Review #3 of 2021: Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Olympia Lui
5 min readMar 1, 2021
Special thanks to my friend Valerie for the book.

Untamed is Glennon Doyle’s third memoir. It’s a book about her — and also not just about her. The themes centre around freeing ourself from our cage, and listening to and being our true self (the “Knowing”).

Her style of writing is honest, confident and she is not trying to please anyone. It has a certain “read this if you’re looking to break free, but I’m not here to please you” vibe.

The book was easy to read: she breaks it down into 3 sections (“Caged”, “Keys”, “Free”) and each section is filled with many short anecdotes about her experiences with her family and her work. They’re relatable and all feel like analogies that tie in to her central themes.

Who should read this book? Anyone. I don’t think there is a certain “type” or person this book would resonate with. And you don’t need to be actively looking for “self help” to enjoy the content. Pick it up, open up a page at random, read a chapter and you’ll find out.

Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that’s what they’re there for. Feelings are for healing. All of them. Even the hard ones

Oly 💡 We tend to suppress our feelings, because somehow we think it makes us weak or we want to quickly get over them. Society makes us believe that we need to be happy. All our friends on Instagram are always smiling, why aren’t we?

Doyle reminds us that they’re an important part of the human experience because:

  1. we come out stronger on the other side, or as she puts it: “I can burn, burn and live”, and
  2. we should use it to become. As humans, we’re constantly evolving, becoming a truer version of ourselves. We use our pain, hurt and feelings to become.

Be still and know

In this part of the book, she recalls always looking elsewhere for answers, hoping someone else can tell her what to do: searching online, polling her friends, etc. But at the end, what you need is a moment to calm down.

If you stop doing, you’ll start knowing.

Oly 💡 I’ve been that person. Asking on Facebook “What should I do/eat/ wear/say?” Today, I am still that person. Instead of leveraging social media and friends, I’ll go down a Google/ WebMD/ Reddit rabbithole.

Or I think: “I’m too stressed to make this decision. Peter knows me best, so let’s ask him. Surely he’ll be able to decide for me!” and rely on my fiancé.

That’s when he’ll say something annoying but true: “What do you think?” In the moment it really makes my blood boil. What do you mean ‘what do you think’? I’m asking you what you think. But he’s right, it’s not up to him. It’s up to me. I have my own answers.

I began to live as a woman who never got the world’s memos.

Oly 💡 This line resonated with me so much. Although we are all our own person, there is no denying that we’ve been in one way or another affected by people’s expectations of us. For me, those expectations included: be more ladylike, act proper, don’t eat so much, earn a 6-figure income from day 1, become an elite.

I don’t think it matters that I didn’t achieve these expectations, because they would have not been for me. I should be achieving my own expectations, not somebody else’s.

This is a reminder to let go of the world’s expectations, and to be ourselves.

Brave does not mean feeling afraid and doing it anyway. Brave means living from the inside out. Brave means, in every uncertain moment, turning inward, feeling for the Knowing, and speaking it out loud.

Doyle recalls the time she brought her two daughters to get their ears pierced. Her younger one was fearless and went first. Her elder daughter was hesitant about the whole thing, while everyone around her was telling her to “be brave” and just do it.

At the end, the elder daughter did not go through with it. She listened to herself despite what everyone else was saying. In that moment, she showed that the greatest bravery is confidence and staying loyal to yourself.

Bravery isn’t for others to judge. It’s something that only you can identify within you.

Integrity means having only one self.

And the opposite, not having integrity, is “dividing into two selves: the shown self and a hidden self”. We should show up as ourselves and it doesn’t matter if someone else likes you or not. That is their decision.

Modesty is a learned affectation. You don’t want modesty, you want humility. Humility comes from the inside out. — Dr. Maya Angelou

Humility is not the same thing as modesty. And in order to lift women up, we must not try to be modest. Because every time you do, you steal the permission for other women to be their full confident selves.

What if parenting became less about telling our children who they should be and more about asking them again and again forever who they already are?

Oly 💡 When I was growing up, Asian parents were very strict with their children: how they spend their time, what college they should attend, what field of study and later what profession they would pursue, etc.

My parents divorced when I was young, but the silver lining was that they were too preoccupied to tell me how to live my life. Even so, it was clear what type of career paths I was “allowed” or “not allowed” to take. So I ended up studying Economics in university because it was a respectable major, and according to my father “a good foundation” to have before enrolling into law school (spoiler alert: I never applied for law school).

Although they never said it, it felt as though they may have loved me less if I didn’t follow their recommended career path. The reality was, they would have been hurt if I did not do well for myself. Not because of honour or bringing shame to our family, because they wanted a good life for me. And it was their way of ensuring it. Their worldview was that a good and stable career with a high income guaranteed a good life. By doing so, they were projecting their worldview on me, instead of letting me create my own. In consequence, it took me longer to develop my own. To this day, these expectations still creep up in my mind every now and then.

When the time comes, I hope to do things differently. I want my children to be themselves more than anything, and I want to love them for it.

Untamed is filled with stories that reminds us to listen and be more of ourselves, and to raise our children to be the same. I enjoyed the book, and look forward to discussing its content with my fiancé once he’s done reading it.

This review was also posted on my personal blog Oly Moly!