It’s like what we can imagine inside of us. Our imagination is not really where we go to escape reality. It’s where we go to discover the deepest reality.
Jen: That’s right. I love everything that you’re saying, and I love that story, and I think what is at the core of it—and something that you of course spend all the next pages in Untamed describing and explaining—is this very simple idea, and we had to unlearn, but it was this idea of, Oh, I can trust myself. I can. I can and I should. It’s this very simple thought. I think we’re born with that thought, of course, because we are made to trust ourselves: our bodies, our instincts, our thoughts, our feelings, our ambitions. That’s called living. But this idea, I can trust myself, I should trust myself, I am supposed to trust myself, is a really, really powerful impetus.
Jen: I’m not done with the book, so I reserve the right to change this to something else if I decide it, but thus far, I can tell by my dog ears and my underlines that the chapter that I have loved the most is the chapter that you wrote called “Imagine.” Everything about it felt like it was just as close to me as my own skin.
I want to read a little bit, if you don’t mind. This is something that you wrote. You said, “In order to get beyond our training,” and, listener, by training, she means trained to follow the bunny, all the wild gone, “we need to activate our imaginations. Our minds are excuse makers. Our imaginations are storytellers. So instead of asking ourselves what’s right or wrong, we must ask ourselves what is true and beautiful.”
That hit me exactly and squarely between the eyes. In fact, in Fierce, I was in a chapter where I was just talking about spiritual curiosity. That’s the name of the chapter. “I believe in spiritual curiosity, nobody does.” I said, “In whatever faith community we’ve chosen, our questions should evolve, it’s so similar. We no longer ask, what are the rules? What is the line? Who was in and who was out? Who was right and who was wrong? What’s allowed? Wonderfully, we begin to ask instead, where’s the life? What does flourishing look like? What feels and sounds like joy and love?”
That is essentially exactly what you handed here, and then you went on to say this. Thank you for letting me yammer about your own writing. You wrote this in “Imagine,” “Each honored her own discontent.” You were talking about women who’ve written to you. “She did not dismiss it, bury it, deflect it, deny it, blame it on someone else, or tell herself to shut up and be grateful. She heard her knowing whisper, ‘Not this,’ and she admitted to herself that she heard it.”
Can you just talk about that a little bit more about how you got to that point and what learning to trust yourself has meant to you and to your life?
Glennon: Well, I mean, I think they’re related, right? I mean, no shade to anyone, but I do think that we wonder why we don’t trust ourselves. I mean, the tenet of our major religion is that we are bad and can’t trust ourselves.
Jen: That our bodies are bad—especially women, of course.
Glennon: Right. We can be forgiven for taking a lifetime to return to the idea that, in fact, we can trust ourselves because we have been taught by our religions, by our politicians, by our diet, and by a great cultural diet. Every single place the messages can come from have been told to women that they shouldn’t trust themselves, and that they’re bad, and that they should not lead their lives and their families in their communities. They should decorate and serve. Right?
Glennon: Of course, that’s been our taming for a lifetime. It’s going to take a while to untame from that. I think one of the ways what we’re talking about, you and I, in these parts of our books, is the idea that when your brain is polluted by all of these ideas, by all of this taming, you can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it, right?
Glennon: When you return to your mind to free yourself from your caged mind, it’s just not how it works at first. Eventually, you can intellectualize it, but first you have to feel it. Right?
So look at Tabitha. Okay, she’s a freaking cheetah. I’m making her seem like a person, but she only looks at what she sees. She’s never going to know what’s possible, right?
Glennon: What we do is if we say right and wrong, I mean, I’ll never forget figuring this out. When I was trying to figure out what to do after the infidelity in my marriage, like a good spiritual guru, I tried to get most of my knowledge from freaking BuzzFeed quizzes—end goal, right?
Jen: Yeah, sure.
Glennon: Because that’s what you do with your one wild and precious life, you ask a bunch of bots what to do. What I discovered over time is that every pack of people told me that the right thing was something different. Like, the feminists were telling me that the right thing to do would be leave.
Jen: That’s right.
Glennon: The religious people were telling me that the right thing to do, what a good wife would do, what someone should do, is to stay. The parenting people were telling me the good thing to do, the right thing to do is to use everything as a parenting [tool]. What I realized is, Oh, okay. If all of these different packs have different ideas about what is good and what should happen and what is right, then “good, should, and right” are not pure ideas. They are culturally constructed ideas and they are designed to keep the members in the pack.
If we want to live a life that’s true to ourselves and that is not just chasing pink bunnies that some zookeepers created to keep us in line, then we have to return to ourselves and stop looking outward for what is true and beautiful. The way that I found to do this is to speak bilingually to women, and I’m not kidding. When they would say to me, “My marriage is falling apart and I’m unhappy, and I’m blah, blah, blah. What is the right thing to do?”
Okay. Whenever I hear that word right, I just translate it. Okay?
When you ask me what you should do, when you ask me what is the right thing to do, I will say to you, “Okay. Can you tell me the truest, most beautiful story you can imagine about marriage? Right? When somebody doesn’t know what they should do with their career, what they should do with their purpose, can you tell me a story? Can you tell me a story of the truest, most beautiful career, or ways to use your gifts down here that you can imagine?”
And suddenly, there is a release, right? Like, okay, so we’re not like in this cage of should, shouldn’t. We’re not chasing dirty pink bunnies anymore. We are returning to this place inside of us where this was already planted.
Jen: Right, exactly.
Glennon: By the way, the reason why we can’t do could, should, and good, and right, and wrong is because there is no norm, right?
Glennon: There is no right way to do family. There is no right way to parent. There is no right way. That’s all. There are no maps, like, each and every single one of us, are a pioneer. Each of us is here to create and express an idea of love and idea of family and idea of faith that is true to our most inner being, this treasure hunt of this jewel that was placed inside of us. There is something about asking a person to imagine the truest, most beautiful story that makes them breathe and start explaining it.
Jen: Yes. Because it’s there.
Glennon: Because it’s there! It’s there, and it’s different for everyone. When you hear people’s stories, you realize, Oh my gosh, none of this was supposed to be cookie cutter. It’s all so different and so beautiful. But what I have found, Jen, is that people are afraid to do that.
Glennon: Because once they admit that they can imagine more, there’s this space where there’s no going back from.
Jen: You can’t unknow that.
Glennon: You can’t unknow. You can’t unknow what you just admitted you can imagine. So what I think is super important for people is don’t worry about the doing yet.
Jen: It’s great.
Glennon: Because I think the doing, the, “Oh, but I can’t do that,” it doesn’t matter. Why bother imagining a more beautiful marriage? Because it doesn’t matter. I can’t do anything about it. Okay? Forget the doing. Just for a little while, imagine it up, conjure it up, write it out. There is something about it existing. It’s like what we can imagine comes to life in one dimension at a time.
Jen: That’s right.
Glennon: When we can admit it to ourselves first, that’s a dimension. When we can get it on a piece of paper, right, that’s a dimension. If we can get it on a piece of paper, it’s more likely to eventually come true. It’s like an architect. Nobody starts from a dream in their head to building. There are the plans we write up first. So I just think it’s a way. I mean, all of this, we speak about it spiritually, but we could also speak about it scientifically. What I’m talking about with the team is just social conditioning, right?
Jen: That’s right.
Glennon: We’re all born wild. Most of us have a few good years of childhood where we live as our true selves, and then social programming starts, right?
Glennon: We’re born into zoos. We’re born into institutions like families, like communities, like nations, like economies, and we are born with an instinct knowing that we need our pack to survive. When our pack tells us, “You are Hatmaker, you are a Christian, you are a girl, you are straight. You are these things and this is what a good Hatmaker does and a good girl does and a good woman does,” we just start falling in line.
Jen: That’s right.
Glennon: How many people do you know who are towing the line for their religion, when they know inside that a lot of what’s going on is not true to them and is not right, but they don’t say it on the outside?
Jen: Tons, but that sense of potentially losing your belonging is a powerful disincentive. You said just a minute ago, people are scared and they are, and for more than one reason. But as you described the path, when I look internally at every area in my life where I am free now, but where I was even recently entangled or in bondage or lying to myself and other people, that was also my path out. It was just that simple. It started small and internally.
To me, what’s true and beautiful is a wonderful North Star. That clears away a lot of the crap. That takes away a lot of the words we put onto ideas and to a possibility. It’s like fresh air.
What’s true and beautiful? That question internally for me was the beginning, and so it’s not small. You’re saying like that’s step one and it is, but it’s a big one. To admit that internal thing, even be able to say, “This version of this thing is not true and beautiful.” That’s so hard to say, because it’s inevitable that after that, it’s going to be dismantling and that’s so disruptive. It’s going to threaten so many things. It’s going to threaten our own identity, it’s going to threaten our relationships, it’s going to threaten the little subculture that we belong in, whichever one it is. And so for you to just say it, “Do it a dimension at a time,” yes.
Glennon: I think one of the reasons why we’re scared of that is because we have been trained to be scared of that, right?
Glennon: Once we say, “This is not true and beautiful,” that is another way of a woman saying, “This is not good enough. I’m not just grateful. I want more.” We have been trained to believe that the worst thing a woman can do is want more. Right?
Jen: Absolutely. We only have sanction once.
Glennon: The first creation story.
Jen: Women can want a few things, but they’re like in a little tiny pool of approved wants.
Jen: That’s it.
Glennon: Yeah. Real quick, the first story I ever learned about God is that God made Adam and they were like besties. Well, it was just the two bros, everything was awesome.
Glennon: Then Adam got bored and stressed out, and so God made a woman, and then the woman wanted more, and so all hell broke loose and suffering was unleashed on the earth, and go with God, girls.
Glennon: We can be forgiven for being scared that we are not allowed to want more.
Jen: That’s right.
Glennon: But the thing is, that’s the answer. Women wanting more is the answer. I mean, we have been trained to be so afraid of our desires, but Jen, you and I, our job is to talk and listen to women, right?
Glennon: I listen to the deep desires of women for a living.
Glennon: Okay. What women want is true and beautiful.
Glennon: Right. Women want a minute to take a deep breath, women want rest, women want peace, women want good food and good success. Women want safety for their children and safety for other people’s children. Women want less war and more love. What women want should be the blueprints of heaven, right? It should be the marching orders of all of us, and the thing is that what women want is dangerous. That’s why they are trying to scare us about what we want, because if women actually went for what we want, all of those things that I listed, imbalanced relationships would fall, right?
Jen: Of course.
Glennon: Dreams would be realized. Corrupt governments would topple. Institutions would fall. The world would end, and that’s exactly what we want so that we can rebuild lives and relationships, and institutions, and religions, and nations that are built on justice.
Jen: I could not agree more. The women in my world that I love, and serve, and lead, and listen to are just the greatest. I mean, they are just the greatest! If they were free in their lives, if they were unleashed, if they were wild, there isn’t an injustice on earth that they’re not prepared to upend, not one.
I feel this in my bones. This is like shut up in my bones, this message that women can trust themselves and should and not just some sort of narcissistic, “Now you can just get everything you want.” But honestly, for the good of the world, for the good of everyone, for the good of our kids, for the good of our relationships, for the good of our marriages, like, this is a wonderful, great and glorious good in front of us, this possibility.
Jen: There’s one specific aspect I really want you to talk about, because you’ve always been a leader in this particular area, but this is one where I find most women—well, I don’t know how to quantify, but it feels like to me most women are still bound and even suffering. Obviously, a huge part of trusting ourselves is remembering that we can also trust our own bodies, like this skin, this flesh, these muscles. As you mentioned a minute ago, this literally goes against every single message our culture gives us, every single one, even from the time we’re little, little, little, little. You were talking about your kids in the shower with the shower bottles. They are getting this from day one. And it’s all just such a lie that our bodies cannot be trusted, that they’re too big, that they’re weak, that they’re fickle, that our feelings are hysterical, that our thoughts are emotional. It’s all just so frustrating. I just want to rage.
Can you talk to us a little bit about our bodies and that our body is good and we should listen to her, and she loves us, and she keeps us safe and happy and healthy? Can you talk about what it means? I mean, how do we even begin this work? Because almost every woman I know hates her body, because she was told to, and thus she does. There’s nothing wrong with her. A message was given to her and she received it from the time she was two. How do we even start the engine?
Glennon: Oh God, of course. Jen brings me this one.
Jen: I’m sorry.
Glennon: Well, listen, I’m just going to tell you the truth about this.
Jen: I want you to.
Glennon: Which is that I want to be—because I’m a leader, because I am a feminist leader—able to tell you that I have freed myself from all of these, caging body, this self-hatred, this self-doubt, and it’s just not even close to true. I think that Abby would tell you—and I know that to be true, that it’s the greatest struggle of my life—I have been dealing with body, I mean, really, I could say body hatred, but it started with bulimia when I was ten years old, since I was ten. And I think if you look at me from the outside now, I think that my habits in terms of exercise and food are very normal, like, you’d think, She’s healthy. But I would tell you, Jen, that Abby was asking me the other day what percentage I would guess, like, how many of the thoughts that I have in a day are related to food or my body. I don’t think that it would be an exaggeration to say it’s probably seventy percent.
Glennon: Which makes me ragey, because I’m such a smart woman, and I can’t believe that I spend seventy freaking percent of my brain power and my time on this earth fighting body self-hatred. It’s just so infuriating to me. So there’s just an inspiration for your listeners, Jen.
Jen: Listen, I’m going to tell you something before you go on and tell us more about that. You’re just going to die when you eventually read it, but in Fierce, I wrote through twelve chapters and it was centered around five ideas: Who I Am, What I Want, What I Need, What I Believe, and How I Connect. And in Who I Am, I have a whole chapter on bodies. And I had to tell the reader, like I had to, my fingers had to tell the truth, I couldn’t lie that, “Of all these twelve chapters, this is the one I’m the worst at. This is my bottom category, the one where I have the most amount of work to do, the one that I cried writing the entire chapter because it’s not true for me yet, and I want it to be, and yet here we are.”
I even know. I know it all. I laid it all out. I made a whole case for why this is all a lie, and how we can do better, and then I cried my eyes out and said, “Well, I’m just not there.”
I thank you for your honesty because this one, this message particularly, it got ingrained into our blood and bones. It got all the way into our bone marrow, and into our muscles, and the way our hands look, and the way our nose looks. Boy, it’s really hard to unhook from a message that wrapped itself around our actual living bodies. Thank you for saying it’s hard, because it is.
Glennon: Even with the exercise thing for me, it’s like I hear the women and see the women who use exercise as an expression of joy and power, and that’s not how I do it. That’s not how I do it. I feel it. Two people can be doing the same thing, and they’re completely different.
Jen: It’s a great point.
Glennon: I’m doing it to keep myself in control. I’m doing it to stay in this little body, that I think I’ll die if I don’t. I don’t know. The only way I can explain it is that it’s just all control and fear-based. I know—and this is so wild because I’ve learned this from Abby, from being in a relationship with someone that I truly love and trust— control and love are opposites. Love implies trust. You cannot claim to love someone or something if you don’t trust it also. It’s just wrapped up inside of love, and you only control things that you don’t trust. Right?
Jen: It’s so real.
Glennon: It took me like, again, years of trying to control Abby, like the freaking cheetah-est cheetah that ever cheetah’d.
Jen: It’s so real.
Glennon: Also, I’ve been in relationships before where I’ve been blindsided. I’m hurt to death, betrayed, and so to trust again was very hard, and it’s hard not to bring all of your baggage and just make the thing true that you’re afraid is true.
Anyway, it took me figuring out, Okay, if I’m going to love her, if I’m going to say I love her, I have to trust her. That’s when I figured out, Oh, what I’m trying to say to you is that I know for a fact that I don’t yet have bodies of love, because if I did, I wouldn’t be working so hard every day to control my body. I would trust it to just become whatever the hell it wants to be. I mean, I have little flashes of freedom.
Jen: Yeah. Me, too.
Glennon: Little fields of freedom, like, I think of Tabitha in that field. One of them is sex for me, like I have never understood sex, not a day in my entire life, and that’s because I’ve recently figured out that I was just performing sex. I was just doing what I thought people were supposed to do in sex. Like, Okay, so I guess I arch this way now…
Jen: Sure. This is the sound. Mm-hmm.
Glennon: Yeah. This is the face I guess people make at this moment, like Jesus, I mean, I can’t even, I’m sweating now. I’ve just recently figured out that sex is not an act.
Glennon: That it’s like a surrender, some kind of surrender to your own body, to another body, like, just a surrender.
Jen: It’s good.
Glennon: But I have not figured that out with my own body outside of sex yet. I’m just waiting for it, Jen. I’m sure it will be here any minute.
Jen: I just want to say that I really mean this sincerely, I really thank you for your honesty on that. It means something when our teachers tell the truth, even the hard parts. Even that, “I know this to be true, but I haven’t mastered it yet.” What that does for me is it draws me to you. It does not push me away from you. That makes more room on the human avenue. Like, we’re human people, we are doing the best we can. Some things are harder for me than for you and vice versa and other people, and that’s just called L-I-F-E. It just is, and we just keep trying. We just keep working. Together, we grab hands and we’re like, “This is not true. We’re going to believe it’s not true even though we act like it is.” And we’re just going to keep saying that, I guess, and then we die. I don’t know. I think maybe that’s the path.
Glennon: Then we die.
Glennon: I mean, Jen, what if that’s okay?
Glennon: What if I’m not a minute away from figuring this out? What if for the rest of my life—because of the first half of my life, because of the culture I live in, because of the body I’m in, because of all the gender ideas and the misogyny and all of it—what if I’m just always going to have this thing? It’s a bit of a battle. And what if the best I can do is just not be mad at myself about it?
Jen: Yes, yes. I love this. Yes! I’m screaming from my chair like that possibility also has to live in front of us, and we have to say, “That may be it.” You know me, I’m always going to pull out this teeny little Bible verse, but there’s this moment—and I have no idea what he was talking about. I really don’t know what it was, but Paul, I think he is more problematic in the retelling of Paul’s story than he probably actually was. He said something about like, “I have this thorn in my flesh. It will not go away. I just can’t get rid of it, like, I’m sick of it. I’ve asked to be rid of it. I’m working at getting rid of it, but it’s just this is the thing I have to live with.”
And I think that’s a real feasible notion for human people that some things we live with, and we rage against, but maybe that’s just part of the story and there’s beauty inside of that too, inside of the struggle and inside of the work. Even just the work, the work has value. It’s not just an end game. The work itself has value.
And that reminds me of something else I want to hear you talk about, because one thing that I really like that you address right on the nose is just not something in normal feminine discourse. We just don’t hear this in conversations among and about women, but you just on the nose talk about anger, and I like it.
This is one thing that you wrote that I underlined. “I stopped being a quiet peacekeeper and I started being a loud peacemaker. My anger, it turns out, was good. I had been deceived. The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me because we are told, and the same way that we’re told from little kids how we’re supposed to look, we are positively told that our anger is unwelcome. That’s way too big of a feeling to be approved.” I don’t know what my question is except I want to hear you talk about that.
Glennon: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think from the top down, that looks like an obvious thing that zookeepers would teach us, right, because of course, we have to feel shame about our anger. Of course, when we’re angry, we need to think there’s something wrong with us instead of just that there’s something wrong, and that is because every marginalized group knows that power has to keep marginalized groups from permission of anger because angry people tend to demand change.
Jen: That’s it.
Glennon: So in order for power, for the status quo to remain, all marginalized people have to feel a sense of not being able to express their anger. That’s where we get the angry woman, that’s where we get the angry black woman.
Jen: That’s right.
Glennon: All of that is so that we can be dismissed as crazy. It’s personal for me, because I think that when I was a really little girl, I was super sensitive and I was angry, and I was heartbroken and I had big feelings, and soaked in messages from everywhere that that was not okay. So I started to numb myself out with food, and that spiraled into every addiction on earth, and I lost myself for twenty years. I think it’s just been raising Tish, Jen, who you know a lot about. Tish, God, she’s super, super sensitive. She has big feelings, because karma, right?
Glennon: It’s been watching her and raising her that has made me re-understand myself.
Jen: That’s great.
Glennon: In my twenty years of diagnoses, and therapists, and mental hospital, and my identity to myself, my root belief about myself was “I am crazy.” That’s why I didn’t trust myself because how can a crazy person be trusted to lead her life and not sabotage the people? I think we all have a little, like a root shame belief. I know Abby’s is “I’m broken and I’m far from God,” because that’s what she was told as a child. Whatever we’re told as a child . . . I mean, I even wrote in Carry On, Warrior, “I am broken.” That is what I believed deeply.
Raising Tish, she’s this deep feeler. I think in a lot of ways, she’s just like I was as a child. Just a quick story, as an example, a couple of years ago, her teacher called me from school and said, “Glennon, we have an issue.” I said, “Yes, I’m sure we do.”
Glennon: She said, “Okay. What happened is that I accidentally mentioned to the kids that the polar bears are dying because of the melting ice caps because of climate change, and the other kindergarteners thought this was sad information, but not sad enough to like not soldier on to recess. Tish is still sitting on the carpet, and she is stunned, and she said her little paralyzed face is just like, ‘I’m sorry, did you just mention that the earth is melting? Like, the earth that we are on?’”
Jen, I think I’ve told you the story personally, but for months, my life revolved around polar bears. We bought polar bear posters. I had to sponsor four freaking polar bears online. We talked about polar bears so incessantly that I just began to hate polar bears. I just began to rue the day polar bears were ever born.
Jen: Oh, I love it.
Glennon: You know this. In a moment that is not my best parenting moment, I actually had a friend write me an email saying that she was the president of Antarctica, and now all of a sudden, the polar bears are fine. Everything’s fine.
Jen: I die. I just die.
Glennon: And I read it to Tish, and she did not believe it because she is sensitive, not stupid. The whole thing carried on. And then one night, I’m putting her to bed, and she said, “Mommy, it’s the polar bears now, but nobody cares, so soon it’s going to be us.”
Jen: Bless it.
Glennon: Then Jen, Tish fell asleep, and I just stood there like, Oh my God! Oh my God! I just looked at her and thought, You are not crazy to be obsessed with the polar bears. We are crazy not to be obsessed with the polar bears, right?
That’s when I figured out folks like Tish, and like I was as a kid, we are, in most cultures and throughout history, identified early as like a little bit eccentric, but crucial to the health of the group, like we are the shaman and medicine men and women, and the clergy, and the poets. People were a little weird, but important because they can hear things other people can’t hear, and see things other people can’t see, and feel things other people can’t feel. But in our culture, we are so hell-bent on efficiency and power and speed at all costs that people like Tish are dismissed, right? It’s easier to call us broken than to understand that we are actually responding appropriately to a broken world.
Glennon: That’s when I figured out, Oh, Tish is not crazy. She’s a prophet. That made me able to see myself as a child differently.
Jen: Oh, I love that.
Glennon: I was never broken. I was just a deeply feeling person in a very messy world, and all of my anger, I mean, Jen, now switch that with Tish, I no longer believe that any of my muchness was a mistake. Right?
Jen: Of course.
Glennon: The anger, and the rage, and the sensitivity, and the heartbreak that made me hide myself in booze is the same anger and heartbreak and sensitivity that I now used to be a really good writer and fierce activist. It was always my gift.
Jen: That’s right.
Glennon: The things that we are taught to be ashamed of always turn out to be our gifts. That’s what women like you and I and so many people in the world are figuring out. It’s like angry women are not crazy, angry women are the cheetahs, right? We’re the ones with the knowledge that it was all supposed to be more beautiful than this, and so we are the ones who will make it so.
Jen: That’s it, that’s it. It’s so liberating and exciting and terrifying to hear that, because that is not the status quo.
Jen: That’s not the path that we are gently suggested to take. And so it feels just like, Ah, it’s the cusp of real and true beauty in our generation, and it gets me really excited.
And I think women have the chops for this. I understand the fear, I do. I understand all the reluctance, I understand the reasons why not, I understand the potential for loss. I get it all, but I still believe we have everything it takes to live this truth, to live this free, to be these women that we always were, that we have always been since the day we were born. And it’s so exciting, like, it really is so exciting. We haven’t even sniffed our potential. We don’t even know what is possible in front of our time in this little planet if we stepped into this freedom.
I want to tell you something. Everything that you’re saying, everything that we’re talking about today, it’s so familiar, because like I mentioned earlier, this has essentially been my arc also for the last few years, and I’m learning this, and I’m embracing this, and I’m living into at least half of this. I mean, I don’t know how true I can be. I was trying to do the math before we hopped on today. I think it was seven, but maybe I’m not quite right. It might’ve even been eight. Either seven or eight ago, eight years ago, I was in Florida at your house. And this was when I was still deeply bound in lots of areas, but super afraid to be a disruptor. I’d built too much on it, and so I was scared, well, for everything, frankly,but to pay the costs that I knew.
There were a lot of things in that category, but one of those things was of course the teaching, the theology that I had just been handed, that I just uncritically never examined on, of course, the LGBTQ community. You and I have talked about this a million times. But I remember we were on the beach. I don’t know if you can remember this.
Glennon: I remember every bit of it. I remember every bit.
Jen: Okay. We’re on the beach, we’re with some of our friends, we’re sitting on a blanket, and you—it just meant so much to me the way that you handled me, because it was very simple—were just like, essentially, “Why? Why would you think this? What in this feels true or good, essentially, to you?”
And I just remember having you put it to me just that simply, and coming to admit there for the first time, all my internal wrestling, intention that I was just burying and pretending didn’t exist. I remember I just told you, “I don’t know. I don’t know why. I don’t have an answer.”
That was a real beginning for me. You were a real teacher for me, Glennon. What you were to me in that moment was a good friend, because a good friend cares about the health of her friend, and that was unhealthy in me. It was poisonous, and it was toxic, and it made me a very unhealthy leader, which is exponentially worse. And you just held open a little door, and you asked me why, and I didn’t have a good answer, and that was the beginning. And it mattered. It mattered. You mattered so much to me in that little moment in my story, and that was honestly, in so many ways, the beginning of my freedom song.
You wrote something about Liz in the book that [I felt in] my heart, because I feel like this is something that you have been to me. And you said this, this is something that Liz said to you. “Every truth is a kindness, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Every untruth is an unkindness, even if it makes others comfortable.” At the end of that chapter, you said, “It is a blessing to know a free woman. Sometimes she will stop by and hold up a mirror for you. She will help you remember who you are.”
I could bawl. That was you to me. It was you to me, and I’m thankful. Thank you. Thank you for that day. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for telling the truth and making just enough room for me to tell the truth, just enough room to find it.
Glennon: Oh my God, Jen.
Jen: I love you, and I mean it.
Glennon: There’s something I’m supposed to say right now, but I’ve never cried on a podcast before in my entire life.
Jen: Thank you for letting me say that, because I know that was just a private moment between us, but it meant so much to me and that it mattered so much. And so you’ve just been this for me.
Glennon: I mean, Jen, we think about all of the speeches that we think about giving people who think differently than we do, all these things we’re trying to prove and points we’re trying to make. And the question is just like, why?
Jen: Why? Why? Back to your question, but is it true and beautiful?
Glennon: Is it true and beautiful? Yeah.
Jen: That doesn’t lie to us. That points us, right? We can trust that.
Glennon: Yeah, yeah.
Jen: Yes, and that is. I think those are our marching orders. That’s the thing. That’s our North Star, true and beautiful in every relationship, in every ideology, in the way that we are made, what we love, who we love and how we love, all of it. Is it true and beautiful? That tells us the truth. That is honestly what this book is doing. That’s what you’re pointing us toward. It’s so good, it’s so good.
Jen: I have three questions that I want to ask you, and then you’re going to have to go back to your life in Florida, and this is the first one. I’m asking everybody in this little series these, and I’m excited to hear what you say.
This is probably a hard thing to pick, but if you had to pick, what is the biggest lie that you have stopped believing about yourself?
Glennon: Oh, that I’m crazy.
Jen: Oh, well, that is a good one to let go of. That’ll slow down your progress, right there.
Glennon: Girl, it really did!
Jen: Oh, I love that. I’m just thinking about all the women who love to hear you say that just this very second. That’s a good one.
How’s this one? What is the most freeing, most life-giving truth that you have learned about yourself?
Glennon: Oh. Oh, wow.
Jen: Mm-hmm. There’s a lot.
Glennon: Okay. I don’t know if I can say it in one sentence, but I’ll try.
Jen: You don’t have to say it in one sentence. You just say it.
Glennon: Okay. I think that—and I don’t know if I fully believe this yet, but I think I’m getting there.
Glennon: I think that I actually believe that I am lovable. I don’t mean likable. Like, I know I’m likable. I don’t mean that. I mean like the real me, at my worst in my house, when I’m just the worst with my wife, like when I’m jealous, or just the worst of me. And then still somehow, she loves me not in spite of all that stuff, but because of all that stuff. It’s very confusing to me, but yeah. I think, like, maybe in five more years.
Jen: Yes! That’s good. We’ll put it on the list. Still working. It’s still in progress. Oh, that’s a good one. Here’s the last one. I asked you this the last time you were on the show, and I wonder if you remember what you said. This is the question from Barbara Brown Taylor, who is such a prophet. Her question that she asks is what is saving your life right now? Do you remember what you told me the first time? This would have been three years ago. What do you think you said?
Glennon: I don’t know. Lexapro?
Jen: I don’t know. You weren’t that snarky that day, of course.
Glennon: Okay. What did I say?
Jen: Of course you said Sister, who I also love.
Glennon: Of course, of course I said that.
Jen: So precious. But here we are three years later. I just wonder what your answer is today.
Glennon: I mean, I’ve got this trinity going of Abby, Sister, and Liz. And I don’t know about you, you handle things a little bit more evenly than I do. I have some anxiety issues, and when big things start to come up, my anxiety gets just heightened. Heightened might be a sweet word to use.
Glennon: They are different. Sister’s approach is, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle absolutely everything.”
Jen: Everything. Yup.
Glennon: She handles everything. She just is like the blocker. She’s like a blocker for me. Then Abby’s approach is just, “I will be there beside you for all of it,” you know?
Then Liz’s approach is, “There’s nothing to handle.”
Jen: I love Liz.
Jen: Just live, just live with wonder and delight every day. I love Liz. She is also special. She lives in her own wonderful zip code.
Glennon: God, it’s so inspiring to me. It’s just, I think, the women in my life who remind me who I am.
Jen: It’s great.
Glennon: That’s what saves my life.
Jen: I love your women, and I love you, and I love your book, and I’m proud of you for writing it. I’m thankful to you for writing it.
Glennon: Oh, what does a girl have to do to get your book?
Jen: I think I already have your address, so don’t you worry about that. Okay, friend. I do love you, and am so, so, so glad to be your friend. So glad you’re my friend. Thank you for being a good one.
Glennon: Thanks for trusting me with this beautiful community. I just love you.
Jen: Same. Love you, friend.
I do love her. One thing that I love about Glennon—and I meant to say this to her on the episode—is that what I feel like I can count on from her is that at all points, she is going to be integrated. Like, she’s just going to say what’s true, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Even if what we wanted to hear was a good grand finale of a real hard fought journey, if it’s not true for her yet, she’s not going to say it and that is so meaningful to me.
Being an integrated woman is everything. I think that is everything. I think that’s the message of Untamed. That’s 100% the message of Fierce coming out. What does it look like when women are integrated? When we are literally telling the truth in every area of our life across the board? When we trust ourselves, when we were not trying to do better—this is not a self-improvement idea. This is not a, How can we be more? This is a, Who am I already? What am I uncovering, not What am I creating? Who am I already? It’s so exciting and it’s so powerful.
And of course, Glennon is a writer’s writer. She’s a beautiful writer. If you’ve never read her work before, she’s just sincerely a beautiful writer, one of the best in the biz. I will link to her book. I will link to her social media accounts. I will link to our original podcast episode. She was in my very first series ever on this podcast, and I’ll link to Abby’s as well.
You guys, the whole Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire series is, well, if today is any indicator, now you know. I am bringing you the most powerful, exciting, liberated voices I know right now, and you’re going to love ‘em! It’s so fun. The series is so great.
So you can get Untamed, you can preorder Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire right this very minute. Your pre-order gets you a lot of cool stuff, too. You can go to jenhatmaker.com for more information on that. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being here. I cannot wait to bring you the next episode in this series. I think you’re going to love it. Have a great day, guys.