Updated: Mar 17, 2021
In February, the W+iD Breakfast Club met virtually to discuss Untamed by Glennon Doyle — unpacking our lifetime of gender role training and inspiring one another to embrace our true, uncaged selves. Untamed is both a memoir of Glennon’s journey and a wake-up call encouraging all women to recognize and overcome society's expectations.
We reflected on our Untamed selves through anonymous polling and broke into small groups to discuss the following themes from the book and Brené Brown’s interview with the author.
“What if imagination was not where we go to escape reality, what if imagination is where we go to discover our truest reality?” — Glennon Doyle
ON BEING TAMED
We observed how society certainly places women in a “mold” and how there is a curated image of what a “good woman should be,” and how that can be endlessly frustrating.
Being true to ourselves can be painful.
Being “selfless” is often considered the best characteristic a woman could have. “Women who are best at this disappearing act earn the highest praise: She is so selfless...The epitome of womanhood is to lose one's self completely. “ — Glennon Doyle
Some felt motherhood oftentimes forces you to be selfless and makes you feel downright guilty if you care about yourself and don’t prioritize everyone in your family’s needs first.
We discussed various forms of bad relationships, from romantic to professional, and going through the breakups (with lots of tears and pain). We related to “we can do hard things,” and that the growth process has shaped us into who and where we are today.
ON LIVING HONESTLY
We discussed that it is socially acceptable (especially in the design world) to brag about overtime work. Statements like “I worked 60 hours this week” try to glamorize sacrificing yourself to the job, when we should be questioning this tendency. We should be celebrating a job done on time, with life balance, and not overtime. Burnout is not a badge of honor.
Several of us noted how in the workplace we often use superfluous qualifiers like “I think” or “I feel.” Instead, we should state opinions boldly, as fact or invaluable information.
On ”I’m sorry:” Why do we keep apologizing for everything when it’s often not our fault? Why is this in our nature? We talked about how even when writing emails at work we are noticing our tone may not come off as strong or direct because we were conditioned to be nice, good, polite women. One woman finds herself apologizing to smooth things over and just “get on with it” even if she was not at fault.
One asks: “Would my male counterpart apologize in this situation?”
One woman re-words emails to avoid apologizing: Instead of “sorry for the late response” she edits to “thank you for your patience in awaiting my reply.”
One woman shared her experience with her boyfriend. He read over a work email she was drafting and questioned why she typed “I’m sorry” in it multiple times. He asked: “why are you apologizing?“
Excessive apologizing takes away the impact of a true apology. We discussed that it is possible to convey empathy without an apology.
How do we avoid conforming ourselves to male standards, but remain true to our feelings? How do we encourage men to express more empathy while we tamp down our apologizing?
ON “FEELING EVERYTHING”
It is imperative that we validate all of our feelings — it is ok to feel sad, upset, frustrated, and to cry.
One woman is making a concerted effort to validate all of her young son’s emotions, and says she was raised to suppress many of her own.
One woman described her problem solving mentality: “If I’m feeling something I don’t like, I’ll try to fix it rather than just embrace the uncomfortable feeling.”
We discussed how often we conceal emotions at work or tone down our volume levels and reactions to not be perceived as “too emotional” or “too passionate” about something.
We noted how often conversely men in the workplace do not feel the need to conceal emotions or passionate remarks and are not concerned by being perceived as too much of anything.
ON “RACIAL SOBRIETY” + WHITE PRIVILEGE
“The fact that the programmed poison of racism was pumped into us may not be our fault, but getting it out is sure as hell our responsibility.” — Glennon Doyle
We discussed our connection to Glennon’s process of unlearning “the whitewashed” version of American history (especially through reading The Color of Law.
“...being called a racist is actually not the worst thing. The worst thing is privately hiding racism to stay safe, liked, and comfortable while others suffer and die. There are worse things than being criticized — like being a coward.” — Glennon Doyle
Many of us have become more comfortable with being uncomfortable — interrupting racism when we encounter it and having tough conversations with family, friends, and coworkers about racial injustice.
ON SETTING UP YOUR DRAWBRIDGE
It is important to set boundaries, not in order to keep people out, but to fiercely protect yourself and the people you care about.
Over the past year, we are now more aware of people struggling with self and society’s constructs of what is deemed acceptable for differing bodies.
Getting stuck in the inertia of our lives, reaching for our “easy buttons” is so EASY to do. Be more aware of taking the easy way out, and opt for the “reset buttons” instead.
ON BEING GRATEFUL VS. WANTING MORE
We discussed the notion of how raw ambition can be a tricky subject for women to navigate. We are conditioned and trained to be “grateful for what they have” and to believe the notion “my life is good, so why should I complain?”
Suppressing our ambition is a rejection to our true, wild selves.
What if the things we were trained to think we needed in order to live a happy “successful” life — the good job, the nice house, a “traditional” family, an idealized body type — look completely different? Does that mean we are deemed a failure for stepping back, reassessing, or throwing everything we worked for away?
Why would you work so hard, go through rigorous schooling, build up your career to step away from it? What if living your wild looks different than you intended? What if the thing you really “want more” of is time or seeking peace in a chaotic world?
ON LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CAGE
One woman questions what life looks like outside of the cage and warns that often “we end up in another, albeit bigger, cage. Or we just ‘kick the can’ down the road: maybe a quick fix here and there, and we THINK we got out of the cage, but we are still inside.”
Each of us should explore “WHAT IS outside of the cage, anyways? How can we navigate all those feelings finally unleashed?”
We should each design “a roadmap for our new selves” so we can successfully navigate to our destination: our truest uncaged, Untamed reality.
“This life is mine alone. So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.” — Glennon Doyle