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Quotes and Reflections: Glennon Doyle's Untamed

Updated: May 6, 2021

What follows are my favourite excerpts and quotes from Glennon Doyle's Untamed along with reflections on why they resonate and how they might be valuable going forward.


"Paris says: We are here for such a short time. We might as well sit down for a long while with some good coffee, company, and bread. Here, there is more time to be human, maybe because there has been more time to learn how."

When I was in Paris the first time I was constantly in fear of food that was "high calorie" and that I wouldn't be able to find a bathroom fast enough when my bowels, plagued with IBS, inevitably decided immediate evacuation was not just necessary, but required. It was a time in my life when everything I did felt like searching and none of the paths I found felt completely right. It was a time that precluded at least 10 years of moving very fast from one accomplishment to the next (as well as physically moving continents and countries many times), on staying determined and focused on "productivity," "efficiency," and avoiding stopping to enjoy the moment so fervently that I eventually realized I didn't really know how.

Yet, when I think of Paris, to be within it's culture, people, to breath it's air and walk along the river banks, is to feel with certainty that there is more. At the time I was able to recognize this if not allow myself to sink in and enjoy. To admire those who dressed in soft, warm fabrics and walked slowly. Those who sat and ate the foods I longed for, but that were off limits in my mind. Those who were relaxed enough to be still and enjoy coffee, the liquid adrenaline that would send my overly wound state reverberating past anxious into near panic despite that I loved the smell, texture, flavour, warmth.

Walking in Paris, I was able to breath in the trees. The path along the Seine is forever etched into my mind and body - the cherry blossoms blooming and falling, the warmth and brightness of the day, the colour and life from the artists lining the paths displaying and marketing their work. This is their life. This is where they live. Beautiful. I was able to feel that and reading Glennon's description took me back to that place - both knowing and understanding, as well as gratefulness that in the long years since, I have learned to be still. Learned to listen, to linger, to feel and not rush pleasure for the sake of efficiency.

There is insight in this. For me, learning how to enjoy eating, sitting for a long while, savouring conversation without looking for the time, are all things that have taken time. It has come partially from a realization of how short our time is and also from learning that indulging in human comforts will not immediately make one fat, lazy, and essentially worthless in a world constantly demanding action and "more." If anything, enjoying the pleasures of this life may be more as Doyle points out, what learning to be human is all about


These days, trees seem to be central to what we are learning and choosing to surround ourselves with. Not only are we spending many hours in forest settings and deliberately noticing the trees: their leaves (or lack of), their bark, their whispers (laughter from tickles from the wind), and their inhabitants, but we are also reading about their mystery, growth, communication, and marvel. Additional to this, I am fortunate to be part of an incredible group of women working in The Ember Circle on developing, hearing, and listening to one's inner voice. A process helped by following and identifying experiences as different points within the forest lifecycle of continuous and circular germination, new growth, maturity, and destruction (purposeful). Yoga, which has become central to my own self-care, brings to life the "tree pose" and embodying feelings of strength, power, and balance that the image of the tree brings when brought into focus.

From this perspective the analogy Glennon uses to describe her grounding process resonated:

"Now when I feel lost, I remember that I am not the woods. I am my own tree. So I return to myself and rein habit myself. As I do, I feel my chin rise and my body straighten.
I reach deeply into the rich soil beneath me, made up of every girl and woman I've ever been, every face I've loved, every love I've lost, every place I've been, every conversation I've had, every book I've read and song I've sung, everything, everything, crumbling and mixing and decomposing underneath. Nothing wasted, My entire past there, holding me up and feeding me now. All of this too low for anyone else to see, just there for me to draw from. Then up and up all the way to my branches, my imagination, too high for anyone else to see- reaching beyond, growing toward the light and warmth. Then the middle, the trunk, the only part of me entirely visible to the world, Pulpy and soft inside, just tough enough on the outside to protect and hold me. Exposed and safe."

What is valuable for me here, is the image that everything that has come before in my life now makes up the richness of the soil from which I, as a tree, drink and grow. That none of the experience, learning, failings, and successes are lost, but that instead, they are used to fuel and nourish what will come next. That they support continual growth upwards towards the warmth and the light.

Boredom and Phones:

Definitely at the top of the fears list: that my children lose the window to develop creativity and become consumers before they even have the chance to know there is a difference. That they never experience and develop the parts of themselves they would have if enabled to unfold naturally without the constant influence of advertisers. This quote helps affirm our choices regarding spending as much time outdoors as possible and expanding boundaries to invite creativity and not stifle it at the cost of easier parenting days or the occasional purple couch cushion.

"There is so much about phones and children that parents worry about. We worry that we are raising children with commodified views of sex, lack of real connection, filtered concepts of what it means to be human. But I find myself worrying most that when we hand our children phones we steal their boredom from them. As a result, we are raising a generation of writers who will never start writing, artists who will never start doodling, chefs who will never make a mess of the kitchen, athletes who will never kick a ball against a wall, musicians who will never pick up their aunt's guitar and start strumming."
"Those who made the phones are creative people, and they want their children to become people who create, not just consume. They don't want their children searching for themselves out there; they want them discovering themselves in here."

For now, we have the luxury of choosing what our children are surrounded by and experience. Hopefully the experiences they have now shape them and give them resistance for when they are exposed to the big wide world designed more and more to steal their attention, focus, and original thoughts. At the very least, we will savour these moments and do our best to instil love for creativity over consumption.


"Children are either taught by the adults in their lives to see cages and resist them, or they are trained by our culture to surrender to them. Girls born into a patriarchal society become either shrewd or sick. It's one or the other."
"It's a lifelong battle for a woman to stay whole and free in a world hell-bent on caging her. I wanted to give my girls whatever they'd need to fight for their full humanity. Truth is the only weapon that can beat the pervasive lies the world will tell them."

Central to Untamed, is the realization that Glennon has that she was her true self until the age of 10 and then the "shoulds" of society began to shape and confine her, ultimately leading to years of coping through bulimia and drug addiction. This resonated for two reasons. Firstly, because I can still feel the confidence I had as a 10 year old girl and distinctly remember specific examples around that time of becoming aware that I was either not fitting into societal expectations, or that I somehow needed to change parts of me in order to fit more fully. Secondly, because I now have a daughter. She is 16 months old and we are just getting to know her personality as it unfolds. At this point, I recognize her as fierce, loving, determined, and Alive, capital "A". Her eyes gleam, sparkle, and sing as she conquers the world around her. She knows what she wants, likes, and alternately, she wears her displeasure boldly displayed on her face with no shame or attempt to hide that she does not like or want any certain thing (or person).

Because I can identify with the self-imposed changes that start so young and take decades to examine and disregard (if ever) as useless, or even damaging, it terrifies me that she will soon be faced with the same pressures to change who she is. I, like Glennon, want to arm her to fight for herself - without alienating herself into a harder existence - and am left with no real solutions other than to seek truth to share with her with open eyes, heart, and give her the gift of my experience (if she will accept it). I want her to dive into her wild as much as possible during these young years while she the feels freedom of no restraint. Let the fire and light in her eyes grow and glow until it is so wild and free that it becomes impossible to dampen.


"This way of life requires integrity: ensuring that my inner self and outer self are integrated. Integrity means having only one self. Dividing into two selves - the shown self and the hidden self - that is brokenness, so I do whatever it takes to stay whole. I do not adjust myself to please the world. I am myself wherever I am, and I let the world adjust."

I once met a woman, who after only a short time of knowing me, described me as someone who "eats in private" (there is a Chinese word for this that I can't remember or find). Essentially, meaning that on the outside a person presents one way - restrained and perhaps even so far as denied, but then in private, enjoys more riches (or eating) of pleasures that are kept from the world - or as Glennon describes "the shown self and the hidden self."

This stuck with me and also resonated. Another word that I have identified with, that is perhaps along the same lines, is "chameleon." One gift of extreme sensitivity and empathy, which can be brutal in the real world, is that of fast and deep understanding and the ability to match persona to the circumstance and people around. There are times when this is helpful (I should have been a spy), such as in the corporate world (any kind of sales), when learning and adapting to a new culture, or really any situation around people who are thinking, feeling, and emoting (every situation).

Over the past few years, after leaving the corporate world and identifying with what Susan Cain describes in Quiet, as forcing myself "against my grain" on a daily basis, I have begun to realize that there is freedom - perhaps what integrity feels like - in letting my truth lead. In not pausing to think how to change, shape, or accommodate before sharing myself. This is a slow revelation that goes along with practicing stillness and listening to what Glennon refers to as the Knowing, or truth from inside. It is an ongoing practice for me, as once a practiced chameleon, there is always a chameleon response at the ready. But somehow, life feels simpler, I feel more real, and connections more true now that I have chosen to start "eating in public." It is a departure from the familiar - yet into the familiar and it feels good.


"I have begun to notice that I don't even enjoy folks who aren't at least a tad mentally ill. I don't wish folks without a little anxiety or depression any harm, I just don't find myself particularly curious about them. I have come to believe that we "crazies" are the best people.
This is why so many of us are resistant to taking our medication. Because deep underneath, we believe that we are actually the sane ones. We mentally ill are the only "sick" people who believe our magic is inside our disease. I did, I still do. When people say "Get better," I heard: Get the same as everyone else. I knew I was supposed to hang my head and declare that my way of being was dangerous and wring and everyone else's way was better and right. I was supposed to get fixed, join the troops, and fall into line. Sometimes I desperately wanted that, because living my life was was so hard. Sometimes I could make myself accept that my inability to live lightly and pleasantly in the world I'd been born into was chemical and that I needed help integrating like everybody else does. I needed to say "Uncle" and admit: It's not you, world - it's me. I'll get help. I need to get better. I need your science.
But other times- when I turn on the news or watch closely how people treat each other - I raise my eyebrows and think: Actually, maybe it's not me. Maybe it's you, world. Maybe my inability to adapt to the world is not because I'm crazy but because I'm paying attention. Maybe it's not insane to reject the world as it is. Maybe the actual insanity is surrendering to the world as it is. Maybe pretending that things around here are just fine is no badge of honour I want to wear. Maybe it's exactly right to be a little crazy. Maybe the truth is: World, you need my poetry."

What I identify with and take from this excerpt is two things:

One, that there is so much depth, realness, and connection when people identify with no barriers on their truth. As someone who has long suffered (and yes, definitely suffering is key), with anxiety and depression, and more recently started acknowledging, identifying, and therefore talking about it, some of the most interesting (real) conversations I now have start with full truth about where I am or my real experiences and the honest relation of others.

Two, it is amazing to me how many of the incredible, talented, creative, outwardly strong, and accomplished people I know (whether they identify as "Mentally Ill" or not), are on some kind of medication to support their survival in the "real world". It is as if understanding of the world and seeing the truth of the destruction of nature, plastic in oceans, children in cages, extinction of animals, the list goes on and on ... requires numbing in order to carry on, earn a wage, and pay for living. It is not that we are requiring medication to be like everyone else, but that we are requiring it to fit into a human construct that is making us all not only stressed out, uncomfortable, anxious, and depressed, but that requires us to be blind in feeling to the consumption and destruction as by products.

Maybe it is my own awakening to this, but it feels like more and more voices are joining a chorus that this needs to change. That the truth within does not require medication so much as it needs a softer, kinder, more aligned and healthy world in order to thrive. This is definitely true for me - since leaving corporate life and focusing on building, growing, and thriving (in all senses of the words), everything feels more aligned. Yes, I have struggled and still struggle with anxiety and to some extent, depression, but I have also never felt more true, free, and at peace with myself and daily life. Surely there is something to be taken from this and applied on a larger scale - what do we have to lose besides that already being lost?


"The word humility derives from the Latin world humilitas, which means "of the earth." To be humble is to be grounded in knowing who you are. It implies the responsibility to become what you were meant to become - to grow, to reach, to fully block as high and strong and grand as you were created to. It is not honourable for a tree to wilt and shrink and disappear. It's not honourable for a woman to, either."

Recently in The Ember Circle, we were asked to consider which version of ourselves we want to shed in considering what serves us in moving toward the best version of ourselves. For me, this picture came to mind. I am proud of this picture. It is the result of years of achievement, determination, polish and productivity. It is also the product of much anxiety, stress, insecurity and careful practice towards perfection and fitting into the corporate world. It is me wrapped up, packaged, practiced, and contained at the service of efficiency, productivity, and gain. It is the sense of containment that I want to (and largely have) shed. Tightening, containing, constraining, and polishing do not serve who I want to become and who I already am. Freedom, truth, comfort, wild, wisdom all feel in alignment with who I want to become.

It took having a baby and something bigger than myself or anything else I was "producing" to burn down the forest and give me the opportunity to claim a new direction. At this point, I feel I can step back in humility regarding what I have accomplished, as well as excitement, tenderness, and optimism for the new direction of growth that includes none of the indicators of success or containers that used to be my guide. It is a state much more like a tree, following the warmth and growing towards a higher state of knowing, sensing that there is light above. It is a feeling of claiming my space in this world rightfully - not because of everything accomplished, but because I was whole to begin with, I was whole at 10 years old, and I am ultimately whole because, to quote Glennon one more time,

"I am".

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