Braving the Wilderness Book Summary - Braving the Wilderness Book explained in key points
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Braving the Wilderness summary

Brené Brown

The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

4.3 (310 ratings)
16 mins
6 key ideas
Audio & text

What is Braving the Wilderness about?

Braving The Wilderness (2017) challenges common notions about what it means to belong. It links feelings of unbelonging to feelings of anger and unrest, both in the United States and abroad. Brené Brown uses a potent combination of scientific research and storytelling to reveal what it means to truly belong. This includes remarkable tales of pain and suffering that show just how far people are willing to go to gain a sense of belonging.

About the Author

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and she’s spent over 15 years studying a range of feelings, such as vulnerability, courage, empathy and shame. Her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, has received over 30 million views worldwide and she’s written four best-selling books, including Rising Strong and Daring Greatly.

Table of Contents

    Braving the Wilderness
    summarized in 6 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 6

    We spend our lives looking for true belonging, and it can be painful to go without it.

    From childhood to adulthood, we’re all trying to find our place in the world – somewhere where we fit in perfectly and don’t stand out. In other words, we’re all searching for a sense of belonging, which is not only a desire but one of our primary needs.

    If we don’t find this feeling of belonging, it can be deeply painful.

    When the author, Brené Brown, moved to New Orleans, racism in the country was far worse than it is today and schools were still segregated. Due in part to her name, Brown found herself unwelcome in both black and white circles. Brown’s middle name, Cassandra, was considered African-American by her white classmates, so she was teased and never invited to their birthday parties.

    Brown did get invited to some parties by her African-American friends, but their parents were often shocked to see a white girl show up. Even though this was long ago, Brown can still recall the pain of being a four-year-old and feeling as though she didn’t belong.

    But even worse is feeling as though you don’t belong in your own family, which can become dangerous.

    When Brown was a teenager, her family moved back to Houston. At her new school, she wanted desperately to be part of the Bearkadettes, the school’s cheerleading team. In preparation for the tryouts, Brown went on a liquid diet that lasted two weeks. She practiced her routine non-stop. But, despite the fact that she nailed her performance, Brown was told she just wasn’t Bearkadette material.

    This was particularly heartbreaking for her since her mom had been a Bearkadette and her dad was once the star of the football team. Both parents voiced their disappointment, so she not only felt rejected by the cheerleading squad; she felt rejected by her family as well.

    Brown carried this feeling into adulthood, and, to fight the pain, she began drinking.

    Later, she joined Alcoholics Anonymous, but this support group brought little comfort. Her AA sponsor told her that she didn’t really fit in with the group and that she should try the Co-Dependents Anonymous group instead, which helps people form healthy relationships. But guess what – they didn’t want her either and recommended she look elsewhere.

    The problem was that Brown had too many addictions. Drinking and getting into co-dependent relationships were just the tip of the iceberg. These problems could be traced back to the rejection she felt as a child, and the pain of being made to feel she didn’t belong just continued to pile up.

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    Best quote from Braving the Wilderness

    True belonging is about breaking down the walls, abandoning our ideological bunkers, and living from our wild heart rather than our weary hurt.

    —Brené Brown
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    Who should read Braving the Wilderness

    • Readers interested in tales of courage, bravery, vulnerability and shame
    • Outsiders who feel like they don’t belong
    • Students of the social sciences

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