Being Yourself and Braving the Wilderness

Whether we were trying to fit in with our peers as children or hoping our coworkers will like us as adults, we’ve all felt the desire to belong. It can also feel impossible to find acceptance while being yourself. Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown explores the need to belong and teaches us that to truly belong, we must be comfortable being our most authentic selves.

Using a combination of research, her own experiences, and humor, Brown highlights the importance of striving to be completely comfortable being our authentic selves if we want to belong in our society. She argues that simply “fitting in” is passive; truly belonging requires vulnerability, bravery to speak our minds, and the confidence to stand alone in our own “wilderness.”

Brown teaches the reader valuable lessons about being our authentic selves, not compromising our values for the sake of fitting in, and about being aware of the bases upon which we build our friendships.

The first step to belonging is being yourself.

Most of us crave a feeling of community. When no one shares our beliefs, interests, values, we start to second guess ourselves. We think we need to reevaluate these things in order to align them with others’ beliefs, interests, and values.

Instead, Brown tells us it’s vital that we don’t change our opinions to appease others. The “wilderness” she refers is the wildness within ourselves. For our peers to accept us, we first need to accept ourselves. After all, if we can’t defend our own values and interests, others won’t respect them. We need to be so comfortable being ourselves that we’re willing to stand alone.

Belonging and fitting in are NOT the same thing.

This distinction is essential in the journey to belong. Brown argues that fitting in is selling out, and when we focus on fitting in, we’re really focusing on being accepted for having the same views and interests as everyone else—and it’s extremely rare that we’ll share every belief and interest with someone else. Belonging is about being accepted exactly as you are and having the integrity to stand up for your beliefs.

We shouldn’t base our friendships on shared dislikes.

Brown argues that it’s dangerous to base our friendships on a shared dislike of a belief or group of people. Doing so creates false acceptance and makes us likely to further adopt other dislikes of the group. Sometimes when we share a common belief with someone, we adopt their other interests or beliefs, even if they don’t truly align with our own views.

Braving the Wilderness teaches us to accept ourselves rather waiting for others to accept us. She teaches us to realize how ridiculous it is to focus our energy on making other people like us. We would all be much happier if we had the courage to be 100% authentically ourselves.

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