Brené Brown on True Belonging & Accepting Yourself

What’s true belonging? What traits are necessary to exhibit true belonging?

According to Brené Brown, true belonging is the ability to express yourself honestly. It embraces the idea that being true to yourself supersedes what anyone else thinks.

Keep reading to learn more about this concept.

What Is True Belonging?

Brené Brown’s true belonging means 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. 

Clarifying the Term True Belonging

Brown’s concept of true belonging is difficult to define succinctly because she uses the book as a whole to fully illustrate this nuanced concept and what it looks like. Nonetheless, examining similar terms can help us better understand the phrase. True belonging is akin to what many refer to as living authentically: acting in alignment with your values and personality. However, true belonging also encompasses the result of living authentically—the feeling of being at peace because you don’t need to mold yourself to other people’s expectations. In this way, true belonging is more of a state of being or a state of mind, rather than a behavior. 

Brown also clarifies the term in her book Atlas of the Heart, where she describes true belonging as the near enemy of fitting in (rather than the strict opposite). Near enemies are two things that seem similar but actually oppose each other. In other words, fitting in resembles a good thing—feeling connected to and accepted by others—except it requires putting up a false front to avoid negative attention. Later in the guide, we’ll explore how you can achieve a state of “true belonging,” partly by avoiding its near enemy of “fitting in.” 

Prerequisites and Tradeoffs of True Belonging

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. 

The Role of Self-Awareness in True Belonging

Other experts suggest there may be another key requirement to say and enact what you genuinely feel: self-awareness. Even if you’re brave enough to speak up and willing to make yourself vulnerable, you must first understand yourself deeply to know what you want to say and what you believe. However, the concept of self-awareness itself is also difficult to define and impossible to ever fully achieve since we’re constantly evolving and learning about ourselves.

Although it may be a prerequisite to true belonging, increasing your self-awareness comes with its own tradeoffs that you’ll have to overcome in addition to those that Brown describes for true belonging. For example, through self-reflection, you may discover parts of yourself that you’re not proud of or are simply difficult to acknowledge. You might find, for instance, that you have little in common now with an old friend. On the other hand, self-awareness can help you set better boundaries and achieve self-acceptance by learning more about your needs and values. 
Brené Brown on True Belonging & Accepting Yourself

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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