After three months, Glennon Doyle wasn’t sure how much more talk about polar bears she could take.
When the author and activist sat down to discuss life and learning to live in freedom with Jay Shetty, she admitted she had just about reached her breaking point. Then her daughter, Tish, brought up the plight of the bears once more at bedtime.
Ever since a lesson at school had opened her daughter’s eyes to how the bears were endangered, life for everyone in the Doyle family had revolved around their plight. While she was as sympathetic to polar bears as the next person, she couldn’t help but wonder why her young daughter felt such a desperate need to save them.
Snuggled together in the pre-bedtime dark, the passionate little heart that resided in her daughter once more spoke out her true feelings
“‘Mommy,” Doyle recounted to Jay Shetty, “it's just…it's just that it's the polar bears now, but nobody cares. So soon it'll be us.’”
That moment was a pivotal moment for Doyle. Years of living and learning, unpacking and rebuilding, had brought her to a point where she could respect the pain her daughter felt. She didn’t pass it off as some crazy kid oversimplifying a problem. Instead, she chose to sit with the pain and fear that plagued her daughter’s tender heart.
Walking out of her daughter’s bedroom that night, Doyle came one step closer to being confident that raising good humans requires a commitment to bringing them up untamed.
In many ways, it seemed like everything had led Doyle to this point. Being able to sit with Tish in the realness of those emotions that night was the culmination of how Doyle has chosen to live her life. In her pursuit of realness, she is unapologetically authentic and not afraid to wrestle with the reality of the messy.
This Is Me
Doyle owes her ability to sit well in that moment to herself. Credit goes to the immense work she has done to fight off the demons of addiction, self-doubt and loathing that she has carried with her since her early years.
Doyle is fiercely committed to finding her voice. She encourages others to break free of societal standards in order to fully be who they were created to be. She’s spent years learning how to embrace her feelings, no matter how scary or big. To Jay Shetty, this shines like a beacon of hope.
While her story is like everyone's – messy and rocky – Doyle unashamedly walks her journey of truth and consequences. Unlike so many others, Doyle has never resigned herself to the way things are. For that, she and those whose lives she pours into, are forever grateful.
She calls others to this same journey in her new book, Untamed. Within its pages, she takes readers on a journey through her own self-discovery while also beckoning them to step out into the wild water of unashamed identity with her.
She confessed to Jay Shetty that while the tour and promotion of her book was postponed due to the pandemic, she believes deeply in the truth scrawled on its pages. It holds the story her younger self has been begging her to tell for decades.
Addiction to Happiness
In some ways, it is hard to believe that the Glennon Doyle, who is so loved and known by the world today, spent more than a decade hidden behind a mask of pain and addiction.
“What was the catalyst for numbing that feeling?” Jay Shetty couldn’t help but ask.
Pursuit of happiness was Doyle’s biggest hurdle. While she had a wonderful childhood, the nagging struggle to find lasting happiness in a challenging world haunted her. She, like so many others, grew up believing a lie.
“Happiness is the goal,” she told Jay Shetty of her former belief. “We’re supposed to be happy all the time. We worship happiness.”
That tension left Doyle longing to numb the pain and struggle of how to handle normal feelings in a world that worshipped happiness at all costs.
“When the normal feelings would come – fear, doubt, jealousy, pain and anger – when I started feeling those things, I just thought something was wrong with me,” she admitted to Jay Shetty, “because nobody was talking about that, right? I was supposed to be happy. Especially as a girl, I'm supposed to be smiling. That's why I started numbing so early, and that turned into alcoholism.”
Sober High, Sober Low
When Doyle decided to get sober at the age of 25, it was like coming down off the biggest sugar high of her life. She told Jay Shetty that the first day was great. After hitting the bottle every day for 15 years having a clear mind thanks to sobriety gave her a new outlook on life.
“I went to my first AA meeting and it was completely freaking amazing,” she said to Jay Shetty. “I just remember thinking, oh, here's where the honest people are!”
But by day six, reality had set in. Doyle confessed at that day’s meeting that things weren’t as perfect as she’d hoped they would be.
“I've been sober for six days,” she recalls saying. “I feel awful, and everything hurts. I am afraid that there's some kind of secret to life that everyone else has that I don't have, and I've never had it.”
A woman came up to Doyle after the meeting and spoke words that ignited massive transformation in her life. She shared the woman’s words with Jay Shetty.
“I just want to tell you something that someone told me in early sobriety,” she remembers the woman saying, “And it is this: the secret is that feeling all of your feelings is just really hard. Life is not hard right now because you're doing it wrong. Life is hard right now because you're finally doing it.”
The idea was so simple, yet in that moment, it hit with a profundity that moved her deeply. Describing the process as an unthawing of feeling and emotion, Doyle embarked on a journey not only of sobriety, but of authenticity, as she learned to celebrate her feelings and emotions and what made her human.
Getting in Touch With Her Feelings
“I just remember thinking, all feelings are for feeling?” Doyle told Jay Shetty. “I thought that happiness was for feeling and then envy and fear and anger and all those other things were for avoiding and numbing and denying and deflecting.” She wrestled to process this new truth she had been given.
Doyle found she had to take it in baby steps. A day seemed too long to have to sit with all of her feelings. So, she began with three minutes – the length of one song. Putting a song on and practicing fully sitting with her feelings for the duration helped Doyle build her feeling muscles.
She continued to challenge herself one song at a time. From there, she worked herself up to days and eventually built herself up to where she was able to feel everything without panic.
Jay Shetty jumped in with a helpful way to think about this, “I don't believe that you ever get to a point where you don't have an envious, negative, ego driven thought,” he admitted. “What I believe is that you entertain it for less time. Don't get obsessed in trying to remove that thought for all time. That's just not realistic. But you will find yourself able to say, ‘Oh, I only felt like that for seven minutes, not all day.’”
“I try to not think of anything as eternally present or eternally absent,” Jay Shetty continued. This practice of working with feelings or emotions as they come, dealing with them and moving on, is much healthier than beating oneself up about a negative emotion. There is grace and learning in this approach that Doyle and Shetty agree is vital for authentic living.
As Doyle stood in the hallway outside her daughter’s room that night, the practice of getting in touch with her feelings and owning the untamed within is what allowed her to embrace the goodness of Tish’s tender heart.
After a lifetime of passing off her own emotions and struggles as crazy or negative, Doyle passed the test when it came to cherishing the heart and emotions of her daughter as beautiful and sacred.
Doyle confessed to Jay Shetty that it took her a lot to arrive here. Each piece of the puzzle has been a stepping stone for building her own mental and emotional strength as well as that of her children.
Doyle’s invitation to an untamed life draws those who join away from the status quo and into the practice of abundance and joy. She insists that life outside that cage is where true freedom is found.
Sitting with jealousy or envy to find the appreciation for the person whose skills or talent you are jealous of allows you to be fully present in appreciating their gifts and uniqueness. It also spurs you on to do better yourself. Living in a creative space without trying to measure up to the expectations of others takes the pressure off. Acknowledging a struggle with depression keeps each person authentic without tipping them over the edge.
Doyle told Jay Shetty that life untamed is the best gift we can give ourselves and others. The mother of three and cheerleader of millions will not be quiet about this message that burns within her soul, even though for her it meant saying goodbye to a wrong marriage, saying yes to doing hard and honest emotional work, and saying hello to a house full of polar bear posters.
At the end of the day, Glennon Doyle does care if we are all around. She is using every waking breath every single word to shout that from the rooftops.
More from Jay Shetty and Glennon Doyle
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode with Glennon Doyle on “How to Stop Asking For Permission & Listening to Other People’s Opinions” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.