"Untamed" Teaches Us About The Cages We Live In: How Do We Break Free?

During the past year, several of my adult female clients excitedly shared about a book they had read and how it had helped them in numerous ways. Because I want to be able to connect with teachings which are meaningful to my clients, I ordered and read "Untamed: stop pleasing, start living" by Glennon Doyle. Not only have I read it several times, but I have also listened to the audiobook, in full, twice. 

Today's blog is not a review of "Untamed." There are thousands of them on Amazon. The purpose of today's blog is to tap into the powerful message of how "Untamed" Teaches Us About The Cages We Live In, and to explore How Do We Break Free? In doing so, we will highlight two important cages  -  the unhealthy relationships we have with others and the one we have with ourselves. 

Because I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, my work is specifically tailored to the healing of relationships. When my clients come to me, most are in very broken places. Many are coming out of unhealthy relationships, some are still in them, and others are trying to navigate them with boundaries in place and trying not to reinjure themselves. While there are no easy or quick fixes, we will take a look at two wellness strategies for breaking free.

Discover Yourself First

In "Untamed,"  Glennon openly discusses one of her relationship cages - her unhealthy marriage. Although there are numerous reasons for the unhealthiness, Glennon is committed to her marriage and the raising of her three children. After marriage counseling and years of  trying to make the relationship work, she is able to break free - only by discovering herself first. As Glennon bravely unearths her truths, she overcomes many challenges as well as numerous painful hurdles. However, the more she learns who she is, trusts who she is, and  honors who she is, the easier it becomes to make choices which support freeing herself from this cage. 

In my practice, I witness how clients are stuck in their relationship cages - personal and professional. Most clients enter therapy to alleviate their discomfort and learn tools for healing their relationships. Although these are important, with their permission I gently guide clients down a empowering path - one of self-discovery. Together, we learn that in order to free ourselves from any cage, we must first understand, accept, and celebrate who we are. 

We achieve that by exploring questions such as the following:

Who am I? Deep down inside, in the quiet of my soul and spirit, who am I? 

What are my needs? Are they being met? Why or why not?

What are my wounds, past hurts, and disappointments? Have I healed them or tended to them? How are they impacting my life?

What kinds of choices or decisions do I make? Are they advancing my growth? Why or why not?

What am I afraid of? Who am I afraid of? 

These are hard questions. If we want to discover who we are - and learn to trust and honor who we are - we must spend as much time as needed exploring these questions and others. We may need the help of a counselor, therapist, or wellness coach. Sometimes, self-help books, spiritual practices, and self-growth classes or seminars are wonderful resources. Make a commitment to seek out the kind of  support you feel comfortable with. Be courageous. Make a commitment now.   

Remember, the longer we put discovering ourselves aside, the longer we will hold our identity and integrity hostage to other people and circumstances. And, the longer we delay discovering who we are, the longer we will remain in our relationship cages. 

Only by discovering who we are can we really know what is true and right for us.

Only by knowing, trusting, and honoring our true selves can we break free. 

Define Your Worth

Along with the unhealthy relationships we find ourselves in with others, another very common cage we live in is the unhealthy relationship we have with ourselves. What do I mean by this? 

When clients come to me, some of the questions I ask of them area the following:

What does your self-talk sound like? 

What messages do you say to yourself about yourself? 

Do you feel valuable? Do you feel important? Do you feel you are enough? Why or why not?

Do you like yourself? Do you love yourself? Why or why not?

Most of the time, the answers to these questions are heartbreaking. The relationship they have with themselves is one of being "unlovable." As I explore further with clients, we discover that their lack of worth or mattering emanates from a myriad of life experiences. Although many clients require ample time to process and heal past wounds or traumas, I have found time and time again that the perpetuation of this "lack of worth" is a past and current practice of attaching their worth to external, false, and fleeting sources of influence, impact, or importance.  

In her book, "Untamed,"  Glennon Doyle is very transparent about her "lack of self-worth" as she was growing up. She details her history of bulimia - a chronic eating disorder which began plaguing her at age eleven. Although there may be additional underlying causes, Glennon makes clear she was in a constant battle with how she perceived her "looks" and how she felt her body and appearance should be. This internal conflict was fueled by tethering her self-worth to external messages from social media, magazines, movies, and so on. She measured her self-worth against images of perfection and what was marketed as being attractive: wafer thin females, perfect hair, wrinkle-free skin, and so on. Years later, when Glennon embraced her recovery and began discovering who she was (and is), she began defining her self-worth based on internal, authentic, and sustainable sources of worth such as her beliefs, values, and truths. 

As long as we allow any external source to dictate our self-worth, we will never have a healthy relationship with ourselves. We will always be chasing that next "thing" which will make us look better, feel happier, or make us more appealing or popular. Sadly, we will continue running circles in our cages trying to keep up with false messaging while we attempt to feel "good enough." 

However, we can break free from this cage. As we are discovering ourselves, we can begin defining our self-worth. Be brave. Begin now.  And, love yourself along the way. (*Note - there is a series of blogs listed below - From Self-Shaming To Becoming Enough which may help you with this process.)

Only by defining our internal, authentic, and sustainable sources of worth can we know our value. 

Only by knowing, trusting, and honoring our true worth can we have a healthy and loving relationship with ourselves.


Hope for a New Path

In closing, one of the most powerful and beautiful messages in "Untamed" is that we do not have to settle for living in cages. We can break free. However, in order to do that, I believe we must do the following:  First, we must discover who we are and embrace who we are. Second, we must define our self-worth and integrate it into our beings. Once we began that process, there is hope for a new path.

Over the past few months working with my clients on hope for a new path, several of them have found encouragement and inspiration in one of the stories from "Untamed." It is entitled "Islands." In this critically important passage about knowing, tursting, and honoring  herself and her worth, Glennon utilizes a metaphor to illustrate her message. She describes how she and her family live on an island, surrounded by a moat  filled with alligators. The only way onto their island is by a drawbridge. The drawbridge is lowered for others to come onto their island, ONLY if visitors bring with them a specific mindset - "one of love, joy, and wild acceptance" for their family. [Doyle, p.193] No fear or judgement is allowed. Glennon and her family have claimed their new path, founded on the truths which support and nurture their lives. On their Island, they live feely. And as committed mindful stewards, they are protective of it. 

We too can claim our new paths. As our understanding of who we are is taking root and growing, and as our self-worth is being nourished and strengthened, we will feel a shift inside.  If we pay attention to our calling and tend to our truths, that shift will lead us in a new direction. 

We will break out of our cages.  

We will  determine our paths. 

We will be very clear about how to protect all of it. 

We will do whatever we need to in order to stay on our paths.

We will be free. 

Coming Summer 2021 ! Get ready to break free!!


A path to Growth, Healing, and Transformation

For more healing resources, please visit

Holli Kenley

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For additional readings on how to discover yourself and define your self-worth, check out the following blog series:

From Self-Shaming To Becoming Enough 

Week One: Increasing Our Understanding

Week Two - External Causes

Week Three - Internal Causes

Week Four - It's Impact On Us

Week Five - Healing

For additional readings on how to tend to past wounds, injuries, and injustices, consider an empowering self-help recovery book by Holli Kenley:

"Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within"

Thank you, Glennon Doyle, for writing this beautiful book - "Untamed." 

Doyle, G. (2020) Untamed. New York, NY. The Dial Press


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