Braving the Wilderness – Brené Brown

I read this book after having it recommended to me from a girl I met at a networking event. I presume these are the types of books people recommend at networking events.

I’d heard that Brené Brown is kind of a big deal (I knew she’d done some famous TED Talks) and I was curious to know more.

I have to admit, Brené is not what I imagined. I thought she would be kind of… airy-fairy. Kind of whimsical and vague. She’s studied vulnerability and shame in the U.S. for many years – not your usual scientific subjects. Her books kind of look like self-help books… and I suppose they kind of are. BUT, what surprised me when reading this book (and then going on to watch her TED Talks) is that she’s just a real person. She experiences conflict, she’s a bit of a perfectionist… and she’s a researcher, so she’s analytical as heck, not ‘airy-fairy’.

She has clearly struggled with the findings of her research and been on an emotional journey with it. And in doing so, she’s uncovered how much shame and vulnerability need to be discussed.

Okay. So. Confession. I did NOT absorb this book as much as I should have. I’ve been in a very ‘fuzzy’ headspace lately. I won’t go into the details too much, but it involves anxiety, living with my parents, commuting 4 hrs every day and being very, very unhappy. So I wasn’t in my best mind when reading Braving the Wilderness.

Nevertheless, there were some nuggets of gold in there:

“I’m doing that thing I do when I’m afraid. I’m floating above my life, watching it and studying it, rather than living it.”

Relatable.

Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone – to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism.

And:

Women and men with the strongest true belonging practices maintain their belief in inextricable connection by engaging in moments of joy and pain with strangers.

That was an interesting one given that I recently read a similar kind of sentiment in Naomi Klein’s No is Not Enough.

There was much more too.

What I’ve taken away from this is that we all crave belonging. But, belonging is only attained when we stop trying to be like those around us, and just be ourselves completely. This concept is embodied in the Maya Angelou quote Brené quotes several times in this book:

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.

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