Review|Braving the Wilderness:


Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breath taking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be a place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.” You might, mistakenly, think that Braving the Wilderness is a story that spotlights hiking trails, backpacks, campfires, tents and sleeping bags. Not even close. Social scientist, Brene Brown, encourages readers to discover their own “wilderness” – the unknown – the life outside our comfort zone – the space we have to be willing to go to to be ourselves.

With a mix of research, storytelling and honesty, Brown maps a clear path to developing and maintaining a sense of belonging and at the same time staying true to one’s self and to one’s beliefs. This is a book of non-fiction based on Brown’s grounded theory research of the paradox of “being alone but still belonging” and “feeling alone but also strong”. p.27 The book interweaves data with stories from Brown’s own life and interviews with others.

A quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one I have held close for many years. In Act I, Scene III, Polonius says: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Brown writes: You bend and stretch and grow, but you commit to not moving from who you are. (p.23).

Brown’s point is that when we “fit in” as opposed to “belong” we acclimate to a situation instead of standing for our authentic self. She explores the growing division, strife and loneliness inherent in parts of our cultures today. As she summarizes in the book: Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

Brown’s books are calls to courage and she considers “Braving the Wilderness” the hardest call. Her passion for Maya Angelou is reflected in her selection of an Angelou quote that recurs throughout the book: “You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong everyplace – no place at all, The price is high. The reward is great.” She sees this as the only path to liberation.

Brown warns there will be those who say, “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”.

PS: Brown’s name may be familiar. She has the fourth most watched TED talk of all time. It’s called “The Power of Vulnerability”.

Published by Audrey Newhall

I am an avid reader and contributor to Penna Book Reviews

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