Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness

I’ve been a fan of Brené Brown for a while now, and after multiple people recommended her book, Braving the Wilderness, I decided I had to give it a read.

I’m a lover of hard-cover books that I can hold in my hands and read alone, but I decided to get the Audible version and listen during my walks. (Re-reading this sentence makes me alarmingly aware that I am 23 going on 74).

Not only did I love the book, the audio version is Brown reading it herself, so it feels even more genuine, even more important.

Let me start out by saying, I felt the beginning was slow to get into and the first two chapters took a bit of energy to get through. But it’s worth sticking out. The bulk of the book is a deep-hearted narrative that weaves scientific studies and statistical findings.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last sixteen years studying vulnerability and shame. Some of the statistics she shares throughout the book are insane. Like this one:

 “Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5%. Living with obesity, 20%. Excessive drinking, 30%. And living with loneliness? It increases our odds of dying early by 45%.”

How crazy is that? Feeling alone is deadlier than putting actual poison in your body. According to other research in the book, food, water, and connection are our three necessities. Which simply means: denying we are lonely is the same to our body and mind as denying that we are hungry. The long-term effects are just as dangerous and detrimental. (If you want to check out the full study from the meta-analytic review, you can download the PDF here).

While the book explores multiple themes, the central theme is the idea of true belonging. What it means to belong versus fit in. What it means to show up as we are, where we are. 

I could go on and on about the book, so I wrote a list of all I learned. 

It was one of those books I felt grateful to read. And some of the parts I’ll always carry with me are:

1. We belong to ourselves. 
It’s a big job, to know and understand that ultimately, how we feel, act, and choose our belonging is up to us. When we start carrying our lives as our own, we realize we belong anywhere that we show up honestly.

2. The kindest thing we can be is honest. 
I want to always, always be seen as the friendly, reliable person in a room. I want people to feel encouraged, acknowledged, and supported around me. But sometimes it zaps my energy entirely and I rarely know how to turn people away. Honesty is crucial. We can’t serve others and offer them joy if we are denying it for ourselves.

3. Hating the same people as someone else does not and will not ever foster genuine connection. 
Brené Brown calls this "common enemy intimacy". You can't create real roots in a relationship that's rooted in the idea of hate. The only thing you get out of gossiping about others is, maybe, fifteen minutes of a surface conversation.

But those talks we truly crave, the ones that leave us feeling lifted, inspired, and curious of the world? Those don't come from saying unkind things about someone.

4. We are all human, meaning if you believe in the goodness of people, and you recognize you are no more or less than others, you can't "hate" one side, one group, one collective society of people. 
Brown has this whole section where she talks about dehumanization- how we don't need government to segregate us and decide what people can and cannot be, we've already done this ourselves, by placing people in boxes and attacking them if they decide that box is not for them.

Brown goes on to say, you turn on the news and you are told what to fear and who to blame. And it is always other people, and it always leads to dehumanization: 

“Here’s what I believe: 1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May. 2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.” 3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman. 4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?” 5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

5. Replace "I am angry" with "I am hurt." 
Our anger and the world's anger, doesn't come from a place of being truly angry, but instead feeling unseen and unable to belong anywhere. This also goes with the above. How many angry people are just not understood? How quickly do we jump to anger when it's pain that needs tending to? Our world needs a lot more compassion. 

6. Sometimes life asks that we stand alone. 
My goodness, this is not easy. Sometimes we put up a good fight to keep fitting in. Sometimes we are called to walk away. And we stand out: alone, cold, nervous, alarmingly aware of how large and small we can feel at the same time. It's all temporary. I look at all the leaders I admire and adore and notice one thing: they have all been called to stand alone, to stand rooted in what they truly believe, before people saw the sense in it. 

But how wonderful it is to come to find where you feel most sincere and free, how wonderful it is to then find people that don’t ask you to fit in, but instead remind you of how you belong anywhere you get to show up as yourself. True belonging requires zero negotiation.

I'm linking the book here.
And you can download Audible and get a free book here.

And for anyone going through anything, take heart. We truly are all in this together, all searching for our place of belonging. Let go of the versions of yourself that no longer, or maybe never did, hold truth. There's better ahead than anything we’re asked to leave behind. 

Wishing everyone a beautiful day. 


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