'There's No Map': Glennon Doyle On Living An 'Untamed' Life
Author and blogger Glennon Doyle has something to tell all the women out there trying to put a brave face on a terrible situation, juggling home life with all the other expectations placed on them as the world seems like it's falling apart: "I think every woman on earth needs to lower her expectations for herself, exponentially. At this point, we're not trying to be amazing. We are just trying to make it through the day." Her new book is called Untamed, and it details how she found her truest self — ending an unsatisfying marriage, and falling deeply in love with a woman while discovering how to be brave.
On when women start losing themselves
Around 10 years old, we begin to lose who we are, when we start learning how to please ... when we start to internalize our social programming. So that's when we learn how to be a "good girl," a "strong boy, a "good Christian, a "good woman." And, you know, over and over again, we hear from women that their taming, their social programming, came when they learned how to be quiet, and kind, and sweet, and accommodating, and pleasing, and pretty.
On her first marriage
What I would say is that I had a bad marriage to a good man. Right? I had a kind of marriage where I was not happy, and there was a lot going on that was less than freeing and less than true. But because he was a good man ... I had the kind of marriage that women are trained to be grateful for. ... I think, over and over again, there's sort of a gaslighting of women. It's everywhere. It's every time we admit that we want more, we're told we should just be grateful for what you have. It's the first story I ever learned about women, like the story of Eve: If you want more and you go for it, you will destroy yourself and the world.
On meeting her partner Abby Wambach
... we can let go of the expectations, and shoulds, and supposed-tos that the world gives us and just honor who we actually are and have always been.
When I met Abby, there was a voice inside of me that I finally recognized as my own. ... And following my love for her was a turning point in my life, but not just because I chose her. It was because I finally honored myself. Right? I chose to, for the first time, abandon everyone else's expectations of me instead of abandoning myself. And I think that's what I'm trying to get out of this book, which is this idea that we can let go of the expectations, and shoulds, and supposed-tos that the world gives us and just honor who we actually are and have always been.
On modeling marriage and motherhood for her children
I decided to stay in a less than healthy marriage for a long time because of my children. ... One day I was braiding my daughter Tish's hair, and I looked at her and I thought, oh, my God, I'm staying in this marriage for her. But would I want this marriage for her? And if I would not want this marriage for her, then why am I modeling bad love and calling that good mothering?
And that's when I realized, oh this idea of mother as martyr — that mothers have to prove their love by slowly dying, by burying their own needs, and their own ambition, and their own desires, and their own emotions ... this is just another way we get women to disappear. ... Don't take culture's definition of good mothering, because all culture will tell you is to keep disappearing. What I decided is that a good mother is not a martyr, a good mother is a model, right? That children will only allow themselves permission to live as fully as their parents do. And so we must not settle for any relationship, for any community, for any nation less true and beautiful than the one we would want for our babies.
On resisting the urge to run everything by your girlfriends
I have a boy and two girls — until they tell me otherwise — and my son had a bunch of friends over and I walked into the room and I said to them, is anybody hungry? And all the boys answered, "yes," without taking their eyes off the TV. The girls said nothing, took their eyes off the TV and started looking at each other's faces. And I'll never forget it, because I thought: Oh, we girls, in every moment of uncertainty are trained not to look inside themselves, but to look outside of themselves for approval, for permission, for consensus. ... A girl who at 10 years old can't tell you if she's hungry or not, becomes a woman at 40 years old who is still asking her friends if they approve of the person she's dating. ...There's decisions that we can make as a community that we can call our friends about. And there are decisions that can only be made by going inward and deciding for ourselves. Because in the end, when we're talking about our lives, there's no map. Right? We're all pioneers.
... children will only allow themselves permission to live as fully as their parents do. And so we must not settle for any relationship, for any community, for any nation less true and beautiful than the one we would want for our babies.
On the coronavirus
Women taking care of everything during extraordinary circumstances is nothing new. Right? We've been doing this since the beginning of time. This is just a different iteration of it. And so, you know, every woman that I know right now is juggling work, relationships, home, her own anxiety, her own fear, which is what we do every day.
This is a hell of a lot too much family togetherness for me. ... what I'm saying to my people is: We just lower expectations right now. Right? Our children are not going to learn what they would have learned in school. You know what they'll learn? They will learn that sometimes things are completely out of our control. And in the end, what matters is how we take care of ourselves and each other. So whatever you need to do to take care of yourself and each other. Do it right now.
On her strategy for finding her inner voice
One of the reasons it is so hard to find our inner voice is because the voices outside of us are so loud. Over time, we have lived more and more of an exterior life. Right? We are always looking at our phones. We are always listening to the TV. We are always listening to outer voices. And so one of the things that changed my life is a practice of spending a few minutes a day just with no other voices, and just listening. Getting back in touch with the inner voice ... I do not think that everyone needs to leave their husband and marry a female Olympian — although I highly recommend it — but what I do think is that everyone needs to practice honoring that inner voice.
This interview was edited for radio by Hiba Ahmad and Hadeel Al-Shalchi, and adapted for the Web by Beth Novey and Petra Mayer.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.