Braving the Wilderness is the second book I’ve read by Brené Brown (I recently reviewed Daring Greatly). It’s a book about finding belonging within ourselves and using that to relate effectively to others. She writes with very accessible language and a conversational tone that draws the reader in. The book is relatively short, which makes it a fairly quick read.
The wilderness metaphor didn’t especially resonate with me, and so sometimes I found myself wondering what exactly she was talking about. She writes: “Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness—an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching.” She adds that “the special courage it takes to experience true belonging is not just about braving the wilderness, it’s about becoming the wilderness. It’s about breaking down the walls, abandoning our ideological bunkers, and living from our wild heart rather than our weary hurt.” “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.'” I think Brene Brown is wonderful, but I’m still reading those lines and thinking huh?!? Maybe I’m just a bit too concrete.
That’s not to say that all of it was lost on me. When she wrote “cynicism and distrust have a stranglehold on our hearts”, I felt like she could easily have been speaking about my own heart. She tells us that in order to achieve true belonging, we must be vulnerable and have the courage to take on difficult things and be uncomfortable. I liked her observation that when we’re bullshitting, “the truth doesn’t matter, what I think matters.”
The book is focused around four key approaches to improve belonging:
- People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.
- Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.
- Hold Hands. With Strangers.
- Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.
The book contains many useful nuggets of advice, including practicing gratitude and breaking the habit of seeking confirmation that we’re not good enough. There are also many common sense ideas that are perhaps not so common, such as approaching conflict with a genuine attempt to understand the other person’s perspective. While boundaries may seem like a challenge sometimes, Brown takes the perspective that establishing and sticking to clear boundaries in conflict actually promotes compassion and belonging. Boundaries are the first ingredient in her BRAVING acronym for facing the wilderness.
While there was definitely good stuff there, I have to say that for me this book was a bit of a disappointment. I’m a big Brene Brown fan, and I like what she has to say, particularly about vulnerability, but the wilderness metaphor just didn’t do it for me. I definitely want to read more of her work, though; anyone have any favourites they’d like to suggest?
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