I met Glennon in the corner of a hotel lobby. Fresh off an airplane and wearing her signature tee shirt that says “We can do hard things,” she greeted me with a big hug. This girl knows how to make friends. Her honesty and willingness to put it all out there makes her feel like a best friend that you can trust with your secrets. She is charming and within 15 minutes of meeting her, was spilling all the secrets about her favorite beauty product (It’s deodorant) and how alcohol and eating disorders have been part of her journey toward seeing the "brutiful" (brutal and beautiful) moments in life. You’ve got to love a girl who isn’t afraid of putting it all out there. Author of NYT Best Seller, Carry On Warrior, and blogger at Momastery, Glennon has created a community of women who are journeying together to be truth tellers and hope spreaders.
Here is our conversation.
Mandy: Our theme at MOPS this coming year is A Beautiful Mess: Embrace Your Story. How has embracing your story, your beautiful mess, affected you as a woman and a mom?
Glennon: I love the Beautiful Mess theme because it applies to so many different parts of life. My life was a mess for a long time, I was addicted to alcohol, abused drugs and I was in a dark place. For such a long time I was holding my breath, waiting for things to get better. Hoping that there was going to be a magical time when I was going to be a grownup and my personality was going to change and I was going to be calmer, cooler, more collected. I was always thinking that life shouldn’t be so hard. Then, a little while ago I realized that life is always going to have hard parts, for me and for everybody. It is the hard parts that make us able to appreciate the good parts.
When I look back at the messy parts of my life when things felt overwhelmingly dark, I realize that going through all of that has made me appreciate my life right now. When you experience the brutal parts of life it opens your heart to the vast goodness and the beautiful moments that are gifts we never expected. For example, I never thought I would be a mother. I never thought that I would get to experience the beauty and messiness of motherhood.
Here is my theory on this whole thing. Have you ever gone out to the mountains and seen the stars on a really dark night? It seems to me that the darker the night, the more beautiful their light is. That is exactly how I feel about my life and about parenting. It is the hard parts, the dark skies, that make the beautiful moments that much more beautiful.
M: You are really honest in your writing. How do you work through the fear of rejection? Do you ever worry about putting it all out there?
G: I feel like everyone has a fear of rejection, at least everyone who has been honest with me. It’s human nature. For a long time I tried to hide who I was and be everything to everyone. That’s what led me to addiction. Everyone has some façade they put up, perfectionism, overworking, overeating ... we all don’t identify it as such, but everyone has a hiding place they go to when they feel vulnerable. I think that if we put on an act and we are loved, it is still very lonely, because we are being loved for someone we are not. We don’t feel safe if it isn’t the real us.
Let’s be honest, it is hard to be criticized. The number one problem for all of us is that if we think people don’t like us it will be the end of the world. I don’t think I will ever stop hurting from criticism, but it hurts less, at least the people who love me, I know they love me for the real me. Now I feel like for the most part I am just being myself. And I am still getting rejected. I am embraced by many, but I get crushed by others. That’s not easy for me. I still spend days under the covers wanting to disappear from the earth. I told my husband we have to move, but we live in a retirement area on the end of Florida, where else can we go? At least now, if I’m liked or not liked, it is for the real me. I kind of know what I am supposed to be doing with my life, so I keep doing the next right thing, and I try not to listen to other voices of praise, criticism.
M: How can women support one another in living honestly, not fearfully.
G: My favorite scripture is “here I am” – it used to exhaust me because I thought it meant raising my hand and volunteering for everything – like, here I am for the PTA, here I am to bake cookies, and on and on. However, that take on it isn’t going well for most of us. We are running ourselves ragged; we women are so tired and worn out. Instead, what I have come to realize is that “here I am” can mean is being fully present in the moment – here I am in this moment, with this person and the most important person is who I am with right now and the most important moment is right now.
I put this into practice just the other day when I was having my nails done. I was focusing on being present with my nail technician. She ended up sharing her story with me and it was a profound story that changed my life. So many women have these amazing stories if we show up and listen to one another. Ultimately, I don’t think there is one universal strategy for how to support one another. I think the best gift we can give is simply to show up and listen to each other without an agenda.
M: Your blog has become so much more than a blog. It is a community of women who deeply care about showing up for one another. What inspired you to start Momastery?
G: When I started Momastery – I had 3 children under age of 5, so I was dreaming of running away. The idea of a quiet place was so appealing. Often as women we are targeted, wherever we go there is an ulterior motive, someone selling us strollers, jewelry or whatever. Our world is loud and rarely affords us a space to be still. We are searching for so many answers, but the truth is the answers are there if we would just get quiet and listen. That’s what I wanted for myself and that’s what I wanted for other women. That’s why we named it “Momastery” – because we wanted to create an intentional place for moms.
On the blog, I tell the truth, oftentimes difficult truths. Because I am so honest it is disarming and it lets woman put their guard down. Momastery has become a place where my story isn’t the most important thing anymore. We have 70,000 women who are all sharing their stories. When women are filled up, they overflow and fill each other up – that happens with our flash mobs, “Monkee see - Monkee do” on our blog.
We throw around the cliché that the truth will set you free, but it really does happen. It makes people feel brave to tell the truth and live to see another day.
M: Can you share one principle to guide moms in raising their kids?
G: Don’t worry about having a great day, just grab a couple of great moments each day and call it a success. I don’t give advice, but I feel pretty confident about that one.
M: What does it look like to be brave when we find ourselves in a mess?
G: My definition of bravery is that I am brave because I keep showing up. Courage is being afraid and still showing up. We can only do so much, our job is simply to show up and then leave the rest to God. Just show up at your kids’ school, or for a confrontation you know you have to have, maybe it is showing up for yourself. However you need to be brave that day, show up and be brave.
M: Talk about a moment or process where you found redemption in your story.
G: I am wary of black and white talk about redemption because for me redemption is a moment by moment thing. When people are in recovery, it is a day by day process, not one shining moment. How will I not hide, how will I show up, how will I be healthy each and every day. It isn’t a before and after story.
I think redemption is more about using what you have to make a difference in someone else’s life. For me, having a sensitive personality led me into addiction, but it also led me into my work now. It is figuring out how to use what you have in a way that serves yourself and others. It isn’t necessarily a big change. I am still the same person, just now I am figuring out how to use what I have to serve others.
M: Ok, time for the speed round. What is your go to dinner when you don’t feel like cooking?
G: Cereal, plus a banana if I am doing well.
M: What is a surprising habit that you have?
G: Everyone in my family – we always forget some piece of clothing. One day we were on time to school, but my daughter had forgotten to wear her underwear. I forgot my shoes another day – went to buy a pair of cheap shoes, but opened my purse to buy shoes and found shoes in my purse. Once I was in New York and my sister ended up taking my jeans, so I ended up wearing stilettos and tie-dye yoga pants through the airport all the way home.
M: Favorite way to end the day?
G: At my house, we call it “the victory lap” after “whack-a-mole” which is how we lovingly refer to the bedtime process. We snuggle down on the couch and turn on some terribly fantastic reality TV show and a have a piece of chocolate and tea.
M: Do you have a favorite beauty product?
G: I have a bad sweating problem – I talk about deodorant a lot. I am an expert. I recommend Secret clinical dry and roll-on Mitchum. Your body gets used to one kind after a while, so you have to switch them up – one month at a time.