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22nd April 2021

‘Stop pleasing, start living’: Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Connie Eyles reviews Untamed by Glennon Doyle and argues the case for popping this self development memoir at the top of your 2021 reading list
‘Stop pleasing, start living’: Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Photo: Connie Eyles

If you only have one book on your ‘to read’ list for the rest of this year, it really ought to be Untamed by Glennon Doyle. 

I love a good motivational or personal development book. In fact, it’s a genre I turn to the most over fiction, which is ironic given that my degree is entirely literature based. Before lockdown 3.0 I had seen Glennon Doyle’s Untamed in bookshops. The colourful and glittery cover intrigued me the most, and I had the chance to finally read it in between frantic deadlines and dreaded zoom calls. I’m really glad I did.

Doyle is already an established author and philanthropist, having achieved notoriety with her earlier memoirs Carry on, warrior and the sequel Love warrior. In this series Doyle pours out her heart and thoughts about love, Christianity, women, and parenting. Doyle is also the founder of Together Rising, a non-profit organisation helping women and children in need. Untamed is Doyle’s latest and most profound memoir with the book offering a powerful perspective on life-altering moments.

Reading Untamed is the literary equivalent of a breath of fresh air. Doyle shares how she felt trapped by her marriage and fell head over heels in love with two-time gold medalist soccer player Abby Wambach. On describing the moment that she fell in love with Wambach, the moment feels as if it came from the pages of a traditional romantic novel. Doyle feels caught between ‘love at first sight’, fear over what others will think and not wanting to tear her family apart.

The entire book is littered with metaphors, which is characteristic of Doyle’s style. In the prologue Doyle recounts a memory of taking her wife and daughters to go see a caged cheetah at a zoo. At once we realise that the pacing and cooped-up cheetah in the cage is symbolic of a larger issue. Why could she not follow her heart and leave her husband? Doyle refers to the ‘taming’ of women. Like the caged cheetah, society holds us back and stifles our true selves. 

Doyle describes her struggles with alcoholism and depression at length, and worries about whether or not she is a good enough mother. Each chapter covers individual memories and Doyle’s own thoughts on particular challenges in life. Untamed reads a little bit like a series of random philosophical musings. However, again and again the book picks up on the same underlying current: women are tamed and the pressures of society are making us all sick.  

But does Doyle offer a solution to this? Throughout the book Doyle often refers to her own knowledge or ‘knowing’. In particular, Doyle recounts times such as the moment she fell in love with Wambach, or the decision to leave her marriage. ‘Listen to your knowing’, seems to be the antidote to life’s big decisions and upheavals. Interpret this how you will. Our ‘knowing’ may be anything from our intuition, gut feeling or general ‘vibes’ about something or someone. This message may seem insignificant, but Doyle’s memoir beautifully captures parts of ourselves we often ignore. 

The advice is simple, yet powerful nevertheless. Society encourages women to please everyone before we please ourselves. We feel we ought to put others’ needs first, stay in miserable jobs or relationships and to keep ourselves small. Doyle’s latest memoir is inspiring in getting us to listen to that small inner voice in our head. In other words, say yes to a life that makes us, before anyone else, feel truly happy. 

How would you live your life if you stopped trying to please everyone else?

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