Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

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What is the book Braving the Wilderness?

Every person wants to feel himself a part of something bigger. The sense of being in a community is fundamental, be it your family, a tribe, or among like-minded people such as your co-workers or team members. On the contrary, being alone is pretty miserable. Therefore, we desperately cling to each other to have a connection. Since the dawn of time, belonging to a group meant survival.

Nowadays we cannot imagine ourselves existing outside general society. We may pretend that we share the same values as others, even if it isn’t entirely correct. We prefer not to think about the implications of choices we make, even if we don’t agree with them. The point being, you have to conform to your community: your family, your colleagues, and to the society as a whole. Otherwise, you are bound to be an outcast.

Brené Brown has gone through all of those things in her childhood. Her parents moved a lot, and she had to adapt to different schools, teachers, and peers. In 1969’s New Orleans racism was thriving, so Brené Brown, whose second name is Casandra, was in a tough spot. Casandra was a common name among African-American women, and it often led to misunderstandings, from both black and white kids, and from their parents too. It was not only during her school years but also much later, when Brené Brown became a teacher and was attending interviews herself.

After moving once more, Brené Brown ended up in a school full of Catholics, only to turn out a black sheep again; her parents were adhering to the traditions of the Anglican Church. Not having a chance to settle down, or for Brené to meet a friend, their family had to move time and time again. Soon she became a newcomer forever, having to adapt to a new environment always.

All of this was fine, as long as the marriage of her parents was stable. Brené felt secure inside her own home. But everything changed when her mom and dad ended up on the verge of divorce. During that time Brené wanted to participate in a school cheerleading team who were greeting football events. She went to rehearsals, danced and trained. She even went on some weird diet that all of the girls on the team were. She thought that she had finally become a part of a team, its equal member.

Brené already imagined how she would perform in front of the players; her dressed in a pretty outfit. She was working on her moves and felt everything was just fine. Back then she had no friends in the team, but she was sure that they would be soon enough. She also had no pretty outfit for dancing, while other girls were wearing bright costumes with colors of the school. Brené was training in gray shorts over a black leotard. During tryouts, they’ve attached numbers to the girl’s outfits, and when it was over, they’ve asked to wait for the results until later that day.

So, in the evening, Brené and her parents came to school only to not find her number on the list. They didn’t invite her to the team, even though her moves were right. She didn’t have any flare, or sparkle, or any friends on the side. Parents didn’t comfort her nor supported her. They were driving home in silence, which frustrated Brené even more. She felt rejected by her own family.

Brené Brown thinks that a situation like this can lead to three possible consequences:
1) A person feeling disconnected from his family may continuously experience pain and, willingly or unwillingly, inflict his pain on others;
2) He may deny his pain, bottling it up inside, and therefore he cannot establish a harmonious relationship with anyone, including his children;
3) The most favorable option – he learns to have compassion for himself and others.

Brené Brown claims that somehow she managed to reach the third option. She met a loving and caring person, married him, gave birth to children and made a career. Little by little, she came to understand that a sense of belonging is far less critical than being confident in your beliefs: being ready to go against the tide, to fight for truth, to be yourself. A person must not pretend to be like everybody else if he isn’t like that at all. Sooner or later, he will find his social circle, his community or family. But if that’s not an option, then it’s essential for him to find himself and to stay himself.

Summary and 10 Ideas Braving The Wilderness

Idea №1 A sense of belonging is always in line with a sense of self-acceptance.

Idea №2 Learn how to trust before leaving on your own.

Idea №3 Everyone has his path to isolation, but it does not mean isolation in its fullest.

Idea №4 By treating people according to our own beliefs and stereotypes of them, we strengthen our isolation.

Idea №5 To fight loneliness, you must accept it.

Idea №6 We must accept our pain, not suppress it.

Idea №7 There are lines you should not cross.

Idea №8 Before choosing one of the conflicting positions, you must know the arguments of both sides.

Idea №9 In order to feel the inseparable human connection, you need to experience moments of joy and pain with complete strangers.

Idea №10 It takes a strong back and a soft front.

Review Braving The Wilderness

This book is sincere and inspiring. It teaches us to remember our true essence, which many have almost forgotten chasing for the approval of others. It also talks about the desert – the place of our true belonging, where we feel free, perceiving ourselves as who we really are. Often inside we don’t agree with what we hear around us, but we suppress the voice of our “wild heart”, our true “self”, for the sake of our peace and comfort. “You can’t buy yourself back,” says the Buddhist wisdom, and Brené Brown feels it. 

Our opinion may sound like a lonely cry out in the desert, but don’t be afraid to express it and prove yourself. At the same time, we must seek unity, not isolation; we have to strengthen common humanity through common principles, common joy and pain. And don’t be scared of the desert – it’s the place where spiritual growth resides and expands.

Pros and Cons:

  • Valuable ideas; Interesting examples; The simplicity of presentation.
  • The recurring repetition of ideas.

Author Brené Brown

Author of the book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand AloneBrene Brown, born November 18, 1965, is an American writer, a research professor at the College of Social Work at the University of Houston. She was born in San Antonio, Texas, and grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1995, at the University of Texas received a bachelor of social work, in 1996, the Master of Social Work and 2002 – a doctorate at the College of Social Work at the University of Houston.

Studies and books by Brene are devoted to questions of shame, vulnerability, courage and full life. The first book by Brene, “Women and Shame”, was rejected by numerous agents and publishers (demanding that the word “shame” be removed from the title), so she published the book herself. Later, she sold it to the Penguin publishing house, and it published a revised book under the new title “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it is not)”

Watch her thoughts about the book Braving The Wilderness at CBS 

 

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