Stop Pleasing, Start Living
Life gets busy. Has Untamed by Glennon Doyle been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, learn the key insights now.
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Synopsis of the book
Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call for all women. It encourages women to uncover the voice of longing that is inside them. Untamed outlines how society tells us we are supposed to be good and to fit our gender roles. However, the only way we can genuinely be happy is by starting to live rather than please. Untamed is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak.
Glennon Doyle’s Perspective
Glennon Doyle is a New York Times bestselling author for three separate books: Carry On, Warrior, Love Warrior, and Untamed. Doyle is also an activist and the creator of an online community on her blog, Momastery. Finally, she is the president of Together Rising. This non-profit has raised more than four million dollars for women and children in crisis.
Part One – Caged
This part of the memoir describes how Glennon Doyle came to realize that she was caged. At this time, Glennon was married with three children. However, she then fell in love with her now-wife, Abby. This part of the book provides multiple examples of society making her feel caged. This caged feeling contributed to Glennon’s bulimia (an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging). Her bulimia provided an unhealthy escape. She would indulge her hunger as a way of taking control of her life, but she would then express anger at having eaten so much. A series of experiences in her life contributed towards her reaching this stage.
Doyle describes her experiences of attending a Nativity Catholic Church every Wednesday as a child. During this time, she came to understand more about how women are depicted within the bible. Specifically, she was frequently taught how Eve was the individual who instigated original sin. Subsequently, Doyle was taught to do what she was supposed to do rather than what she wanted to do. These teachings were the start of her conformity with society’s standards, rather than doing what made her happy.
Doyle gained a better understanding of how men abide by more lenient standards than women upon visiting a relationship therapist. Doyle and her husband started seeing this therapist after her husband admitted he had been cheating on her. Partway through these sessions, Doyle explained to the therapist that she had fallen in love with a woman named Abby. The therapist denied the legitimacy of this love and instead suggested she started giving her husband more blow jobs. This denial of Doyle’s happiness, and suggestion to do what she is ‘supposed to do,’ was another example of her being caged.
Doyle started to understand that boys and girls are marketed differently when looking at the products in her children’s bathroom. The men’s bath products were verb-heavy and hard-hitting. These products were telling boys and men what they should do. In comparison, women’s products were filled with soft adjectives. These products were telling women what they should be. Essentially, women were the only ones who had to change who they were.
Building on directions, Doyle explains an instance where marketing impacts on children. Doyle asks her teenage children if they are hungry. The boys say yes without even thinking about it. In contrast, Doyle’s girls look at each other for a while before finally, one of them said, “We’re fine, thank you.” This is an example of boys being who they want to be and girls having to think about what they are supposed to be.
Doyle learns about the limitations of adhering to what you are supposed to do when her friend, Ashley, attended a hot yoga class. The heat made her feel ill. However, instead of leaving the class, she stayed as she felt it was what she was supposed to do. Afterward, she vomited from the heat. She suffered because she did what she was supposed to do, rather than what would make her happy.
This section of the book describes how women are often pushed into heterosexual marriages that they don’t necessarily want. Doyle starts this section by talking about her friend, Megan. Megan is a recovering alcoholic but was not an alcoholic before meeting her husband. She had only married her husband because she didn’t want to disappoint everyone else. Megan drank to forget about her unhappiness in her marriage. Doyle compared this to a snow globe she had with a dragon inside. We’re all trying not to let the snow settle enough to face what’s really inside. For Doyle, what was really inside is that she wanted to be with a woman.
Part Two – Keys
Doyle provides critical moments that helped her understand that she was caged. Plus, what she had to do to transform herself and her life.
- Feel it all – This moment came as Doyle was six days into sobriety. She had been attending recovery meetings for alcoholics. During her fifth recovery meeting, she addressed the group by saying that she felt she was doing it all wrong as she didn’t feel happy. Afterward, a woman came over to Doyle and explained that she is not doing anything wrong. Doyle suggests that we all allow ourselves to feel both the good and the bad stuff. Doyle outlines that life as a human is not about being happy, it is instead about feeling everything
- Be still and know – Doyle noticed over the years that ‘should’ and ‘right’ are the bars that keep people caged. When she sought advice online, such as when her husband cheated on her, the only advice she was given was what she should do. One day, one of Doyle’s friends gave her a card that said, ‘Be still and know.’ After this, Doyle taught herself exercises to calm herself. This calmness allowed her to develop a deeper level of personal understanding. She learned to trust herself rather than follow what society deems to be the ‘right’ thing to do
- Dare to imagine – Doyle believes that we should always listen to what our inside is saying. For example, Doyle became pregnant at the age of 26. All evidence suggested that it was a bad idea, but she knew it was the right thing for her. The same feeling overcame Doyle when she met her now-wife, Abby. Therefore, Doyle encourages women to let go of the lies surrounding what life should be like. Instead, live according to your imagination. Write down your plans for life so that you have a foundation to build your imagination into your reality
- Build and burn – Doyle had to burn her previous ideas of what she should be doing. Letting go of her false ideas was essential for her transformation. This included letting go of her idea surrounding the ideal of a traditional family structure. Plus, the idea that selflessness is the pinnacle of womanhood. Doyle explains that she will continue to let ideas burn as she grows and develops, and she encourages readers to do the same
Part Three – Free
Aches are the pains we feel that drift away and then resurface when something terrible happens. For Doyle, this ache was there while her bulimia was at its worst and when she would consistently get arrested for drunken mistakes. Doyle would find these times hard; however, she would just accept that she can deal with hard things. Ten years later, when her grandmother Alice dies, Doyle feels this ache again. After this, she visits her sister, who has just given birth to a baby Alice. This birth reminds Doyle that everything in life will pass. She encourages readers to understand that aches are part of life, but they will always pass.
Doyle was always haunted by a ghost of the perfect version of what she was supposed to be in her twenties. After this, in her thirties, she just accepted that she was broken. However, none of these approaches were healthy. She decided to stop pursuing perfection and to stop describing herself as broken.
Doyle’s previous goal was always to try to be good. However, always trying to be a good person was anxiety-provoking. Simultaneously, she was striving to be a good wife, a good mother, and a good Christian. She realized that pursuing goodness was creating unhappiness. She recalls reading the Steinbeck quote “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Doyle rejected both of those ideals. Instead, she believes a better mantra to live by is, “And now that we don’t have to be good, we can be free.”
Doyle describes her friend Erika, who had dreams of becoming an artist. However, Erika decided never to pursue this career. She was convinced it was a selfish decision because she needed money to support her family. Doyle sees this as another example fo women being brought up in a society that tells them to dismiss and mistrust themselves. Doyle explains that girls are taught this from a young age to control them. Subsequently, they don’t trust their bodies, their opinions, or their voices. Doyle suggests that women need to stop fearing themselves and start trusting themselves.
This section outlines how Doyle looked herself in the eyes and realized that she needs to stop using her children as an excuse not to be brave. She explains that parents need to stop teaching their children to be martyrs. Eventually, Doyle gains the confidence to stop using her children as an excuse and leave her husband. Although the first few months were challenging, Doyle’s husband permitted the children to build a loving relationship with Abby.
Doyle learned early on in her teenage years how to make herself desirable to men. However, she never learned how to understand her desires. Only when she first saw Abby after leaving her husband did she understand who and what she desired.
The word Selah is found in the Hebrew bible and indicates that the reader should pause reading for a moment. This moment should be spent in quiet contemplation. Doyle applies this word to her understanding of her family dynamic. One of Doyle’s daughters, Tish, has often been a concerned and scowling child. In comparison, Chase, Doyle’s first child, is happy and easy-going. Doyle had to tell herself to stop forcing Tish to be happy. Tish’s character slows the family down and allows them to notice things they otherwise would not have. In effect, Tish is her family’s Selah.
While watching a survivalist TV show, Doyle learned about touch trees. Touch trees are home bases that a person lost in the woods can use as a landmark to leave and return to. Doyle explains that she was lost for most of her life as she was always looking for external touch trees. Instead, she and everybody else should see themselves as their touch tree.
Doyle explains that each generation is given a different memo about how they should raise their children. In the past, it used to be that you take your child home and watch them grow into who they want to be. However, things have now become more complicated. Parents are now frequently told what they should and should not be doing. Specifically, mothers are now often told they shouldn’t allow their children to go through anything difficult. However, this is a misguided approach. This approach only leaves children feeling overparented while parents become exhausted. Overparenting will only leave you less happy and your children worse equipped to deal with difficult situations later in life.
Doyle’s son, Chase, used to draw maps and write poems when he was young. However, at thirteen years old, he was bought a cell phone. After buying this cell phone, Chase stopped embracing his creativity. Having a cell phone makes it too easy for children to avoid being bored. Therefore, they never find the time to look inward and discover themselves. Boredom allows children to be reflective. The message of this point is not that you should take away a child’s cell phone, but that you probably know what is right for your child. Therefore, you must be willing to go against the grain. Doyle recommended Chase to get rid of his cell phone, and he agreed, becoming much happier because of it.
Doyle raised her daughters to be feminists. However, she explains that boys are kept in cages too. From a young age, boys are told that they must be powerful and must be the primary provider for the family. However, Doyle explains that gender is just traits that society slapped a label on. The author regrets having neglected her son’s sensitivity in the same way she did with her daughters. Plus, not requiring him to do chores in the same way her daughters did.
Doyle describes an experience where her friend, Mimi, is worried about her middle-schooler. Mimi is aware that her son is watching porn but doesn’t want to talk to him about it as it is too awkward. Doyle says that Mimi should talk to her son, as all children should know that the representations of sex they see online are not what real sex is like. Plus, pornography is misogynistic and violent.
Understand Other People
Doyle, her sister, and a friend set up a team that responded to the border crisis. Children were being taken away from their parents. Their team, Together Rising, raised millions of dollars. However, one conversation stuck with Doyle the most. One woman argued to Doyle that their organization should be helping Americans rather than illegals. This conversation was a perfect example of how people need to use their imagination to understand other people. If we imagine the experiences of those people crossing the border, we will understand their choices far better.
Doyle explains how challenging it can be to deal with other family members’ fears. Doyle found solace in pretending she was on her own island free of negative messages. However, when her mother would visit, she would bring her fears and worries with her. Because of this, Doyle had to learn to trust herself rather than seeking validation from her mother. Subsequently, she had to tell her mother that she couldn’t spend time with her until she was ready to let go of her fear.
Similarly, one of Doyle’s friends said they wanted to love her but struggled with her gayness. Doyle told her friend that she needs to stop choosing what people taught her to believe and start choosing something she knows.
God Is a Girl
Although Doyle no longer calls herself a Christian, partly because of the church’s anti-gay and anti-abortion stance, she still finds Jesus’ story fascinating. However, she would never refer to God as a man. Doyle refers to God as a she because it is ridiculous that God is gendered. She calls God a she as she wants to push back on the idea that God couldn’t be a woman.
Anger can be an indication that a line has been crossed, and you need to do something. For Doyle, the anger she couldn’t let go of towards her husband was a sign that she had to divorce him. Each feeling of anger should be assessed to see whether a legitimate boundary has been crossed or whether you need to adjust your boundary. For Doyle, her husband cheating was a legitimate boundary being crossed.
Similarly, feelings of grief tell us something about what we should believe in. If you experience grief when viewing a specific tragedy, then you should take action. This is a cause you can dedicate yourself to. Grief is an important emotion, as it is a cocoon that can transform us and allow us to emerge anew.
On Depression and Anxiety
Doyle describes depression and anxiety as body snatchers. She recommends taking medication if it works for you. Additionally, she strongly recommends taking notes when you are feeling down so you can better express your previous emotions to your doctor. Finally, Doyle recommends that you get to know your buttons. She describes easy buttons, which are bad shortcuts, and reset buttons, which are the real fixes.
“Here’s to The Untamed:
May we know them.
May we raise them.
May we love them.
May we read them.
May we elect them.
May we be them.” – Glennon Doyle
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