Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Rate this book
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - A timely and important book that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture, from the #1 bestselling author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection

Look for Bren� Brown's new podcast, Dare to Lead, as well as her ongoing podcast Unlocking Us!


"True belonging doesn't require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are." Social scientist Bren� Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives--experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.

Brown argues that we're experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, "True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that's rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it's easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it's a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It's a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts." Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, "The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it's the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand."

5 pages, Audio CD

First published September 12, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Brené Brown

66 books47.8k followers
Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. Brené is also a visiting professor in management at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.

She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and her latest book, Dare to Lead.

Brené hosts the Unlocking Us Podcast and the Dare to Lead Podcast. Her TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 50 million views. She is also the first researcher to have a filmed lecture on Netflix. The Call to Courage special debuted on the streaming service in April 2019.

Brené lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Steve. They have two children, Ellen and Charlie.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
42,772 (43%)
4 stars
33,594 (34%)
3 stars
16,353 (16%)
2 stars
4,218 (4%)
1 star
1,518 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,841 reviews
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
December 15, 2017
She phoned this one in. There's good stuff in here because she's awesome, but there's not enough to warrant a new book. I do wish she would try again to think through tribe and inclusion. Her insights are good and useful, but there is no coherent theory or story here.
Profile Image for Swrp.
561 reviews106 followers
July 11, 2021
Brené Brown`s Braving The Wilderness is, overall, based on the following `elements`:

- People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.

- Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.

- Hold Hands. With Stangers.

- Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

"No one belongs here more than you."

This book is indeed a worthwhile read and provides a perspective on many of the human factors that are missing or we seem to ignore.
Profile Image for Emma.
Author 12 books52 followers
September 24, 2017
Sorry Brene Brown, you lost me on this one. I love you but all I could think throughout this was "easy for you to say, white middle class Christian lady."
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,917 reviews35.3k followers
March 13, 2018
Library overdrive Audiobook.... read by Breen Brown
Note: I enjoyed this so much that I’m considering buying the Audiobook.
There may be thousands of people around the world who are huge fans .....
and even though I had read one of her books ( wasn’t all that impressed), and later listened to one of her Audiobook’s ( I was much more impressed), I still didn’t consider myself a fan of her work - and quite frankly I really didn’t really ‘get’ what her deal was in the world. In fact - I didn’t even know what she looked like until I read this book which lead me to research ‘her’ a little more.
A semi- famous- very successful social scientist called herself a “Research Storyteller”. It’s a perfect way to describe Brene Brown. By the way, I love her first name, Brene.

I admit - after listening to this Audiobook—I’m in! I’m a fan of the work she’s doing. The way she talked about belonging - as opposed to being excluded - had me looking at this topic from an angle I hadn’t thought about.
One of the early stories she shared about from her childhood had me wondering if I had ever abandoned my children in ‘spirit’ - from a look of disappointment- from my silence - from not comforting them when they needed me. It hurt to think that maybe at times I did ......and that even though 90% of the time I might not have - or even 99% of the time I didn’t .....one time - 1% could be enough to shift a child’s self. worth. Brene’s story was so powerful - I replayed the audiobook from the beginning to have Paul hear this story. Paul continued listening for a couple of hours -
since he’s not done - I guess I’m just going to buy it after all.

The topics & themes in “Braving the Wilderness”......are brilliant tools of gold —( she’s not preaching) —- she’s presenting years of research from SOCIAL STUDIES.
Her work presented in this book is AT LEAST engaging! She has our full attention!

The political issues issues she talks about - ways in which we divide - etc. are also interesting.

Brene is an animated spokeswoman. I happen to agree with the benefits - the concepts she speaks of learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable...sharing our vulnerability and being true to ourselves rather than trying to fit in. It can be very difficult to bring up uncomfortable issues in our relationships- we make mistakes - don’t always do it right - but with practice we get better. By avoiding confrontation in order to feel more comfortable- nothing gets accomplished - and ‘inside’ we really don’t feel any better. Brene details effective ways that help support tricky situations we all face in life....Not from winging a good idea...she speaks from years of THAT RESEARCH AGAIN.

Paul, my husband, was equally as impressed with Brene Brown on this Audiobook as I was.
Her dedication to ‘research’ shows and her authenticity is clear!
Personal value isn’t instantly measurable - but it couldn’t possibly be so - instead its a little at a time. As we listen and explore the things Brene presents - we are slowly taking in alternative effective ways to support more joy, satisfaction, inspiration, empowerment, and love with ourselves and others.

Brene Brown is an excellent- gifted speaker. Easy on the ears!!!
Profile Image for ttg.
442 reviews156 followers
November 8, 2017
I'm a fan of Brown's work (and TED talk), but this was just okay. I don't think she had enough pulled together/thought through for a full release, so it feels not as complete. As if rushed for a deadline.

I like the ideas of being brave with one's conviction, and willing to put yourself out there, even if you're alone to stand up for what you believe, but this still felt very *white* and from a protected, "majority" space.

Two pieces that frustrated me.

A) At one point, Brown tells the story of a pastor that speaks up for LGBTQ rights. This story is to help illustrate how one, even in the face of the (potentially homophobic christian) community they serve, they are will to stand up in support of others. This was described as Bravery, which it is for those who are in a community that encourages you to stay quiet in your majority comfort.

What would have *also* been nice is to pair stories of people coming from majority/dominant culture along with those who have had to break out into the wilderness much much earlier, out of necessity, because they are NOT the majority. Because they are queer, or disabled, are not white, etc. The narrative around bravery is "different" when it feels less like a choice, but it's no less Brave. The focusing on the straight pastor supporting LGBTQ rights, but not including a story of an actual LGBTQ person alongside it felt more...performative for the sake of the narrative. (Not that the pastor is performative. Just how her story is being used here.)

At one point, those Braving the Wilderness are likened to being at a outdoor dance party, like, "I want to go to There"- the place where people are free, dancing and Brave, but without also giving time to those that are out there dancing because For Real, they have Zero choice, and had not been given the option to go Inside. So, some are out in the Wilderness making the best of what that means, and yes, sometimes that means dancing. Some might be out in the wilderness and are sad, or lonely, or are just doing their laundry, but they're still in the Wilderness, because they are living their Non-Majority lives. It felt like for Majority people, like say, straight people, white people, abled people, they can Choose the Wilderness, and then have the cool option of touristing to the Wilderness Dance Party, but then still not really fathom the chasm the rests between those that Choose to go back Inside, like when it gets cold or really really hard, and those that still have to be outside no matter what.

B) The second point that really frustrated me was the call for civility in these discussions as we Brave the Wilderness. This part felt really really White Lady Liberal Feminism. Like, "If only you told me that criticism about my behavior in a nicer tone, or if you did it in a compliment sandwich, I would more likely listen to you tell me about that racist thing I just did."

I think calling for people to be civil is fine. Let's be nice to each other, sure. BUT, if it's being pushed and also it's not discussed how calls for civility are often weaponized by white people, especially White Women, as a way to control the conversation (and STILL end up oppressing others.) I feel like white people especially, and I'm a white woman, need to walk into those "Let's be civil" conversations with a full understanding of how we abuse those specific calls to action for our own favor- to protect us, make us less uncomfortable, and put the burden on others to have to adjust to what we think is Real Civil Discourse. I found Brown's call for civility without cautioning about how that argument often abuses people of color to be troubling.

So, for me, as a queer disabled person, I found this book is probably "nicer" and more inspiring if you're coming from the Majority space. Where it can feel novel/scary to stand up for someone who is different than you.

If you're coming from a not-majority space though, it may not feel as connected as you may wish it to be.

My last point that frustrated me is that I wish Brown showed more data. Often she writes, "The data showed us that people feel like X," but never lists more concrete data. it's very general about big points, and it normally made me wish for something slightly heavier on the science part of social science.

I listened to the audio version, and thought Brown did a fine job on the narration. I like her voice, so it was nice to listen to.
Profile Image for Dawna.
221 reviews5 followers
January 1, 2019
I thought I liked Brené Brown. I like her in quotes—small, thoughtful snippets made into pretty memes—but I found this book insufferable.

The bulk of the first (long) chapter is all about how Brené never fit in. Grab a tissue, you might need it: She never got invited to the white kids’ birthday parties because she had a black sounding name on the class list, for a short time she was the non-Catholic kid in a Catholic school, students register for her courses on race relations and then feel blindsided when it’s white woman teaching the course, she’s on the fringe in her professional life because she likes to swear and talk about God, worst of all, she didn’t feel like she belonged in her family of origin because she didn’t make the drill team. Yes, the drill team.

I’m just like, Becky, please. You’re a straight, white, blonde, Christian woman raised by your biological parents. You belong everywhere.

The problem isn’t that those things weren’t hard. I’m sure they were. Life is hard for everyone. But to claim to be an authority on how it feels to not belong based on that much privilege is pretty gross. Especially when you go on to suggest something blasphemous like (Queen) Maya Angelou is wrong in one of her most famous quotes because it didn’t speak to your specific brand of pain.

A middle chunk of the book is devoted to talking about how as a society we have become hyper-polarized. Our “us vs them” culture is making us all feel lonely and like we don’t belong. There is some interesting and compelling research shared here. We undoubtedly have a problem. Brown says the solution to this is that we should all just seek to understand the pain behind those we disagree with, going as far as to say maybe if we understood the pain motivating the white supremacist, we wouldn’t fear them. Hold up again, Brené. You as a white woman may be able to safely engage in finding common ground with a white supremacist, but my black kids sure couldn’t—and shouldn’t. It might feel good to talk about finding common ground and fostering a society where it is safe to have different opinions, but it’s actually not safe for a lot of marginalized people to engage with those who seek to oppress them. To suggest otherwise shows a tremendous lack of awareness.

Learning to belong to yourself is important and life affirming. I wish that’s what this book had really been about. There are probably some great pull-out quotes that would make it sound like that is what this book is about. Maybe I’ll find one and make a meme.

But, really, this is just a woman speaking from a place of unchecked privilege, who (based on her career and her connections) really should know better.
Profile Image for K.
186 reviews708 followers
January 7, 2021
Lol this lady said I cant call cops pigs cause it's dehumanizing language. No wonder Obama likes her. Also? I'm confused this book is really just a bunch of stuff thrown together? I didn't get the point lol. Her examples of braving the wilderness included wearing clogs at a business conference. This book frames being a centrist as being radical and out and alone.

What Brown describes as "the wilderness" is actually just liberalism eating itself alive because when people are pushed they realize that their political analysis is just three "be nice to everyones" in a trenchcoat. The inability to form an opinion that ruffles feathers (but pretending she is??), the inconsistency of views, the "see both sides" of it all. The "not all Republicans." The push to make people avoid wanting to spend time with people with similar political views (so, values), but then also saying she supports Black people? The racist obsession with civility? Spoiler: she found the womens march to be too left. This is just whiteness repackaged as something radical. The only thing I took from this book is the 7 elements of trust, 'the lonely feeling,' why we shouldnt make fun of people we care about, and Maya Angelou being a badass, along with parent's ability to impact your confidence.

The loneliness Brown speaks of is isolation that is created by capitalism. The "tension" and "division" she complains about is white supremacy. No, pain does not drive ALL harm, no you cant support Black people and the structure of policing, and no you can't say your family is against romanticising violence and on the SAME PAGE say that you encourage people to enlist and serve. There is no *true* analysis of power, because that would cause genuine self reflection that she as a white person isn't prepared for. I can't believe her writing is so popular, I'm actually mad lol. It's not profound. Actually I can believe it. People believe that you can just "be kind" your way out of the political mess we are in. 1 star.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,631 followers
February 26, 2018
This book came to me at just the right time. I found it meaningful, heartfelt, and the themes of belonging and being brave really resonated with me.

I know Brené Brown has quite the cult following, but this was the first book of hers I have seriously read. A few years ago I had The Gifts of Imperfection foisted on me at work, and I was underwhelmed by the book and ended up hate-skimming it. A few friends had loved Daring Greatly, and now that I have read and appreciated Braving the Wilderness, I'm ready to give another Brown book a try.

However, I will admit this isn't a perfect book. Brown tells a lot of stories, both hers and from friends and from her research in social work, but she repeats her themes a lot, and she doesn't give many specific details from her actual research. I was trying to describe this book to my husband, and struggled to accurately characterize it. It's part self-help, part memoir, part-psychology, and part inspirational.

The reason this book spoke to me, however, was because the discussion about the need to belong was so impactful that I texted several friends about the book. It's a good book to read during these divisive political times, and I would recommend this book to anyone trying to survive the Trump era with their mental health intact.

Favorite Quote
"Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don't belong. You will always find it because you've made that your mission. Stop scouring people's faces for evidence that you're not enough. You will always find it because you've made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don't negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you."
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,205 followers
October 3, 2020
Refreshing. Honestly it was exactly what I needed. I love that the author doesn't take sides, she just speaks the data. It definitely had an impact on my midset.
Profile Image for Tucker.
385 reviews105 followers
March 2, 2018
Brene Brown’s new book “Braving The Wilderness” is her most vital and necessary book yet. The book’s subject is how to build and maintain connections and a sense of belonging while also staying true to ourselves and our beliefs. Through her research studies, personal experiences, and case studies combined with her remarkable perceptiveness and wisdom she provides essential directions through the wilderness of loneliness and disconnection. In today’s climate of divisiveness and separation, this is a book everyone should read. But it’s not some bitter medicine to swallow. As evidenced by her massively popular TED talks and books, her writing style and the accompanying research resonate with people and feed a real hunger for understanding, hope, and healing. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
602 reviews18.7k followers
November 10, 2018
I picked up this book because it was listed as a must-read book by someone I respect and whose tastes are similar to mine. I went to it completely blind and when the author mentioned Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling in the opening chapter I knew I was going to like it. 

“The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid—all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind.”

The book examines the meaning of belonging, what does it mean? How do you achieve it? Should you seek it? It also explores other topics such as solitude, pain, love, and community. The author is a social scientist who shares with us her experiences and insights.

I'm glad I picked up this title. If you want to learn more about the author Brené Brown you can watch her TED Talk video "The Power of Vulnerability". 

~~~EDIT: forgot to mention I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by the author, I like it when authors read their own books. Also, there is a HUGE Harry Potter spoiler (book 6) .

It was ok with me because I've already read the series but I want to warn other readers in case you haven't yet (BTW, what are you waiting for to read it?). That spoiler section really moved me, it touched me and brought tears to my eyes, really loved it.
Profile Image for Renee.
90 reviews
September 16, 2017
Although I like Brene Brown, I have to admit that this book was quite a bit of a letdown for me. I was looking for so much more. I don't feel that there was enough "new" information to warrant a new book, let alone a 163 page book that has a $28 price tag attached to it. In the end, Brene published a book on the backs of the numerous people that she quotes throughout the short book. I'm not impressed.
Profile Image for Bharath.
568 reviews432 followers
January 26, 2019
While I have read blogs and passages of Brene Brown before, this is the first of her books that I have read. I did know what to expect as a result of my following her work so far, and this book lives up very well to the expectations I had.

A large part of self-help literature plays on fear – talking about the need for transforming ourselves with a great sense of urgency, else we are doomed to failure in a world which is changing at a rapid pace. Over the past few years, Mindfulness literature and practice taught me on how that approach makes learning and life so less joyful than it should be. Brene Brown outlines wisdom and approaches which will work very well, drawing on her experience and research. She outlines true belonging very unambiguously and how you can make it a part of your life.

The book starts with a moving account of her difficulties in the early part of her life, and how inadequate she felt. It took many years and support from well meaning people who understood her to accept herself first, before offering herself to others. As she says “True belonging doesn't require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are."

This book also provides the best explanation for the divisions we see in society, exacerbated in social media platforms. People have ended up sorting themselves into like minded groups, each battling the other to prove themselves right. Media now provides a giant, self-reinforcing feedback loop with people using it to further cement their intransigence.

None of us need to fit in – and can all find our own way. But it requires accepting ourselves and being brave in choosing our path.

It is not that you will agree with all she says, as she herself points out (for instance I disagree with her position on guns), but the book offers a great framework for an enriching connect and dialogue.

An excellent book I strongly recommend you read for its soul – is truthful and unpretentious. Many of the good Mindfulness books offer good supplementary reading material and practical techniques on similar lines.

My rating: 4.5 / 5.
Profile Image for Libby.
575 reviews157 followers
October 1, 2020
4+ - This is a very poignant and up-close look at the human need for belonging. Author, Brené Brown is a (qualitative) research professor who has studied vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. In this book, she shares valuable personal and professional experience and it certainly resonated with me. I think many young girls will be able to put themselves in Brown’s shoes as she writes about her experience of trying out for the Bearkadettes, a high school drill team. Her family had just moved to Houston, and Brown was looking for her crowd, a group with which she could identify. With eight years of ballet under her belt, she learned the routines and with a liquid diet, she lost the weight needed for that critical try-out day. But, when she showed up, she was in regular clothes while the other girls had on school colors and heavy make-up. The day she went to the school to get the results of the try-out, her family waited in the car. As another girl shrieks and is hugged by her Dad, Brown realized she didn’t see her number on the paper. She hasn’t made the team. Most impactful is how she relates the feeling of being alone and when she returns to her car, her family must have sensed the results. Brown writes, “My parents didn’t say one word. Not a single word. The silence cut into me like a knife to the heart.” At this point, Brown experiences the horribleness of thinking that she doesn’t even belong in her family.

Brown shares Maya Angelou’s quote, “You are only free when you realize you belong no place--you belong every place--no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” Even though Angelou is one of Brown’s favorite people in all the world, Brown couldn’t reconcile herself to this statement. This book tells how she got to the other side, the side where she began to understand and accept the truth in Angelou’s words. The journey took years. This is a beautiful narrative about finding the courage to be who we are. It reminded me of what I’ve known for some time, close friends and family are super important, but it’s equally important that they accept us for who we are without trying to make us fit some mold or trying to change something about us they don’t like (beliefs, lifestyle, career). This is a two-way street.

This is a book for anyone interested in the social sciences. Belonging and connection are two of the most important facets of wellbeing, and Brené Brown brings acute and needed insights to the discussion. For parents interested in providing the healthiest medium for growth and robustness for their children, this book is a tool. I listened to this as an audiobook which was read by the author. Her narration was clear and easy to understand.
Profile Image for Kalyn Nicholson.
Author 3 books9,487 followers
November 8, 2020
I listened to the audio version of this book and found it incredibly insightful. I thought this book would focus merely on learning to speak your truth and own who you are, even if it means you end up an "outcast" per se (which it rightfully is that book and delivered on that front). It ended up also being a book about breaking down the walls of false dichotomies and mending the barriers that form from the judgment, shame, rage, and ridicule that often accompany them. It felt even more profound given the world's social climate today and, with it, brought a sense of hope with stories and experiences of human connection that saw past differentiating beliefs and political views. Brown dissects the concept that one can only truly belong to oneself, and to do so, is not required to change who they are but rather be who they are. She also validates the fear and shame that often accompanies forging your path or opinion in life while motivating the listener to do so anyway with helpful tips along the way. The book dives deeply into the differences between fitting in and belonging, along with the importance of finding the courage to speak up and do what is right. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a deep sense that our world could be a better place if we could find more civilized ways to work through our challenges, differentiating beliefs, and personal opinions.
Profile Image for Joy Matteson.
591 reviews54 followers
July 27, 2017
It ended TOO SOON. *cries silently*
Brown's words are life-affirming, challenging. Her books tend to re-verberate in my soul, in my mind--so I'm actively savoring them as I go about my day.

I belong to myself--and I belong to no one. Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.

Pithy, perhaps--cliched, maybe. But there's simplicity in the brevity here, as one knows Brown has done an avalanche worth of data analysis to back up her simplified phrases.
Profile Image for Calista.
3,803 reviews31.2k followers
April 27, 2020
I LOVE me some Brene Brown. She is a Shame Researcher and she uses all her data to come up with ways of coping with life that work so we can thrive.

This book is about the Wilderness. We deeply desire to fit in and when we take a stand about what we really believe sometimes that gets us thrown out of the groups we belong too. This is the Wilderness. It's a place of creativity and it can be a place to thrive, but he had to have an inner strength and strong back and vulnerability to stand in that Wilderness on our own. To be not belong is difficult, but there are huge rewards for doing so.

She makes 8 points: Everywhere and Nowhere; Quest for True Belonging; High Lonesome: a Spiritual crisis; People are Hard to Hate close up. Move in; Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil; Hold Hands, with Strangers; Strong BAck, soft front, Wild Heart.

This is what I needed right now in this moment. I wrote up the margins and I need to really do some work with this material. So much of what she says in this hit home and are things I really need to work on right now. I have some big issues and much of them are touched on in this book.

I have always felt like an outsider and I realize some of that is me and its become a habit of mine to start out feeling that way. It's not helping me right now. I can also be afraid of speaking up because I don't want to be kicked out when I feel like I'm in the group. I have a hard time feeling like I can speak freely, in my relationship and everywhere else. It can be crippling. I don't give in, I just keep quiet, but that's not a good thing either. I need a strong back. I have to develop that.

This book was perfect for where I'm at and what I need right now. I love Brene's work and feel she gets it all so right. It's not easy to be vulnerable, it really isn't. It doesn't always feel good either, but I can remember from my life that usually the times that I have done it with purpose have lead to some really amazing things and it wasn't as scary as I had it in my head. It feels like that takes energy and much of the time I don't feel like I have enough energy to do it.

I think I need to do a Brene re-read. I need to learn her techniques so I can really use them and change my life.
Profile Image for Northpapers.
185 reviews17 followers
February 22, 2018
I live and work in a beautiful but troubled neighborhood. In a given week, I work to build community under the shadow of racism, deportations, child abuse, poverty, and violence.

Each Monday, on my day off from work, I choose one short book that I hope will be restorative or nourishing in some way, and I read it from cover to cover. I call this my "Sabbath book." I've spent a few wonderful Mondays in the company of books like Jesus and Nonviolence by Walter Wink, Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Lime Tree by Cesar Aira.

This Monday, as I finished the last page and closed the back cover of Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness in the early afternoon, I felt a deep sense of loss. With a week of crises looming, I wasted my day of rest on a shallow book.

Self-help books form the inverse of Tolstoy's maxim about families. Each good self-help book is good in its own way, but bad ones tend to be bad in the same way. They name a widely-felt need. Then they roam across the fields of science, poetry, art, celebrity biography, autobiography, and famous speeches, ripping thoughts out of context and placing them in a skin-deep narrative that soothes its readers.

I will not be soothed.

This book is packed full of dramatic stories and worthwhile ideas, but they're spread too thin to be nourishing. It lacks real development.

I agreed with much of what Brown says here, with three tensions. Had she developed her thoughts a little more, I might have either directly disagreed or come around to her way of thinking. But she didn't, so here are my problems.

I don't believe in what I think she means by "standing alone." Realization of our gifting and identity doesn't happen apart from community. In my experience in the difficult world of community development and activism, rugged individualists burn bright and burn out quickly. I believe that we are inevitably members of communities, and that in large part, we are who we are within and because of community, even if we live in tension with those communities in some ways. She suggests this line of thinking, but she does so in fragmented ways that seem more like contradiction than development.

Also, I don't feel like everyone can or should reach the shiny levels of self-realization from which Brown writes. It's good to be yourself, but your self relates to a bunch of other selves, and for each bestselling, articulate, self-actualized voice, there are a bunch of number-crunchers and manufacturers and janitors and nurses and teachers and landscapers and whoever else has to make the world work for iconoclasts. This is where the emphasis on her autobiography feels more alienating than inspiring. Again, I'm not directly contradicting anything she says, but I did find it somewhat unmoving.

Her "research," which I'm told is very good, isn't really presented in a compelling way. I don't need to know all the information, but the sparse little fragments here are more illustrative than convincing. Pretty much all she reveals about her method is that she interviews a lot of people, which is cool I guess.

In general, I like what Brown has to say. And people I trust have been moved by her books. But I found this one to be a thin and uninspiring waste of my Monday. And I'll admit that I'm probably angrier about that than I should be.
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
375 reviews548 followers
March 4, 2021
"Braving the Wilderness" by Brene Brown is an enlightening read!

‘True belonging doesn't require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.’

I love watching Brene Brown on YouTube talk about her research, the processes, the findings and the stories she tells along the way. She's what I term as 'real' because in the mix of what she does, she always includes something about herself. She lets the audience feel her vulnerability. She exposes herself, talks to them in depth about it with humor. That's not only real, it's brave!

But, I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book. Frankly, the title confused me. How can you belong if you're alone? That doesn't make sense to me. Still I was curious enough, especially after reading the synopsis. So there I go dipping my toes into the wild! Yep, being brave!

Listening to Brene was enlightening! It was no different than watching her on YouTube, only this time she was in my ear buds teaching me. She was sharing her stories through chapters and lessons about how to be brave. I learned that having the courage to stand alone means belonging to yourself!

Brene had never felt she belonged. Even as a young girl, she didn't feel like she fit in with her parents and siblings. She felt different, isolated, apart. Belonging felt like a mission she couldn't achieve. I felt that way, too!

Brene long admired the work of Maya Angelo. But, there is a quote on belonging that she deeply disagreed with. Dr. Angelo stated:

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place--you belong every place--no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” ~ Maya Angelo

Brene couldn't believe what she was hearing! This was just wrong! She didn't think Maya understood the power of belonging. If there was validity in that statement, then the world would just be a bunch of lonely people. Belonging is essential!

In researching this book, Brene found her own true belonging. She discovered there is vulnerability and courage to standing alone. It was a four year journey of sifting through old data and collecting new data to develop a Theory of True Belonging:

"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."

I loved listening to this book narrated by the author. I loved it so much, I also bought a printed copy so I could refer to the lessons, refresh my memory and practice true belonging, as needed.

"Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don't belong. You will always find it because you've made that your mission. Stop scouring people's faces for evidence that you're not enough. You will always find it because you've made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don't negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you."

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy reading about the social sciences, who welcome and embrace change, who strive to be better individuals and who believe in truly belonging to themselves!

Profile Image for Emily Troutman.
62 reviews1 follower
September 17, 2017
I usually love Brene's books, but this one just didn't seem to move me like the others have. I don't fully understand why she felt the need to make it so political. The same points could have been made, in my opinion, without them.
Profile Image for Amanda.
106 reviews57 followers
October 19, 2017
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluations, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”

This was my first time reading anything by Brené Brown, but I can envision myself reading more of her work in the future. Brown provides useful insight into the the increasing disconnect between people, especially political polarization. Even if you find yourself disagreeing with some of her opinions, there’s a lot of food for thought here.
Profile Image for Whitney.
131 reviews49 followers
July 25, 2019
Overall: “Strong back, soft front, wild heart.” This book is absolutely amazing and should be required reading for life for everyone 10/10

Summary: This book is an exploration with meticulously done research and insight on the growing divide between people, loneliness, an analysis of what “belonging” truly means. Amazing insight and perspective. This book should be required reading for everyone and will leave you a better person.
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

The Good: The central message of this entire book is that true belonging starts with ourselves. In addition to being an exploration and analysis of belonging and what it means to be yourself, she also touches on so many other important points and issues in todays world. She offers insight and perspective on many difficult issues and the best part is she offers practical ways of dealing with many of these problems rather than just theorizing. See the quotes section below (there are so many more than just these) but wanted to include an example here of that practical approach and application of her writing; this woman is truly brilliant.

“1. People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.
2. Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.
3. Hold Hands. With Strangers.
4. Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.”

The last point was one of my favorites of the book and she touches back on the themes throughout. The book is beautifully written, deep but not too deep, short enough that nothing ever feels drawn out or “preachy,” and there are points throughout that you will relate to on a personal level. The absolute best part of the book is the fact that there are perspectives and insight we can take from it and use every day in our own lives.

The Bad: Nothing!

Favorite Quotes:
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

“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.”

“We are complex beings who wake up every day and fight against being labeled and diminished with stereotypes and characterizations that don’t reflect our fullness. Yet when we don’t risk standing on our own and speaking out, when the options laid before us force us into the very categories we resist, we perpetuate our own disconnection and loneliness. When we are willing to risk venturing into the wilderness, and even becoming our own wilderness, we feel the deepest connection to our true self and to what matters the most.”

“Belonging so fully to yourself that you're willing to stand alone is a wilderness -- an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can't control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it's the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

“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.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
52 reviews2 followers
September 13, 2017
The best description I have for Brene' Browns' books is she is constantly dropping truth bombs on my head and Braving the Wilderness is no exception. Navigating issues like shame, the persisting feeling of loneliness that people feel in a world that is more connected than ever, and how to humanize people who believe differently than ourselves, are not easy issues to tackle. Brown does so with research backed data and stories from her own life with ease.

"But the more we're willing to to seek out moments of collective joy and show up for experiences of collective pain-for real, in person, not online-the more difficult it becomes to deny our human connection, even with people we may disagree with. Not only do moments of collective emotion remind us of what is possible between people, but they also remind us of what is true about the human spirit. We are wired for connection. But the key is that, in any given moment of it, it has to be real."
Profile Image for Jennie Chantal.
372 reviews25 followers
March 18, 2019
I wanted so much more from Brene. I had read some criticisms of her very white feminism over the last several years and she has spoken out more on social media condemning racism so I really hoped this book would be different in some ways from her past books. It's not. I stopped reading around 50 pages in because I know how angry this book will make me.

Angry because she is clearly setting this book up to be, in part, about tone-policing. About "civility and tolerance" in the face of growing white supremacy, fascism, and neoliberalism that is joyfully killing people and destroying lives and communities across the planet, as well as destroying families and communities from within. As another reviewer said, her understanding of systemic oppression is lacking and that makes her work dangerous because it empowers her (primarily white) audience to believe that we don't need to "change who we are" we just need "to be ourselves". Yes, this is wise in many aspects of life but what is needed right now are (white) people willing the get vulnerable and uncomfortable with the truth about white supremacy in ourselves and our families and to change who we are.

I stopped reading when she writes about how the "collective spiritual crisis" we are in is not about any of these issues but about "lonliness".

Until Brene really wakes up to how deeply her research and her interpretations of the data happen through her lens as a white, cisgender, hetero, ablebodied, educated and class privileged person her work will only contribute to the propagation of a white feminism that is more concerned with being nice than with hard and uncomfortable work of changing ourselves for the liberation of others.
Profile Image for Liza Fireman.
839 reviews141 followers
October 11, 2019
I will never get tired from listening to Brene Brown. She is so awesome, so authentic, so vulnerable. And on audio, she is even better. She is funny, witty and amazing.

In this book, Brene is talking much more about belonging, or the feeling of not belonging. A tough feeling. And the small tiny incidents are the ones that create sometimes the largest scars of are souls. Here is one such example, soul crusher one.
The list was in numeric order. If your number was there, you’d made the team. If your number wasn’t there, you were out. I was number 62. My eye went straight for the 60s: 59, 61, 64, 65. I looked again. I just couldn’t process it. I thought if I stared hard enough and the universe knew how much was on the line, the number might magically appear. I was ripped out of my negotiation with the universe by Kris’s screaming. She was jumping up and down, and before I could make sense of what was happening, her dad had jumped out of the car, run up to her, grabbed her, and twirled her around, just like in the movies. I would later hear through the grapevine that I was a solid dancer but not really Bearkadette material. No bows. No shine. No group. No friends. Nowhere to belong.
I was alone. And it felt devastating.
I walked back to our station wagon and got in the backseat, and my dad drove away. My parents didn’t say one word. Not a single word. The silence cut into me like a knife to the heart. They were ashamed of me and for me. My dad had been captain of the football team. My mom had been head of her drill team. I was nothing. My parents, especially my father, valued being cool and fitting in above all else. I was not cool. I didn’t fit in.
And now, for the first time, I didn’t belong to my family either.

Brene is talking about the importance of belonging. not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. It broke all three for me.
And then there is one Maya Angelou's quote that she can't understand. She refuses to contain. And she does feel like there is some explanation to it, that should make sense. But there was one quote from Maya Angelou that I deeply disagreed with. It was a quote on belonging, which I came across when I was teaching a course on race and class at the University of Houston. In an interview with Bill Moyers that aired on public television in 1973, Dr. Angelou said:
You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

I love Brene's courage of being herself, not compromising on what she present. She talked about it also in The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage. When people ask her: can you leave shame out, we want the inspirational parts only. Just courage, not shame. Or being asked he’d like me to not curse. Brene is brave, authentic and awesome (I said that already, but it should be said many times). She says:
Bull. Shit. This is total bullshit. I’m not doing this. I’d rather never speak again. I am done moving.

I love her standing for who she is. And I wish more books like Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, who are extremely weak on the likability points, would learn this: There are lots of great teachers and speakers—you’ll just need to find one who will dress up, clean up, and shut up. That’s not me. Not anymore.
I shall not be moved.

Of course, I shall not be moved sounds a bit strong. But no one shall be tried to be moved to a place where they don't feel themselves anymore. And too many people, and too many places give the impression that they want us to be moved. Sometimes it's our imagination and fears (aka learn to try not to be liked by everyone, or else you will be a wall flower), and sometimes it is actually true (and terrible, and feels terrible).

Brene, keep going! And be your amazing self! And help others be their amazing selves! 4 stars. Brene is always great to listen to, she has a comic moments, and her painful/funny/great stories.
Profile Image for Reem.
383 reviews1 follower
September 27, 2017
I kinda hated it. I don’t understand why she chose to talk about American politics for half the book. I’m not American, and as much as am aware of what’s happening on that side of the world, I have no interest in reading about it. I felt like it was shoved down my throat.

It started out really well. But I didn’t really learn anything new. Also, I think I might’ve confused this book for something else. I thought she was working on a book called wholehearted living. I have no idea why I thought that but I assumed this book was going to be about that.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,204 reviews189 followers
December 7, 2017
I have been aware of Brené Brown’s work for a while now but had put off reading her because sometimes self-help seems a little too...something for me. I’m very committed to the idea that I am perfect in every way and therefore need no help of any kind. I’m also cynical and get squicky when venturing too far into feelings territory. Of course, since Brown has made a career of studying vulnerability and shame, reading her book challenged me a lot and made me consider some uncomfortable ideas. The themes of Braving the Wilderness are seemingly contradictory: finding belonging and gaining the courage to stand alone. But Brown explains how the two are inextricably tied together. While I’m still wrestling with some of her claims, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully agree with her on everything, I did take away one tidbit that for me was worth the cost of the book all on its own. She talks about how when we’re afraid, we want to cover the entire world with leather so that when we run up against things, they won’t hurt us. But of course that’s bound to fail because we can’t control everything about the world. Instead, we should put our shoes on. It’s a simple metaphor to express a simple idea, that we can only control ourselves and not the people or systems around us, but I realized I had been wasting a godawful lot of energy trying to bend and contort and force my world to be more accommodating of me, when what I should have been doing was armoring myself up a little bit.
Profile Image for My_Strange_Reading.
511 reviews82 followers
January 9, 2019
#mystrangereading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.5 stars) I only knocked it down .5 a star because I feel like you need to read her other books and studies before you can really understand and appreciate this particular read. It's such an important conversation, how do we belong to ourselves? How we do we handle conflict and not allow ourselves to be drawn into the us vs. them dichotomy that our current cultural and political climate lends us to do?

So incredible, and such a strong message. I will follow her to the ends of the Earth and listen to her speak on anything. She is always so well researched, and is the perfect combination of tough and tender.
Profile Image for Diana.
297 reviews23 followers
January 14, 2023
“Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them to construct their own stories—stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy of love and belonging.”

In Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown has eloquently called us out on the nature of our behavior toward one another when we disagree as well as our behavior toward ourselves in uncomfortable circumstances. How much of ourselves do we sacrifice in order to feel like we belong? How much of that need to belong do we sacrifice in order to stand for what we believe in? Not an easy question to address.

Someone, somewhere, will say, “Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.” This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, “I am the wilderness.”
Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,841 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.