There are very few books that leave me thinking “Everyone should read this book!” but Braving the Wilderness, the latest book from Brené Brown, is one of them. An exploration of the growing division, strife, and loneliness inherent in parts of our cultures today, Braving the Wilderness is a call to reason, encouraging readers to stand up for their individual values and get comfortable with belonging to themselves, rather than striving to fit in with others. With so many relevant insights, I wanted to share some of the most inspiring Brené Brown quotes from Braving the Wilderness with you today, along with a brief review of the book.
Braving the Wilderness is, in my opinion, Brené Brown’s most personal and timely book yet. Whereas her last three books have formed a trilogy (how to live wholeheartedly, how to get into the arena, and how to get back up when you’ve been knocked down), Braving the Wilderness is a separate but equally wonderful book.
The central message is this: true belonging starts with ourselves. Rather than seeking to find belonging amongst friends, people who think the same way we do, or other groups, we need to get familiar and comfortable with our own beliefs, values, opinions, thoughts, and feelings first. We have a tendency to meet our need for belonging by seeking out people who think the same things we do and share our beliefs and value sets. While this is a well-worn strategy for finding community, things can go wrong when we start basing our shared ground on a dislike, even hatred, of “the other”—people who think differently and have different beliefs and value sets to us. Not only that, but when we desire to fit in with a group who shares one of our beliefs or values, we might end up adopting all of their beliefs and values in an effort to stay connected to them, even those that are irrational or require us to disconnect from our true selves.
The eponymous wilderness is the space we have to be willing to go in order to be ourselves, to live with authenticity, and to speak up for what we believe in with integrity.
While still sharing the research-based findings she is well-known for, this book interweaves data with stories from Brown’s own life and interviews with others. The result is a moving and perspective-shifting book that shows us how to stay connected (and sane!) while everyone around us seems to be breaking off into “us and them” factions based on emotional triggers and faulty logic.
One of my favourite distinctions she makes in the book is that between fitting in and belonging:
As she summarises later in the book,
“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.”
As our culture trends more and more towards warring collectives, Braving the Wilderness is a breath of fresh air. One of the things I appreciate most is the way Brown isn’t trying to push a particular agenda, but instead encourages us to stand up for our own agenda, based on our values, principles, and beliefs, rather than going with the status quo or aligning ourselves with a particular group out of fear or peer pressure. This isn’t a book that tells you what to think, but rather gives you the tools and the courage to reject the idea of being on a particular “team” altogether and stand beside what you know to be true.
“Most of us are either making the choice to protect ourselves from conflict, discomfort, and vulnerability by staying quiet, or picking sides and in the process slowly and paradoxically adopting the behavior of the people we’re fighting. Either way, the choices we’re making to protect our beliefs and ourselves are leaving us disconnected, afraid, and lonely.”
I admire her courage in spotlighting this paradoxical behaviour. As she points out, language that dehumanises anyone is wrong—wherever and whoever it comes from. As she also remarks, this kind of truth-telling is rarely easy and will evoke criticism from others who are invested in fitting in. But it’s also the path to deepest connection with the right people—those who value curiosity, vulnerability, authenticity and also want to view people as individuals rather than make assumptions about them based on the supposed groups they belong to.
If you’ve ever wondered where you fit in and who you fit in with right now, if you’ve ever felt afraid to speak up for fear of being judged or labelled, if you find yourself feeling disillusioned or frustrated with the way people communicate about important issues, and if you know there is a better alternative to all these things, this book is a must-read.
Here are a few more of my favourite Brené Brown quotes from Braving the Wilderness:
“Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice.”
“There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.”
“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 our own.”
Read Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.'”
Have you read Braving the Wilderness? What did you think? What were your favourite quotes and takeaways from the book? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.