In a time when our connections are sometimes fueled by social media, women are seeking community now more than ever before. Many would happily swap their Insta-friends for the reestablishment of an IRL connection. We, constantly, are on a search for those elusive people, that tribe, who will just get us and fill our voids.
Social scientist Brené Brown’s new book, Braving the Wilderness, challenges this searching mentality by saying we first have to learn to stand alone before we can come together. In a divisive time within our country, with messages being flung at us from every angle, she says the outward search for community won’t work. It will get too muddy and will only skim the superficial surface. She shows us that getting to know yourself is really the first step in creating what our world needs most: true belonging and authentic connection.
Brown, also known for her popular work, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, defines true belonging like so:
“[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.”
Putting on a persona that we deem “right” or “cool” can be easier (and ultimately more draining in the long run) than digging deep into the internal work to find our true selves — but ultimately, that is where the connection begins.
Brown gives us four elements as a guide:
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.
Let’s explore each of them further…
People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
In the continued isolation that social media provides, Brown says it’s easier for us to get angry, stay angry, and voice that anger loudly, whenever we’d like, adding inflammatory fuel to the fire-of-the-moment. You may not be an angry person at heart, in fact you may have a loving home life and a career you’re flourishing in, but the structure that exists around our media makes it so we can “yell at each other from a distance.”
But can we shed our anger and recognize it for what it really is: pain? Once the pain is acknowledged we should talk to those with opposing views to understand their position or opinion. We must get to know the real why behind it, the nuances and anecdotes that brought them to this place. (You know, the things that make those raging social media comments more human.)
Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.
In this massive cycle of information in which we live, things can easily become a game of telephone. Take a fact and distribute it. Add some opinions and musings. Add in the continued passing along of information that mistakes opinions for fact. And then add in agendas. And persuasive language. And BOOM! you’ve created a whole new “truth” that Brown rightly deems as “bullshit.”
She also gives us permission to ask questions and be curious. Since we’re in a constant media storm it’s also assumed we’re familiar with the minutia of every current event and the latest movements of every “it” brand in the zeitgeist. Instead of adding to the misinformation, you can simply say you don’t know about a topic — and that admission and curiosity should be greeted with warmth and understanding, also known as civility.
Hold hands. With strangers.
Sadly, there is trauma everywhere, everyday, and it’s usually only in those moments that we realize how much we truly need each other. Collective joy and pain, no matter how big or small, Brown says, constantly reminds us that humanity is our common thread no matter our differences. The challenge, however, is being able to allow for this connection to happen. It takes vulnerability and can be hard. Can we practice opening up on a daily basis so human connection and commonality is more easily accessible, instead of waiting for the next tragedy to happen?
Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
In the quest to be a strong adult in all the varying roles we maintain there’s usually a slow hardening of ourselves to either protect or deflect from those little connections or big tragedies we spoke of earlier. In this section, Brown encourages us to have courage (a strong back), vulnerability (a soft front), and openness to paradox (a wild heart). Brown says, “A wild heart can also straddle the tension of staying awake to the struggle in the world, and fighting justice and peace while also cultivating its own moments of joy.” Ultimately, can we give ourselves permission to live in and thrive in the complexity that is human life?
Women, timelessly and tirelessly, exist in community to survive. Brown’s book is a reminder that we must go inward before we can search for our tribe. It’s only in finding our true belonging that we’ll be able to serve ourselves and communities in ways they truly need.
Kara Griffin is an LA-based holistic nutritionist, creative strategist, and health coach who lives (and works in) all things wellness. Get in touch with her on Instagram at @feelthiswithkara.