Personal Lessons from Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness

By December 11, 2017 Blog
Braving the Wilderness - Personal lessons
December 11, 2017 Blog

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.


Gosh, I love Brené Brown – like BIG love. This woman to me speaks truth. Period. For those of you who haven’t read any of her work yet, go grab yourself a book – any of her books. For me, they always feel like home, which is an interesting statement as her latest book Braving the Wilderness is all about belonging. A topic close to my heart for many reasons, have a read of my last post on belonging here.

Brené’s new book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone is as the title suggests all about the desire that we all feel to belong to something that is bigger than just ourselves. The main message of the book is really this:

True belonging is found within yourself – not in any other place. It’s exactly the things that you do to try and belong that will, in fact, keep you from finding true refuge.

The book opens with this quote from Maya Angelou:

“You are only free when you realise you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great. “

Ultimately, this beautiful book is all about encouraging you to be true to yourself and to speak up – and allow others to do the same. Brené emphasises there is a shared humanity and spirituality that brings us all together despite our differences, and offers us a pathway into how we can truly engage with each other from a place of trust.

There is so much wisdom and insight in this book that I almost feel that whatever I write will not do it justice – and frankly, it won’t. It is one of those books to be read and then reread again – and I encourage you to do so. Here are some of my main take-aways from the book that I thought were particularly helpful.

Brené makes a clear distinction between belonging and fitting in:

“Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”

What she’s saying here is that it is precisely the behaviour that we engage in to try and belong – fitting in – that takes us away from finding true belonging as we mould ourselves to be who we believe we need to be. Therefore hiding our true selves and essentially saying to ourselves: this part can be seen, but this part must be hidden from others. It is only when we can come to accept all of who we are that we can find belonging.

When we can come to accept all of who we are and be courageous in standing up for what we believe in that we find belonging. When we allow ourselves to be truly seen, it is only then that we can find real acceptance and belonging. And the funny thing is that we actually need to find this in ourselves first and foremost rather than looking for it with others.

In order for us to feel safe to do so, we must then work on a culture of trust as essentially we ask:

Is it safe to show who I truly am here? 

In many ways, Brené’s book is really a call to action to create a world that is emotionally safer for us all. She points to the spiritual crisis that the current state of the world is in, where division between groups and people is running strife. We have lost our sense of common humanity, finding it easier to separate ourselves from others in a bid to find belonging with the group that we have chosen to identify ourselves with. It’s us versus them. Yet it is precisely this behaviour that separates us even more from each other.

She offers up the acronym BRAVING as a way of creating trust – both with ourselves and with others:

Boundaries: I maintain my own boundaries and I respect yours.

Reliability: I do what I say – always.

Accountability: I take responsibility for whatever I say and do.

Vault: I keep confidential what you tell me.

Integrity: I stay true to myself and I choose courage over comfort.

Non-judgement: I don’t judge myself and others about asking for help.

Generosity: I am generous in my interpretations about your actions. Intentions and words.

For those of you interested in learning more about this, have a look at her talk on The Anatomy of Trust . Highly recommended!

She continues to outline 4 ways that we can reclaim human connection and rekindle the spiritual connection that exists between us all. I’ve briefly highlighted some of the personal lessons that I took from these:

  1. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
  • Only base your judgements of people on your own experience.
  • Have the courage to be vulnerable and express your pain rather than lashing out.
  • Truly engage with others and listen to their perspective – especially when you’re in conflict with each other.
  1. Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be civil.
  • Don’t just say something when you don’t know. Have the courage to say “I don’t know”.
  • Stop thinking in “you’re either with me or against me” paradigms.
  • Be inclusive in your language.
  1. Hold Hands. With strangers
  • Show up for collective moments of joy and pain. Think concerts, think funerals, think World Cup games.
  1. Strong back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.
  • Hold strong to who you are, yet be open and vulnerable to others.

For those of you who have ever struggled with finding a sense of belonging, I can only give you my highest recommendations for this book. My personal experience has also been that ultimately we can only find that sense of home within ourselves, continuously tuning into ourselves and navigating life on our own compass. There is an immeasurable strength and confidence that comes from making this journey within. It requires us to show up with authenticity, courage and vulnerability. As Maya Angelou said, the price is high yet the reward is great. I will leave you with perhaps one of my favourite quotes from the book:

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially your own. No one belongs here more than you.“

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