BOOK REVIEW from Emma-Louise: "Braving the Wilderness" by Brené Brown

I have literally just finished reading this, and was excited to write a book review of Braving the Wilderness! I don't know about you but I am a Brené Brown fan. She researches emotions, motivation, the human condition - in particular, courage, shame and empathy. Brené is also a great storyteller, and has wowed the world with her own peculiar mix of raw authenticity, honesty and strength - which she calls vulnerability.

If you're not already familiar with Brené Brown, check out the TED Talk that made her famous here: https://youtu.be/X4Qm9cGRub0. With over 35 million views it's one of the top 5 viewed TED talks ever.

The subtitle of this book is "The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone." And it revolves around Brené's exploration and understanding of the quote:

"You are only free when you realise you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great." Maya Angelou 

When I began reading Braving the Wilderness, I was expecting it to be more personal like The Gifts of Imperfection - which I loved. Brené's books seem to largely be about our individual struggles and offer variations of how to become more confident and happy through being our 'selves'.

But Braving the Wilderness is political!

Whether Brené intended it or not, Braving the Wilderness is profoundly political - with a small 'p'. I'm not talking about political parties or leanings, instead she looks at the big picture, what is happening in our society. Not only a statement of where the human species is failing to live up to its potential, Brené outlines what we can do about it. True to form, Brené doesn't single out any individual, political party or creed as being to blame. In fact that is partly the point. We are all responsible for this disconnected, uncivil world - and for fixing it.

So, what has this to do with belonging?

Braving the Wilderness is a book not about 'fitting in', but being who we are - no matter what. These are themes Brené explored in "Daring Greatly", but in "Braving the Wilderness" she takes it a step further, connecting our courage, authenticity and vulnerability - with what is needed in the world.

She creates a checklist to helps us with being brave and standing out - and belonging to ourselves - using the acronym BRAVING. And this is explored in the context of 4 key practices.

Brené's paradoxical 4 step practice:

  1. People are hard to hate close up. Move in. Pointing fingers and "othering" are part of this polarised world. The recent US presidential election where people divorced and families stopped speaking to each other over which party they supported, or the high tensions around gun control are two examples she uses. It's easy to label people who think differently as bad and wrong. Instead move closer, lean in, try to understand.
  2. Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil. Brené talks about not tolerating bullshit (and the difference between lies and bullshit!). She encourages us to be civil no matter what.
  3. Hold Hands. With Strangers. She shares her research on the power of sharing our joys and sadnesses with others - communities and strangers.
  4. Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. And finally Brené goes full circle and talks about vulnerability. Courage (strong back), vulnerability and honesty (soft front) and being ourselves (wild heart).

These are the kinds of things that Brené's book will help you navigate.

Brené Brown

Where could this book be better?

A critcism of this book could be that it possibly references /overlaps with her previous work too much - possibly to fill the pages? But some of this is probably necessary for people who haven't read her other books. Brené also uses other people's work to explore how we handle difficult conversations - rather than contributing anything original. But does this matter?

Personally I would have loved to read even more about each of the 4 practices Brené identified, and even more about how the acronym BRAVING works for each. But did I enjoy the book anyway? Was it inspiring? Would I recommend it? Yes, yes and yes!

But if you like the world just the way it is, this book is NOT for you!

Before I wrap-up, I must confess that, as a reviewer of this book, I fall into the category of being an "echo chamber" - meaning that I already agree with most of what Brené says. Perhaps all! For example, my next big project is "Fierce Kindness" and will talk about the necessity for extreme kindness in the world, and more courage.

Here are 5 Reasons to read Braving the Wilderness. This book is for you if:

  1. You want the courage to do or say the right thing.
  2. You're looking for community or wondering how to build more connection with others.
  3. You want to be more understanding of people who are different to you.
  4. You're already an "outlier", standing for what you believe in - even though it means you stand alone. This book is a celebration of you!
  5. You think the world needs to change and be a kinder place, then this book is for you.

What else to read?

Go Deeper (much deeper)

Have you read "Braving the Wilderness"? Tell us what you thought by commenting below!

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