Fierce Inspiration: Lessons from ‘Braving the Wilderness’
By Brene Brown
We aspire to be passionate, dynamic, and capable women. We also know that in order to fulfill our potential, we need to connect with others and help each other grow in confidence and skill. In her latest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, Brené Brown challenges our thinking about what it means to be connected in the world. Brown, a University of Houston research professor, suggests that in order to be our best and most authentic selves, we need to stop trying to fit in and let ourselves feel more vulnerable and uncomfortable. We need to show up as our true selves and engage with others in ways that will build true belonging.
This is a far cry from the stereotypical networking event where we awkwardly attempt to meet as many people as we can and make small talk while balancing a canapé and a cocktail. It’s also far removed from the idealized social media world where selfies show a beautiful, perfected, idealized version of our selves.
Brown’s message is about reconciling our unique human nature with our interactions in the world. She uses the term “wild- hearted” to describe those who brave criticism, fear and hurt. They stand alone and with others. They are tough and tender, excited yet scared. The wild-hearted person sees the struggles and injustices in the world, works to better them and is still able to find joy in life.
In her book, Brown guides us to be more wild-hearted. Here are 4 lessons from Braving the Wilderness.
Write yourself a permission slip.
It seems silly, but you might need to write yourself a permission slip. “Permission to be excited, goofy, and have fun.” The inner work of becoming your true self is often lonely and unfamiliar, yet we don’t have to be so serious. Sometimes you will feel uncertain, and facing our biggest fears can be difficult and even frightening. You don’t have to do this work from a dark, dreary place. Being authentic can be joyful.
We’re already connected to others through our spirit of humanity and love.
There is much to divide us in this world such as gender, race, and politics. If we can look past those things, we are reminded that we are alike in crucial and transformative ways. We all want to be part of something meaningful and something that is bigger than we are. We need to come back to our common humanity and find trust and respect. If we are connected at the spirit, we are free to be ourselves and engage at a more meaningful level.
We need to engage with others in authentic ways.
Brown encourages us to get to know and understand people we dislike or distrust, or those who challenge our ideals. She reminds us that “it is not easy to hate people close up.” Be willing to question them. “Tell me more.” “Help me understand why this is so important to you.” “Help me understand why you don’t agree with this idea.” We can be civil, speak the truth, and listen to each other. In this way, we can build real understanding and find ways to come together.
Show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can bear witness to the inextricable human connection.
Attend funerals. Help others during times of disaster. Connect with people who are struggling or hurting. These are all times of human connection. These things matter. But it doesn’t stop there. Be a part of a crowd. Attend concerts or athletic events where people of all kinds come together and share in music or traditions. Sing the school song and feel the sense that you are part of a bigger community and that you are all bonded. Engaging with others in times of pain and join, especially engaging with strangers, Brown says, is like “lightening in a bottle. We have to catch enough glimpses of people connecting to one another and having fun together that we believe it’s true and possible for all of us.” Collective joy and sadness transcends what divides us.
This is a book well worth reading. It will stretch your thinking and help you come into yourself more fully. It will also help you to understand how we fall apart as a group or as a society and what we need to bring ourselves back to meaningful connection and the transformation that can happen when we work together in pursuit of something bigger than ourselves.
Michele Meier Vosberg, Ph.D. is an educator, freelance writer and speaker. She is redesigning her life to live more simply, happily and well, and working to help others do the same. She lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin.