If you haven’t already read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, please stop what you’re doing immediately and curl up with this brilliant powerhouse of a book. A call for women to find their voices, trust their inner Knowing, and transform their lives from the inside out, it’s an inspiring and emboldening rallying cry for unleashing women’s power.
As a teen girl life coach dedicated to creating a more just, equitable society by empowering adolescent girls with critical life and leadership skills, Untamed beautifully captures what I know deep in my bones to be true—that when women truly find and trust themselves, and start prioritizing their desires, speaking their minds, and living life on their terms, the world order as we know it will radically change for the better. I also know that the sooner girls learn these principles, the more purposeful and fulfilling their lives will be, and the brighter our future will look.
So how can moms help their daughters be Untamed? Here are three lessons parents can follow that will encourage girls to discover their true selves, build self-trust and confidence, and unleash their magic in the world.
Allow her to be bored.
Now more than ever, kids have every imaginable distraction available to them 24-7. Before COVID-19 hit, they were also horribly overscheduled, leaving them little time to ever be bored. But if we never spend time alone with our thoughts, we never actually discover who we are. When we get bored, that’s when we start asking questions like, “What brings me joy? What relaxes me? What am I interested in? How do I like spending my time? What pleases me?”
If we don’t learn the answers to these questions, we never develop a strong sense of self. And without this, girls easily start molding themselves into versions of what others expect from them. As Doyle says, “Give her the gift of boredom so she can discover who she is before she learns what the world wants her to be.”
Instead of always pushing girls to do do do, it’s okay to sometimes just let them be. I highly recommend turning off and putting away all devices for certain periods so that she can spend time with herself without the incessant distraction of her phone. Maybe this looks like walking in nature, gazing at the sky while lounging in a hammock, or lying on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. When you allow space for your daughter to daydream, imagine, and be alone with herself undisturbed, that’s when she can develop her inner compass.
Let her feel and express ALL the feelings.
Our culture is obsessed with happiness, which leads us to believe that if we’re not happy all the time, something has gone terribly wrong. And since most of us have never been taught how to sit with uncomfortable emotions, we’ve learned to ignore, bury, or “buffer” our discomfort away with things like overeating, overdrinking, smoking, shopping, binge-watching TV, scrolling endlessly through Instagram. In Doyle’s case, this led her to develop bulimia as well as devastating drug and alcohol addictions.
But being able to tap into and listen to our emotions is how we develop our inner Knowing—that voice that tells us what we want, what we need, what we stand for. (Or that “gut feeling” that shouts, “Something about this doesn’t feel right!”) So if you want your daughter to truly experience life to the fullest and be able to trust her deepest instincts, it’s critical to validate rather than dismiss her feelings, and teach her to process and express them in healthy ways, like through journaling, meditating, exercising, talking with friends, or even seeing a coach!
It’s perfectly healthy and normal to feel “negative” emotions sometimes. Not only is this part of being human, but it’s also a fundamental building block for forming our identities, developing self-trust, and creating the life of our choosing.
Encourage her to be selfish, not selfless.
As Doyle succinctly states about women and girls, “We forgot how to know when we learned how to please.” We live in a culture that socializes women and girls to put others’ needs first, to ignore their own wishes for the sake of others’ comfort and happiness, to be selfless. People-pleasing is particularly gendered in childhood, as girls are socialized to be polite, pleasant, and compliant (oh, and thin, pretty, smart, and nice to boot). In their endless pursuit to please others and be deemed likable, women and girls stop honoring their “bodies, curiosity, hunger, judgment, experience, [and] ambition.” They lose themselves in the service of others.
I know from personal experience how painful this can be, as I spent my entire early adulthood basing my decisions on what I thought others wanted or needed from me, even though deep down I knew that something just never felt…right…about my choices. I entirely ignored my inner Knowing for the sake of approval and making other people happy.
I see this all the time with girls, too, who keep playing sports they hate for fear of disappointing their parents, who don’t like raising their hands in class because they don’t want to “annoy” their teachers, who date boys they don’t even like anymore because they don’t want to hurt his feelings by breaking up. They may be liked, but they’re anxious, unhappy, and hiding their beautiful gifts and unique voices so they can please everyone but themselves. This is why it’s so important to remind girls that they’re “allowed to take up space on this earth with [their] feelings, [their] ideas, [their] bodies. [They] do not need to shrink. [They] do not need to hide any part of [themselves], ever.”
Parents can do this by creating a safe space at home for their daughters to express themselves without judgment. (Remember, she’s allowed to be angry; she’s human!) If you hear her saying “should” a lot, question why she feels like she has to do something and if it’s something she actually wants to do. Routinely ask for her opinions and advice, and listen to what she has to say. If your family is debating about what takeout to order, let her make the final call without saying “I’m good with what everyone else wants.”
Encouraging her to be selfish doesn’t mean teaching her to be rude or ungrateful; it means encouraging her to respect herself, to express her needs, to explore interests that may be different from your own or those of her friends, and to say no sometimes—to discover who she is and who she wants to become without forcing her into society’s mold of the “perfect girl.”
While your daughter’s path to self-discovery may be painful or uncomfortable at times, remember: This is normal, this is part of being human, and “we can do hard things.” Trust me, it’s worth it. For her, for you, and the world at large.