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What does it mean to find true belonging? What does Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness say about forcing your opinions on others?

Braving the Wilderness claims that finding like-minded people can be damaging to your self-esteem and acceptance. This is because people tend to throw away their own beliefs to fit in with the crowd, losing a sense of self.

Learn more about the concept of true belonging with Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness quotes.

Braving the Wilderness Quotes

The desire to feel accepted by others is one of the most powerful human motivators—it often dictates how we speak and act to feel like we belong to a group. But according to researcher Brené Brown, striving for social acceptance instead of being true to ourselves breeds isolation and division by fueling the fear that we’re one misstep away from exclusion. 

True belonging, she says, is the ability to express ourselves honestly. True belonging doesn’t mean finding people who accept you; rather, it means embracing the idea that being true to yourself supersedes what anyone else thinks.

Let’s look at three of Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness quotes to get a better understanding of what it means to feel secure in your own values.

“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.”

Brown says that true belonging is feeling secure in communicating and living out your values despite what others may think. In contrast, fitting in means conforming with other people’s expectations. For example, if your family is talking about politics at the dinner table, and you disagree with everyone else, you might embody true belonging by challenging their opinions or explaining why you believe differently, even if it’s uncomfortable. Fitting in might look like nodding along with what others are saying to avoid a potential conflict. 

Brown emphasizes that true belonging requires bravery and vulnerability. You have to be brave to say what you believe and feel, even when doing so risks rejection and backlash from the people around you. They could be dismissive and rude—or your speaking up can pave the way for a thoughtful discussion. 

These are the tradeoffs of true belonging: You risk facing potential backlash, but you gain the possibility of meaningful dialogue and inner peace as a result of genuine self-acceptance. This is why Brown’s central metaphor for this challenge is the “wilderness”—a place where you never know what difficulties await and where you might feel alone and intimidated, but where you might also have some of the most rewarding experiences of your life. For example, in the previous scenario, if you speak up about your political beliefs, you may walk away from the situation with a sense of peace because you were honest, and with greater conviction in your beliefs. 

“People often silence themselves, or “agree to disagree” without fully exploring the actual nature of the disagreement, for the sake of protecting a relationship and maintaining connection. But when we avoid certain conversations, and never fully learn how the other person feels about all of the issues, we sometimes end up making assumptions that not only perpetuate but deepen misunderstandings, and that can generate resentment.”

Brown explains that the instinct to find like-minded people becomes counterproductive when we believe that everyone in a group must agree on everything or else be ostracized. This thinking results in people policing what others within a group are saying, and it also leads to people self-monitoring to make sure they’re not stepping out of alignment with the group. These behaviors make people feel less connected and afraid to express themselves honestly because inclusion in the group is conditional—it relies on conformity. 

For example, say you have a friend group that generally agrees on big political issues. However, when the issue of climate change comes up, you find that you have slightly different opinions:  Your friends believe that the government should enforce strong regulations in the energy industry, and while you agree that policy reforms are important, you also worry about the economic implications of the policies they advocate. In this scenario, you might feel afraid to express your opinion, thinking the others will be offended by your stance and won’t want you in their friend group. As a result, you feel isolated and uneasy because you’re hiding part of yourself. 

In addition, Brown suggests that if you’re making other people feel like they shouldn’t openly disagree with you, this prevents you from understanding that despite our differences, we’re all connected to one another as humans. This is because if you’re policing others’ opinions, you’re focusing on what divides us rather than the underlying values that unite us. For example, returning to the climate policy example, the opinions of you and your friends likely stem from the same underlying value of compassion: You want to avoid job loss due to policy changes, and your friends want to mitigate the impact of climate change on people. 

“Research shows that playing cards once a week or meeting friends every Wednesday night at Starbucks adds as many years to our lives as taking beta blockers or quitting a pack-a-day smoking habit.”

A way to foster true belonging is to increase our shared connection as humans. Brown says we can remember what unites us by being present with others during euphoric and painful moments. These include gatherings of people—especially with strangers—such as a group working together on a task (like building a house) or a large protest. 

The commonality in these gatherings is a shared emotional experience: Love, grief, and everything in between are what bind us together as humans, no matter how different we may seem or how challenging it can be to relate to one another. Brown notes that in-person interactions are essential for feeling the power of a shared emotional experience because digital “gatherings” don’t quite have the same impact as being together in the same physical place. 

Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness Quotes on Individuality

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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