Own Your Power: Be Out of Control
"What the world needs is masses of women who are entirely out of control," writes Glennon Doyle, in her book "Untamed." What does she mean by this? Read her passage to find out. This book, in part, is about women learning to free ourselves from the social and cultural conditioning we've experienced, which leads us to mistrust, doubt, neglect, and abandon ourselves, and strive for being the perfect "superwoman" that does it all and serves all others. Women do not often elect to be a "superwoman" but are groomed and socialized into this gendered role in society and in relationships. Notably, when we talk about "superman" we're usually thinking of Clark Kent but when we talk about "superwoman," we're usually describing women in the real world who are taking on so much. This book discusses the real and personal mental health consequences of this conditioning, including body image, eating disorders, substance use disorders, depression, sexuality, self-esteem and self-worth.
Below is a passage from Doyle's book which further explores the interconnecting roles that patriarchy, religion, politics, and the legal system play on the above-mentioned topics and specifically the impact it has had upon her. I am not saying that we are our own oppressors and that we are to blame, as there are numerous systemic barriers in place. What this passage gives to me is a grounding and clarity about my voice, my worth, my power, and self-love. It feels like a return to who I was as a child and just knew myself as myself, before I understood about the gazes, judgements, and expectations of others. I think Glennon Doyle would argue that one of our biggest tasks as women is to untame ourselves. It serves me as I try to move forward in my clinical work, and as a woman in the world. I hope it may offer some of the same for you, too.
Untamed – Glennon Doyle. From the chapter Erikas.
"Why do women find it honorable to dismiss ourselves?
Why do we decide that denying our longing is the responsible thing to do?
Why do we believe that what will thrill and fulfill us will hurt our people?
Why do we mistrust ourselves so completely?
Here’s why: Because our culture was built upon and benefits from the control of women. The way power justifies controlling a group is by conditioning the masses to believe this group cannot be trusted. So the campaign to convince us to mistrust women begins early and comes from everywhere.
When we are little girls, our families, teachers, and peers insist that our loud voices, bold opinions, and strong feelings and interests are “too much” and unladylike, so we learn not to trust our personalities.
Childhood stories promise us that girls who dare to leave the path or explore get attacked by big bad wolves and pricked by deadly spindles, so we learn not to trust our curiosity.
The beauty industry convinces us that our thighs, frizz, skin, fingernails, lips, eyelashes, leg hair, and wrinkles are repulsive and must be covered and manipulated, so we learn not to trust the bodies we live in.
Diet culture promises us that controlling our appetite is the key to our worthiness, so we learn not to trust our own hunger.
Politicians insist that our judgment about our bodies and futures cannot be trusted, so our own reproductive systems must be controlled by lawmakers we don’t know in places we’ve never been.
The legal system proves to us again and again that even our own memories and experiences will not be trusted. If twenty women come forward and say, “He did it,” and he says, “No, I didn’t,” they will believe him while discounting and maligning us every damn time.
And religion, sweet Jesus. The lesson of Adam and Eve – the first formative story I was told about God and a woman – was this: When a woman wants more, she defies God, betrays her partner, curses her family, and destroys the world.
We weren’t born distrusting and fearing ourselves. That was part of our taming. We were taught to believe that who we are in our natural state is bad and dangerous. They convinced us to be afraid of ourselves. So we do not honor our own bodies, curiosity, hunger, judgment, experience, or ambition. Instead we lock away our true selves. Women who are best at this disappearing act earn the highest praise: She is so selfless.
Can you imagine? The epitome of womanhood is to lose one’s self completely.
That is the end goal of every patriarchal culture. Because a very effective way to control women is to convince women to control themselves.
I tried to control myself for so long.
I spent thirty years covering and injecting my face with potions and poison trying to fix my skin. Then I quit. And my skin was good.
For twenty years, I was attached to a hair dryer and straightener to tame my curls. Then I quit. And my hair was good.
I binged and purged and dieted for decades trying to control my body. When I quit, my body became what it was always meant to become. And it was good, too.
I numbed myself with booze and food trying to control my anger. When I quit, I learned that my anger never meant that there was something wrong with me. It meant there was something wrong. Out there. Something I might have the power to change. I stopped being a quiet peacekeeper and started being a loud peacemaker. My anger was good.
I had been deceived. The only thing that was every wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me. I quit spending my life trying to control myself and began to trust myself. We only control what we don’t trust. We can either control ourselves or love ourselves, but we can’t do both. Love is the opposite of control. Love demands trust.
I love myself now. Self-love means that I have a relationship with myself built on trust and loyalty. I trust myself to have my own back, so my allegiance is to the voice within. I’ll abandon everyone else’s expectations of me before I’ll abandon myself. I’ll forsake all others before I forsake myself. Me and myself: we are till death do us part.
What the world needs is more women who have quit fearing themselves and start trusting themselves.
What the world needs is masses of women who are entirely out of control."
IMAGE BY LETTERING ARTIST, ILLUSTRATOR, AND DESIGNER JESSICA MOLINA