‘Untamed’ is an inspiring story of how a woman realises that she’s been conditioned to think, act, speak a certain way. Glennon Doyle writes the story of what all women dream of doing: of throwing away the life she’s been given, only to grab the life she truly wants by the horns and riding off on it into the sunset.
When we are born, we are born into a specific set of constraints; our parents did it this way, so we’ll probably do it that way too; i.e. ‘loving the same sex is looked down upon in my community, so I guess I’ll marry heterosexually’; ‘I went to this school and this college, so I’ll have to have this type of job’; etc etc etc until we all cry of frustration.
We grow up and get so caught up in our lives that we forget what we actually want – if we could have any life, any life at all, would we still choose the one we’ve got? Would we still choose to be a hot-shot lawyer grinding away at a job that doesn’t make us happy, a mother of three in a failing marriage, or buying a house in a neighbourhood full of people you hate? Would – and should – we sacrifice our comfortable, stable lives for something that goes against the grain and makes us happier?
We are social animals; it is engrained in us to make decisions that follow the herd. We are biologically programmed to make our decisions with society in mind, so that we can continue to be a part of the herd, and not be ostracised and end up alone. But we are no longer cavemen with the only goal of species survival. We now chase self-fulfilment, and often the road to being self-fulfilled swerves away from the status quo. Our future of self-actualization constantly jimmies for dominance against our biological need to be a part of society, like tectonic plates fighting for space. Glennon encourages us to be that modern human being, because once we reach self-fulfilment (if we ever do – it’s kind of like the Greek god Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up the never-ending hill), we find our fellow people there. The world has grown bigger than we ever imagined, and there is a society for each of us out there, if only we be true to ourselves first.
A reason why I think we connect with this book on so many levels is because it is so relatable. One of the stories Glennon recounts is about how her friend joined a hot yoga class, and was told that, “No matter how you feel, don’t leave, it’s part of the process.” The walls started to close in, and she struggled to breathe, felt nauseous, and still, she didn’t leave the class. Because she’d been told not to. This exact same scenario has happened to me. I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody with my discomfort – so I sacrificed my own personal well-being so as to not mildly inconvenience a group of strangers of who I have no loyalties to whatsoever. Why do we think this is okay? Why are we conditioned into taking up as little possible space as we can? As Glennon poignantly says, the yoga class door wasn’t even locked.
Funnily enough, the more I read this book, the less I liked it. I started off thinking, “Wow, yes, a woman who owns her mistakes and thrives on them, shares them with us!” and gradually turned to, “This woman is going against what she preaches. She is trying to prove herself to us. She is telling us her mistakes and defending why she made them.” I am not reading this book to hear you defend your mistakes. I am here to read about what you learned from them. We all make mistakes. We all will make mistakes. Making mistakes is human nature.
It also does feel a little kumbaya, like she travelled to Brazil on a yoga retreat, purged on ayahuasca once, and came back to America ever-changed. Someone with life lessons, for sure, but someone that you also want to take with a grain of salt.
One important thing Glennon does achieve in the writing of this book – she has truly proved that life is what you make it. Sometimes those clichéd quotes that middle-aged white women have on a wooden board in their kitchen, or on a post from a motivational account from Instagram stop making a lot of sense to us. We see them so often that they stop registering and lose all meaning. Throughout the book, Glennon really brings up instances and situations which explain exactly why life is what you make it, and shows you how life is what you make it. She breaks it down for us, and puts it in a different context so suddenly the expression, “Life is what you make it,” is no longer just a jumble of words put in a particular order – it has meaning. Oftentimes we can’t see these expressions relating to us. Oh, she can follow her dreams because…(a list of stupid reasons) but I can’t because… (another list of stupid reasons). Just because our situations are not the same to others, doesn’t mean that we can’t also throw caution to the wind, seize opportunities, and change our lives. Why can’t we do that? What are we so afraid of?
One paragraph that really struck me is when she spoke about the expression, “in another life.” In another life, I would go volunteer to work in a refugee camp. In another life, I would write a book. In another life, I would fall in love without a checklist.
The thing is, there is no other life. This life is the one we’ve got, and we only have so much time. We stay in our jobs, our careers, so that other people will be proud of us, and think about moving to Greece “in another life”. But self-fulfilment, being proud of yourself, making decisions not influenced by other people’s perceptions and opinions, is more important than wasting our lives trying to please other people. At the end of the day, you are the one you have to live with for the rest of your life. You have to be happy in your own mind, knowing that you have lived your life for you. So live it. If you could choose any life at all, would you still choose the one you’ve got?