“Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown
A sense of belonging is something that is inherently important to us. Even if your ‘belonging’ means wanting to be left alone and forage in the forest, the likelihood of finding other people who think just like you is high. Your thought isn’t unique nor is your desire for success, belonging, wanting to feel safe and loved. We are all after something and we are bound to find others who want just the same thing as us.
As a result, however, this can lead to jealousy and a very skewed view of the world. Because if all we ever do is seek out like-minded people who want or think in the same way we do, for whatever reason, our world doesn’t becomes very small and closed off. And that brings about a whole load of challenges to diplomacy.
To help us get to grips with balancing work with the rest of life, we recommend the book “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” by Brené Brown to support Chapter 4 “Know Thyself” of the Diplomatic Planner. This book has been described as an important and timely piece of work that challenges everything we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities. In a time where social media has connected us all, we are only connected to those we agree with and link feelings of unbelonging to feelings of anger and unrest. Rather than uniting us in a global community that forms around common goals, our societies are only dividing more and more towards hate and ‘othering’. It is easier to find people who agree with our pocket worldview which makes conflict resolution a lot more difficult.
From childhood to adulthood, we are all searching for a sense of belonging which is not only a desire, but a primary need. No one wants to feel alone or isolated, so forming groups or factions becomes our primary need, but this doesn’t solve our feeling of loneliness but further intensifies it. To help us counter this, Brown encourages us to look within and ask ourselves some very difficult questions to find peace and understand our place in the world.
She notes: “There will be times when standing along feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainly. 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 heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.’”
So how does one make it through the wilderness alone? From the author’s point of view, true belonging means belonging to yourself and no-one else, and this truly is something that we all have the power to control. Rather than spending so much time and energy seeking a sense of belonging from others, we must learn to accept ourselves for who we are. True belonging happens when you stop seeking the acceptance of others by accepting yourself first.
Brown emphasises how we must be brave in order to accept ourselves as we are and trust the journey through the wilderness. The metaphorical wilderness is any territory that lies outside of your comfort zone. When you’re faced to confront your vulnerabilities or uncertainties, you go through a journey of levelling up and breaking through the plateau.
Brown says: “True belonging is about breaking down the walls, abandoning our ideological bunkers, and living from our wild heart rather than our weary hurt.”
To successfully find your way, you need to know how to listen, and be willing to engage in some painful and difficult conversations so that your fear doesn’t control you. This means speaking with people who do not agree with you. We must learn to get unstuck from this “feedback loop” that validates our news and further disconnects us from any outside information. We should seek places and experiences that unify us and avoid the ones that have the opposite effect.
When you begin your journey toward belonging, you will find a path filled with contradictions. Use this path by focusing on what you hear and see firsthand, rather than what you hear on TV. Brown goes on to say: “Human solidarity is more truthful than the political rhetoric used to divide people.” When we learn to be civil with one another and be open to learn from misguided truths, only then can we start to work on reconciliation and accept each other for what and who we are.
Another tip for uniting rather than dividing is to show neighbourly compassion in times or sorrow, even if you don’t know that person well. It sends a strong signal of solidarity and helps to build a safer community. After the 9/11 attacks, there was a healthy period of collective grieving. Americans united around feelings of patriotism and put their flags on windows rather than having an in-depth conversation about religion, race or identity. This process helped everyone connect with each other and to move forward as a unit.
Every human being has an innate need to belong and a whole lifetime can be spent searching for it. In short, belonging is really about finding out who we really are and accepting this discovery, and Brown’s book helps us on the very beginning of this discovery.
“Braving the Wilderness” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development for diplomacy and internationals for professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practicable worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register