I've been reading Braving the Wilderness - The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, the newest book from social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, and want to share it with you. But there’s a problem…
For the last 15 minutes or so, I’ve been sitting in front of my computer searching for the words that will convey what’s happening as a result of reading this book, what it feels like to be inside the reading of it. Because this isn’t just a book; it’s a life-altering eye-opening experience wrapped in some really good writing and storytelling. It’s as if Brown has been eavesdropping on my life and is singing the song of it all – the pain, sorrow, and heartache as well as the joy, triumph, and peace.
I could state facts: So far, I've read each chapter at least twice, cried countless times, caught my breath in shocked recognition, paused to close my eyes and reflect, highlighted to the point where nearly all the text is neon yellow, and made enough notes in the margins to write another book.
Or I could describe what the book is about: With her trademark style mixing research, storytelling, and fierce honesty, Brown explores what true belonging means and maps a route for each of us to find our own sense of belonging through being true to ourselves and being willing to become vulnerable and sometimes uncomfortable.
But here’s the thing – Even as a writer and word junkie, I’m having no luck finding the words that can paint an accurate picture of this majestic little book. As one who has spent a lifetime searching for a sense of belonging somewhere and never quite finding it, everything I want to say sounds like hyperbole waxing poetic. So instead, this review is sounding clinical and dispassionate. See? I can throw around words like crazy, but can’t find the ones I want for this.
From page one, I felt my heart being pierced wide open. I felt my tightly closed Self slowly uncurling - that self that loved staying wound in a taut little ball protecting my soft belly with all the prickles pointed outward for safety. At the same time, my heart felt squeezed as if the life-long separateness and lack of belonging were being wrung right out.
“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are,” Brown writes.
"If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in."
Am I the only one who has wasted a lot of life time confusing belonging with fitting in?
“True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism.”
Although written in an easy-to-read manner, this has not been an easy read. It opened up a hole in the bunker I had been constructing since childhood and then blasted through into my innermost chambers. Then it made me look back out at that bunker from the inside and see that it had always been a prison, never a place of true safety.
It was the book I needed to read right now.
Who should read this book? Everyone.
- Everyone who is human AND sometimes lonely.
- Everyone who sometimes feels like Thelma without a Louise, the Lone Ranger without a Tonto.
- Everyone who wants to belong AND still be an individual.
- Everyone who wants to belong AND sometimes stand alone.
- Everyone who is currently alone AND wants to be part of something again.
- Everyone who is weary of the divisiveness, separateness, and intolerance in today’s world.
- Everyone who needs to be reminded (or learn for the first time) that respect begins with respect for Self.
- Everyone who needs to be reminded (or learn for the first time) that “I belong to Me.” And that isn’t selfish.
Being a fan of Brené Brown’s previous books and TED talks (links below), I expected this one to also be good. They always are. I did not expect it to hit home so hard.
If you are in search of true connection and the knowingness that you belong because of who you uniquely are, read this book.
I belong to me. That’s finally beginning to feel true and good.
Order your own copy of the book HERE
Watch Brené Brown's TED Talk on vulnerability HERE
Watch Brené Brown's TED Talk on shame HERE