Glennon Doyle hates giving advice. Nor does she want to be referred to as a self-help guru or any other woo-woo spiritual title. The author of best-selling memoirs including “Untamed” says she just wants to help others find the freedom she found “untaming” herself.
“That’s how we all got in this mess in the first place, by following somebody else’s idea of what we should be,” she said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We’re now following Glennon’s ideas? That’s the opposite of what I’m trying to do.”
When Doyle “blew up” her life, as she calls it, divorcing her husband and father of their three children to marry Olympic gold medal soccer star Abby Wambach, she hit a nerve with millions. The Christian mommy blogger detailed her fears of rejection, of disappointing the church and her parents, and of losing the life she thought she was supposed to live in order to live the life she wanted.
“It was the most alive I’d ever been,” the 45-year-old Doyle said.
Her unburdening has also helped her tap into the zeitgeist of overburdened women from all walks of life. People magazine hailed her as the “patron saint of female empowerment." “Untamed” was Audible’s most-listened-to audiobook in 2020. Oprah, Adele, Kelly Clarkson and other celebrities have called her work life-changing.
Doyle extended the conversation to podcasting in May, launching “We Can Do Hard Things,” which was No. 1 on Apple's list of top new shows.
Still, women frequently approached her on her exercise walks, messaged her on social media, and pulled her aside at events, asking the same question.
“People would ask, ‘OK, that’s great that you got yourself untamed,'” she said. 'That’s great that you were able to do that. How do I do that'?"
So Doyle recently released a companion journal to “Untamed.” She wanted to call it “The Experiment,” emphasizing that no blueprint exists and no one has the answers for someone else’s life, but publishers scrapped it.
“Get Untamed: The Journal" has the tagline “How to quit pleasing and start living,” which has become an anthem among her fans. “I have stopped asking people for directions to places they've never been. There is no map. We are all pioneers,” she writes.
Before “Untamed” dropped in March 2020, amid the early unknowns of COVID-19, her initial reaction was to wait and release it later.
But the forced time out proved fertile ground for her message of stillness, of tuning out the noise and listening to yourself, “your knowing,” she calls it.
“Being still is the hardest thing in the whole world," she says.
"The truth is in the stillness, the stuff we haven’t resolved yet is in the stillness, the conversations we are avoiding is in the stillness, all of our trauma is in the stillness,” she said. “We live in a culture that tells us we can’t live in stillness.”
Doyle says she numbed out for years, using food and alcohol to cope with an unhappy marriage and strict evangelical upbringing, trying to do all the right things, being a good church wife, teacher and mother. She buried her desires, thinking she was sacrificing for her children, until she realized she was living a life she wouldn't want for her own daughter.
“Mommy martrydom," she said, can be a heavy burden to pass on to children.
“We’re teaching them love is self-denial, love is burying yourself and then moping about it,” she said. “It’s having a mom who will not allow herself to live. If there’s anything ‘Untamed’ is doing, I hope it’s showing that martyrdom motherhood is not a badge of honor.”
Among her unconventional self-revelations embraced by exhausted women: It’s OK to quit or take a nap. She rarely replies to texts. Divorce isn’t always bad. Sometimes, losing everything is actually the step to freeing yourself.
Doyle hopes the pandemic and journal will encourage others to do some uncomfortable self-examination.
“Some of us found our peace for the first time. I have never been more comfortable in my own skin," she recently said on her podcast.
“The constant going out in front of other human beings, the constant being out in all of these social situations... that was constantly jarring to me.”
Despite her successes, Doyle says her life is messy like everyone's, filled with fights, tears and self-doubts.
She tries to meditate for 20 minutes daily, saying it helps “take the edge off,” or go for a walk to work out her thoughts. But she admits without shame that she only does it about half the time because working, mothering and wife-ing gets hectic.
So what about those days when she can’t get it all done?
“I’m really over beating myself up over everything.”
Instead, she calls quitting a spiritual practice.
“I wake up in the morning and I look forward to quitting,” she said in a recent podcast, adding that might be zoning out with TV and eating comforting carbs.
“If I didn’t quit every single day, I wouldn't start again.”