Have you read Glennon Doyle’s newest book, Untamed?
It is incredible!
A rallying cry for all women (and men) to live their truest life, without apologies or explanations. Because when we are true to ourselves, the whole world benefits.
This is a hard reality to accept.
As women we have been conditioned to believe that pleasing and taking care of others is our highest calling; our duty as women. Our role is caregiver. Our role is self-sacrifice. Our mothers and sisters and aunts and role models would never explicitly tell us this, and they were never explicitly told this, but through the ways we have been loved and cared for, through what we see as the highest praise in society for women, we learn that self-sacrifice is the ultimate form of love.
Woman as Martyr. Could there be a higher calling?
You may cringe at this statement, and protest saying, “I would never believe that to be true!” But deep-down you are protesting because you know it to be true. Woman as Martyr. That is the lesson we have been taught. That is the standard which society holds for us. That is the standard to which we hold each other. The one who disappears the most loves the most.
The book Untamed starts with the story of a cheetah named Tabitha, born and raised in captivity, who knows nothing of the wild world to which she belongs, only of her cage and zookeeper. Yet she paces the fence of her small world and looks out longingly. Glennon wonders at what she is thinking:
Something is off. I feel restless and frustrated. I have this hunch that everything was supposed to be more beautiful than this…I should be grateful. I have a good life. It is crazy to long for what doesn’t even exist.
And Glennon says to her: Tabitha you are not crazy. You are a goddamn cheetah.
Our cage is this story we have been told by society, the story we have been taught by our mothers, the story to which we hold each other.
Woman as Martyr. Others first, us last. This is what makes healthy children, healthy marriages, a healthy world. Woman as Martyr.
That is our cage. And for some of us, we never wonder about the world outside of that cage because we can’t see it. All we have ever known is that story. And we think, I should be grateful. I have a good life. But for some, we feel restless and frustrated. Deep-down inside of us we feel that something is not right, something is off; it could be more beautiful than this…
I say, you are not crazy. You just realized, truly, that this is not the whole story. You have just come to see the walls of your cage, and to realize there may be something truer and more beautiful beyond those walls. Now that you can see this truth, and the expanse beyond this cage that society has created for you, what will you do about it?
That is the call from the book Untamed. For each of us to identify our cage and to slowly un-tame ourselves so we can live a truer, more beautiful life than the one for which we have been taught to settle.
This is living the Untamed life and it takes Guts.
This is a tall order, I know. This is scary. This hurts. And many will fight this truth.
For me, this book opened my eyes to the ways I had been convincing myself it was okay; that I was okay. I should be grateful. This is just the way it is.
This book helped me to see that I could want more and I deserve to have more. Me wanting and having more is good for my children, my family, my marriage. It is good for the world. I do not need to suffer for them to flourish. They need to see me flourish so they too can know how to flourish.
This goes against your conditioning. You are fighting me right now, I can feel it. I am too. It is a daily struggle. I think the illustration of motherhood is the best way to see this cage and the fallacy of this belief. Even if you yourself are not a mother, you have one, you have been mothered, and you have seen firsthand this cage in action.
My mother learned her lesson well. She was a happy Martyr. Always putting myself, my sister and father, her co-workers and friends, anyone, before herself and her needs. And she never complained. She loved it. She loved being needed and helping people. It brought her joy. Or at least this is what I saw. I have no way to know for certain.
An illustration of this: We loved mangos in our household, but living in the mountains meant we only got them on special occasions. When we had a mango, my mother would always cut the two halves and give one to me, one to my father, and she would eat the flesh that was left around the seed. As a child I always noticed this. I always remembered it, thinking, what love, what sacrifice.
I also noticed it in our lifestyle. We listened to my dad’s music, we played my dad’s sports, we lived in the mountains for my dad. As a child I would sometimes wonder;
Does my mom like this music too? Does my mom like skiing as much as my dad? Would she have chosen to live here? Who is she really? What does she like?
These were always passing thoughts. I never spent much time contemplating them, but I noticed. I internalized these cues: Pleasing others is fulfilling; giving to others makes you happy; putting others first is your job.
As I grew up, I could see this conditioning in me. I have a wayward friend who dragged her son across the globe looking for love, happiness, and purpose, and I always judged her. Doesn’t she know? Now that she is a mother, her son’s needs should come first.
I also saw it in myself and my relationships, molding and changing to fit my partner. Catering to their comfort and pleasures instead of my own. When my sister became a mother, I got my first glimpse into how wrong this idea might actually be. My sister’s priorities were perfect; kids first, husband second, her last.
She was living the life our mother had demonstrated to us, but with her it didn’t look so fulfilling. Maybe it was my mature perspective. Maybe it was her realization, too, that there could be more here than self-sacrifice. I saw how hard it was on her. She did not find ultimate fulfillment in serving others. She served them well, and loves them unconditionally, but she was broken.
When I became a mother, I followed in my mother’s and my sister’s footsteps, but all too soon I began to question my conditioning. I felt trapped, frustrated, restless. I began to wonder if there was a different way. A better way. I asked my sister and she told me, “this is just the way it is.”
There was the cage: Settle. Be grateful. This is how it should be.
But I did not listen. I had seen her cage from the outside looking in, and now I was in that same cage and I knew there was a bigger, more beautiful world out there. But I felt guilty for wanting it. I felt guilty for imagining a different way.
Then I read Untamed.
The part that drove it home for me was when Glennon explained her decision to leave her husband and marry her lover. She looked at her daughter looking back at her in the mirror; those eyes asking questions like:
Mom, how does a woman wear her hair?
Mom, how does a woman love and be loved?
Mom, how does a woman live?
For others first? Or for herself?
She realized; I am staying in this marriage for my little girl. But would I want this marriage for her?
When I read that something changed in me, I finally got it. I walked out of the cage.
Should I suffer so she can flourish? No. Must I suffer for her to flourish? No. Can we both flourish? Yes, if I show her how. If I model how a woman loves herself. How a woman owns her truth. How a woman lives her fullest most beautiful life.
She lives it by loving herself first.
That is what I want for my daughter, and she cannot have that if I do not model that first. She cannot know what that looks like if I model self-sacrifice as love. We can only allow ourselves to live as fully as our mothers allowed themselves, and if that was self-sacrifice, then that is what we will carry forward. BUT, if the model is self-love, owning your truth, standing in your truth and daring to live the most beautiful life you can imagine, then that is what we will carry forward.
When I look at that question: Would I wish this for her? I see the cage and the open door beyond.
YES. That is what I wish for my children, for the world, for you. The fullest most beautiful life you can imagine.
And that is what you must do first.
The truth of living the Untamed life is that it takes Guts.
It takes Guts to imagine a truer more beautiful version of existence, of life, of family, of marriage, of the world, than the one we are living. It takes Guts to dare to live that truer version of life, and it takes Guts to make it happen.
That is my mission: To live the Gutsy Life.
What this looks like for each of us is different. Your truest most beautiful life may look nothing like mine.
For me it is learning how to love myself first. To know myself well enough to honor my needs and ask for them. And to know and trust that I am worthy no matter the outcome. For me, it is admitting that I need help, and then asking for it.
For Glennon it was having the Guts to burn down the life she was living to create a more beautiful one.
For my sister, it may be her first step is to admit that she is caged; that she can see the walls, trust that there is a more beautiful way beyond them, and that she deserves it.
What is it for you?
I will leave you with this quote from Untamed:
“You are not here to waste your time deciding whether my life is true and beautiful enough for you. You are here to decide if your life, relationships, world are true and beautiful enough for you. And if they are not and you dare to admit they are not, you must decide if you have the guts, the right – perhaps even the duty – to burn to the ground that which is not true and beautiful enough and get started building what is.”