This post is going to be a bit different from my previous posts. I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing book reviews for some time, and I recently read the most amazing book that made me want to immediately tell everyone I know to read it. I figured this would be the perfect time to test this new format.
In the last two years, I’ve been working on being my true self while I’m with other people. I constantly think about what it means to be authentic, both with myself and others. I didn’t really have the words to describe what I was attempting to do until I read Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, by Brené Brown. It was the perfect book – at the perfect time.
In the book Brené takes us through the idea of what it means to find true belonging. She tells us that we need to be our authentic selves and be prepared to brave the wilderness and stand alone so that we may have a chance for a true connection.
I’m not going to write a complete summary of the book because there’s no way I will be able to do her work justice. I would recommend that everyone should pick up a copy and read it. It’s relatively short at 163 pages but packed full of great information. I am, however, going to share with you the five excerpts from the book that hit home hardest for me.
“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” – Brené Brown.
At first, it may seem obvious that we should be who we are and not change for others. Evaluating that idea in a bubble is valuable, however when she frames this concept with the idea of true belonging it becomes incredibly significant.
Throughout my life I have been the person that tries to please everyone or fit in by conforming to the crowd. It was such a deep seeded issue that I don’t know that I ever really understood who I was until recently.
As most people do, I want to belong but I think the emphasis should be placed on authenticity and then the by-product of that choice will be true belonging.
“The clearer and respected the boundaries, the higher level of empathy and compassion for others. Fewer clear boundaries, less openness.” – Brené Brown
One of the concepts Brené addresses in the book is about boundaries that we set up for ourselves and with others and how those boundaries need to be respected. The last sentence is what really struck me “Fewer clear boundaries, less openness” – if we want openness with others we must be clear about our boundaries.
If you ask me right now to define my boundaries, I couldn’t do it. I know that I need to spend some time journaling on that idea to be able to articulate exactly what those boundaries. I’m excited to see the effect it will have on my relationships once gone through the exercise.
I understand that the definitions aren’t the only part of this. We must brave the wilderness – part of that is recognizing the times when the boundaries you’ve carefully created are crossed. When that happens you must be the one to stand up for yourself because you are the only person that can.
“Speak truth to Bullshit” Brené Bown & Brandolini’s Law: The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.
In this section of the book Brené tells us that we must speak truth to bullshit. She also clarifies that bullshit and lying aren’t the same thing. Lying is when someone knows the truth and claims the opposite. Bullshit is another animal entirely – the person spouting the bullshit actually believes what they are saying. This is why it takes much more energy to combat bullshit compared to the amount of energy it takes to produce it, per Brandolini’s Law.
Speaking up and calling people out on their bullshit is one of those times that will be in the wilderness, likely alone. It will be isolated and cold but we must have the courage and desire to say what we believe because it’s the only way to contend with bullshitters.
With the understanding that it’s not easy to speak truth to bullshit there are two helpful tactics that Brené gives us – generosity and civility.
Generosity and civility give us an edge over those trying to BS us by disarming them. Only after deploying these strategies will others have a chance to hear what you have to say.
“When we don’t believe in an unbreakable connection, the isolation of the wilderness is to daunting so we stay in our factions and echo chambers.” – Brené Brown
I think this quote here was written in this specific manner to strike a chord with people of today and make them think about their politics. In the divisive world we currently live in it’s easy to stay with the people that believe the same way we do. It’s easy to get on Twitter or Facebook and believe you’re views are the majority and never make the effort to seek out others with differing opinions.
If we believe, as humans, we are connected in a way that can’t be broken we will then be willing to stand in the wilderness alone. This is especially true when you are surrounded by people who are very different than you. When you know that no matter the differences between people at the end of the day we will still be linked together which makes the wilderness a little less scary.
This concept is a little bit on the spiritual end which is a place I don’t frequent. However, if you look at this idea as simply say, I am a person and the individual that disagrees with me is a person, we can put some more humanity and empathy into our interactions. Only then will we have a chance to move beyond what divides us.
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made it your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made it your goal.” – Brené Brown
After all of this the most important, impactful part I read was this one. It’s an idea that I really never thought of before, at least a perspective I’ve never seen. I’ve always looked to people for reassurance that I’m doing “it” correctly, I’m living life in a manner that is generally acceptable. Previously, if I were to see someone look disapprovingly at me I would think it was a bad thing. I now know that’s not it at all.
If we are truly living an authentic life and being true to ourselves there will be many people that do not agree with us. So our mission is to make sure we are being genuine which will cause people to judgmentally look down at you.
I realized that I should not be trying to limit this reaction from others. It’s completely normal and if I’m not experiencing it I am doing something wrong. I’m likely just being agreeable and not staying true to my own beliefs. For me it’s a huge realization that my goal should be to get others to be critical of me. It’s okay because I am being me.
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take, that’s why it’s your path.” Joseph Campbell
I hope these little excerpts from the book that I’ve highlighted make you want to read it. The book is phenomenal and I can’t recommend it enough. Having said that, this is just the beginning for me and this book and I intend to take some more time to think about what I wrote here and dive a bit deeper to figure out how I can integrate these concepts into daily life.
I would encourage you to do the same and take time to think about these concepts. Consider how you deal with bullshitters – can you be a little more generous and civil with them? If you’re like me and struggle with what other people think of you remember that by being yourself you will offend people, you will find people that don’t like you and that should be the goal. It’s the goal because it’s the only way to know that you are being true to yourself and not to everyone around you.
Thank you for reading and if you liked the article I would love if you shared with just one person who might need it. We’ll see what the reception is on this format but I like it so I’ll probably continue this way for at least a few more weeks to see where it takes me.
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