Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown is an exploration of the growing division, contentions and loneliness that are so prevalent in our cultures today. Brown uses personal anecdotes and research data to support her ideas.
The book encourages readers to defend their individual values and get comfortable with belonging to themselves, rather than striving to fit in at all costs with others.
The need to belong is the first thing we desire right after ensuring our own physical survival, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. It commonly refers to the idea that humans have a fundamental need to be part of social groups and have meaningful relationships with others.
In Braving The Wilderness, Brené Brown tells her own story of how she pursued the satisfaction of this fundamental need for decades with little success, and then she shares with the readers how to avoid common pitfalls while looking to find it. For Brené Brown, belonging is mostly about learning to belong to ourselves.
Brown defines true belonging as being consistently true to who we are, our values, and our beliefs, even when it is difficult to do so and we end up finding ourselves standing alone.
What we are looking for is a place of true belonging, in which we are authentic even when it creates discomfort, it is what Brown calls “the wilderness”, a place that is unforgiving and sacred, dangerous and breathtaking.
Brown then gives us the tools to reach the wilderness, where true belonging lies, through her BRAVING acronym: boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity.
These seven elements are the keys for a person to find both true belonging with themselves and to foster authentic connection with others, eliminating the barriers that make us feel isolated.
50 Quotes from Braving the Wilderness
“Every story matters…We are all worthy of telling our stories and having them heard. We all need to be seen and honored in the same way that we all need to breathe.” Brené Brown
“People are hard to hate close-up. Move in.” – ― Brené Brown
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. 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. No one belongs here more than you.” ― Brené Brown
“Conflict transformation rather than…conflict resolution. To me, the latter suggests going back to a previous state of affairs, and has a connotation that there may be a winner or a loser. [Conflict transformation has] the opportunity to create something new.” ― Brené Brown
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” ― Brené Brown,
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” ― Brené Brown
“When the culture of any organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of the individuals who serve that system or who are served by that system, you can be certain that the shame is systemic, the money is driving ethics, and the accountability is all but dead.” ― Brené Brown
“People often silence themselves, or “agree to disagree” without fully exploring the actual nature of the disagreement, for the sake of protecting a relationship and maintaining connection. But when we avoid certain conversations, and never fully learn how the other person feels about all of the issues, we sometimes end up making assumptions that not only perpetuate but deepen misunderstandings, and that can generate resentment.” ― Brené Brown
“But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.” ― Brené Brown
“Dehumanizing and holding people accountable are mutually exclusive. Humiliation and dehumanizing are not accountability or social justice tools, they’re emotional off-loading at best, emotional self-indulgence at worst. And if our faith asks us to find the face of God in everyone we meet, that should include the politicians, media, and strangers on Twitter with whom we most violently disagree. When we desecrate their divinity, we desecrate our own, and we betray our faith.” ― Brené Brown
“So if we decide to be brave and stay in the conversation, how do we push through the vulnerability and stay civil? … explicitly address the underlying intentions. What is the conversation about, and what is it really about?” ― Brené Brown
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. —JAMES A. BALDWIN” ― Brené Brown
“Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them to construct their own stories—stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy of love and belonging.” ― Brené Brown
“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate.” ― Brené Brown
“Joseph Campbell wrote, “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.” ― Brené Brown
“Never underestimate the power of being seen” ― Brené Brown
“Oprah. Her advice is tacked to the wall in my study: “Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.” ― Brené Brown
“Not enough of us know how to sit in pain with others. Worse, our discomfort shows up in ways that can hurt people and reinforce their own isolation. I have started to believe that crying with strangers in person could save the world.” ― Brené Brown
“True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.” ― Brené Brown
“Pain is unrelenting. It will get our attention. Despite our attempts to drown it in addiction, to physically beat it out of one another, to suffocate it with success and material trappings, or to strangle it with our hate, pain will find a way to make itself known.” ― Brené Brown
“And if our faith asks us to find the face of God in everyone we meet, that should include the politicians, media, and strangers on Twitter with whom we most violently disagree. When we desecrate their divinity, we desecrate our own, and we betray our faith.” ― Brené Brown
“Research shows that playing cards once a week or meeting friends every Wednesday night at Starbucks adds as many years to our lives as taking beta blockers or quitting a pack-a-day smoking habit.” ― Brené Brown
“Carl Jung wrote, ‘Only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.’ We are complex beings who wake up every day and fight against being labeled and diminished with stereotypes and characterizations that don’t reflect our fullness. Yet when we don’t risk standing on our own and speaking out, when the options laid before us force us into the very categories we resist, we perpetuate our own disconnection and loneliness. When we are willing to risk venturing into the wilderness, and becoming our own wilderness, we feel the deepest connection to our true self and to what matters most. ” ― Brené Brown
“Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness — an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.” ― Brené Brown
“The foundation of courage is vulnerability–the ability to navigate uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It takes courage to open ourselves up to joy…joy is probably the most vulnerable emotion we experience. We’re afraid that if we allow ourselves to feel lit, we’ll get blindsided by disaster or disappointment. That’s why in moments of real joy, many of us dress-rehearse tragedy…I call it foreboding joy. The only way to combat foreboding joy is gratitude.” ― Brené Brown
“When we are in pain and fear, anger and hate are our go-to emotions.” ― Brené Brown
“In order for slavery to work, in order for us to buy, sell, beat, and trade people like animals, Americans had to completely dehumanize slaves. And whether we directly participated in that or were simply a member of a culture that at one time normalized that behavior, it shaped us. We can’t undo that level of dehumanizing in one or two generations. ― Brené Brown
“Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. 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.” ― Brené Brown
“You will always belong anywhere you show up as yourself and talk about yourself and your work in a real way.” ― Brené Brown
“The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid—all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind.” ― Brené Brown
“The connection that we forge by judging and mocking others is not real connection,” ― Brené Brown
“When we engage in dehumanizing rhetoric or promote dehumanizing images, we diminish our own humanity in the process. When we reduce Muslim people to terrorists or Mexicans to “illegals” or police officers to pigs, it says nothing at all about the people we’re attacking. It does, however, say volumes about who we are and the degree to which we’re operating in our integrity.” ― Brené Brown
“We are wired for connection. But the key is that, in any given moment of it, it has to be real.” ― Brené Brown
“If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” ― Brené Brown,
“When we’re suffering, may of us are better at causing pain than feeling it. We spread hurt rather than let it inside.” ― 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.” ― Brené Brown
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.” ― Brené Brown
“Most of us are showing up to ensure that people’s basic needs are met and their civil rights are upheld. But we’re also working to make sure that everyone gets to experience what brings meaning to life: love, belonging, and joy. These are essential, irreducible needs for all of us. And we can’t give people what we don’t have. We can’t fight for what’s not in our hearts.” ― Brené Brown
“We can spend our entire life betraying ourself and choosing fitting in over standing alone. But once we’ve stood up for ourself and our beliefs, the bar is higher. A wild heart fights fitting in and grieves betrayal.” ― Brené Brown
“Art has the power to render sorrow beautiful, make loneliness a shared experience, and transform despair into hope.” ― Brené Brown
“Being ourselves means sometimes having to find the courage to stand alone, totally alone.” ― Brené Brown
“True belonging has no bunkers. We have to step out from behind the barricades of self-preservation and brave the wild.” ― Brené Brown
“Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5 percent. Living with obesity, 20 percent. Excessive drinking, 30 percent. And living with loneliness? It increases our odds of dying early by 45 percent.” ― Brené Brown
“Joy is probably the most vulnerable emotion we experience in our lives.”
― Brené Brown
“An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time.” ― Brené Brown
“When a group or community doesn’t tolerate dissent and disagreement, it forgoes any experience of inextricable connection. There is no true belonging, only an unspoken treaty to hate the same people. This fuels our spiritual crisis of disconnection.” ― Brené Brown
“The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage. ― Brené Brown
“A soft and open front is not being weak; it’s being brave, it’s being the wilderness.” ― Brené Brown
Casandra Brené Brown PhD LMSW (born November 18, 1965) is a research professor at the University of Houston.
She has spent her career studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times best sellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and her latest book, Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership.
Brown’s TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 35 million views.