“Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

A guide to freedom and living on your own terms

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Today I want to write about the lessons learned from the book Untamed, by Glennon Doyle.

Let’s start with a confession: I stole this book from a coliving I visited earlier this year. I needed something to read on the plane and shamelessly took it, even though there was a sign saying: “Please return the books” aka don’t be a thief, girl.

Apologies… but you will never see this book again.

Before getting it for free, I almost purchased Untamed on Amazon and added it to my wishlist. It didn’t sound particularly enlightening — just a memoir like any other.

But it was written by a queer person who’s been bold enough to shake her whole life and her family’s to be true to herself, so maybe it was a bit more interesting than the usual biography.

What I didn’t know was that this book was much more than what I imagined. In a reader’s life, most books will be enlightening or entertaining enough, but just a handful of them will have a real impact on said life. Despite what some bloggers want you to believe, there’s no official list of “life-changing books” — because no one experiences life the same way, and a book resonates differently based on who reads it.

I believe everything happens for a reason — and picking a random book that was exactly what I needed at the moment and ended up changing my life is proof of that.

Untamed is probably the most life-changing book I’ve ever read.

Living alarmed

“It’s just that living with anxiety — living alarmed — makes it impossible to enter the moment, to land inside my body and be there. I cannot be in the moment because I am too afraid of what the next moment will bring. I have to be ready.”
Glennon Doyle, Untamed

Having to be ready. Preparing our mind for what’s coming, rather than experiencing the moment. Thinking that this moment or relationship will not last, that eventually they’ll leave — or die. Feeling grateful to be healthy but scared as hell to wake up one day with an incurable disease.

Anxious people know what I’m talking about.

I’m no scientist, but based on my own experience and stories I read, it seems like sensitive people are more prone to develop anxiety — because anxiety is anticipation, and anticipation allows you to prepare, to protect yourself and your feelings from what might happen.

Doyle mentions that meditation helped her tremendously.

We’re all the same

“We all seem to function in the exact same way: we hurt people, and we are hurt by people. We feel left out, envious, not good enough, sick, and tired. We have unrealized dreams and deep regrets. We are certain that we were meant for more and that we don’t even deserve what we have. We feel ecstatic and then numb. We wish our parents had done better by us. We wish we could do better by our children. We betray and we are betrayed. We lie and we are lied to. We say goodbye to animals, to places, to people we cannot live without. We are so afraid of dying. Also: of living. We have fallen in love and out of love, and people have fallen in love and out of love with us. We wonder if what happened to us that night will mean we can never be touched again without fear. We live with rage bubbling. We are sweaty, bloated, gassy, oily. We love our children, we long for children, we do not want children. We are at war with our bodies, our minds, our souls. We are at war with one another. We wish we’d said all those things while they were still here. They’re still here, and we’re still not saying those things. We know we won’t. We don’t understand ourselves. We don’t understand why we hurt those we love. We want to be forgiven. We cannot forgive. We don’t understand God. We believe. We absolutely do not believe. We are lonely. We want to be left alone. We want to belong. We want to be loved. We want to be loved. We want to be loved.”
Glennon Doyle, Untamed

Reading this, you might think: “Okay, so what we have in common as humans is our incredible instability and tunability to know what we want, in addition to being desperate for love.” And it would probably be true. However, what this passage also conveys is our ability to be resilient.

We lose things and people, it’s part of life. One day your best friend is all you have, sixteen years later they’re gone — and you survive. You can’t see yourself living anywhere else, but you have to move — and you survive. We have this amazing ability to watch our lives fall apart and to patiently rebuild them, step by step. It’s not really an ability, but more of a duty. The duty that comes with living: you don’t have any other choice but to move forward.

We create our own luck

“The braver I am, the luckier I get.”
Glennon Doyle, Untamed

Have you heard the saying, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity?” In business, at least, it’s true. However, opportunities won’t show up on your doorstep: you must go and get them. Make things happen for yourself.

New opportunities, hence luck, cannot be found in your comfort zone. You have to actively take risks. The risk of looking like a fool, of trying something new and not being very good at it, the risk of talking to someone new, the risk of knocking on doors, of traveling alone. Nothing new will ever happen in your comfort zone. You have to be brave.

What’s your story?

“Be careful with the stories you tell about yourself”.”
Glennon Doyle, Untamed

Let’s say you meet a new person, and you introduce yourself. What do you say? Think about it. Is it something rather negative or positive?

When I quit my job to pursue writing, I felt very confused about what to say to my peers. Whenever someone would ask, “so what do you do?” I’d say something along the lines of, “oh, nothing. Nothing interesting. I’m taking a break.” It wasn’t the truth at all. I was working my ass off to build a business, but I was ashamed of telling my business school friends that I chose a more creative path. Afraid that they would judge me or look down on me, so I just said “nothing.”

This seems like it doesn’t have consequences, but trust me — it does. The stories you tell about yourself have a direct impact not only on how others see you but also on how you see yourself. Soon after telling this story, I would feel discouraged and lazy, so I decided to change it and tell the truth. People might judge me, yes, but at least I would be comfortable with myself.

My takeaway

The biggest lesson I learned from Untamed is to learn to please yourself first before you please others. Actually, don’t try to please others at all — just do your own thing. We are so often influenced by and afraid of what people think of us. Sometimes, it prevents us from living our life to the fullest and chasing our dreams. But we only have one life, and one person to please: ourselves.

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