Is It Time to Become More You?

A Book Review for Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

How much time do you spend trying to fit in? Have you become a little less ‘you’ as a result?

If you were in the midst of reinvention before the pandemic or have been forced to recalibrate, you may feel particularly vulnerable. Exposed. Dr. Brené Brown, the renowned vulnerability researcher, writes beautifully in Braving the Wilderness about how to evolve past this distress.

I saw Brené Brown speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women opening night and during her talk she said, “I’m still in my worth and my values if my goal is to be myself, not to fit in.” This resonated for me and after reading Dare to Lead I decided to reread my copy of Braving the Wilderness for added inspiration.

Please enjoy 3 quick takeaways from the book:

“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.”

  1. Reframe your ‘otherness.’ Early in the book Brené shares this quote from Maya Angelou, “You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” Through a blend of personal stories and research findings, she challenges us to reframe feeling like an outsider. Although the implications for people of color are different, she does touch on racism, bias and exclusion with her stories. Brené presents the discomfort of ‘otherness’ as a universal feeling with hidden power. That the quest for belonging often obscures the path to self-acceptance.

“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. …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.”

  1. Learn the anatomy of trust. She distills how to cultivate and identify trusting relationships into the acronym, ‘BRAVING’ to highlight the seven elements of trust: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-Judgement and Generosity. She also gives examples of how misplaced trust turns us inward and that we’re better served by remaining open.

“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.”

  1. Hold hands with strangers. Perhaps the most compelling idea in the book, based on the concept of collective effervescence, is how coming together for rituals of grief and joy strengthens our human connection. She cites the euphoria of live concerts and power of funerals, “people are hard to hate close up,” she said. Brené asserts that if we favor common ties, over our differences, we all become free to honor our unique gifts.

I loved this book and like her others, it’s both about personal transformation and improving our relationships. Brené says it best in the book, “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.”

As we endure this pause, socially distant from what we know, let’s return braver and more connected to our real selves.


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Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. Brené is also a visiting professor in management at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: 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.

Brené hosts the Unlocking Us podcast, and her TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 45 million views.

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