REVIEW: Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown

Hello friends, Naomi here!

I’m unashamed to admit that I have an addiction to self-improvement books. I have an entire library of them, and I’ve passed the penchant on to Helena and Alice. We thought the blog would be the ideal forum to share the tips we’ve picked up in the hope that it might encourage you all to continue educating yourselves in the COR arena of courage, openness and resilience.  We’ve created our own SWOT analysis for the reviews - Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Tips - and we will signpost you to important chapters and quotes.

Practicing what I preach and making myself vulnerable for a moment, I’ve had an incredibly tough few months with family. I've been trying to sit with the pain, look at it head on, and take it day by day, giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to feel. Last week, I escaped for a few days of sunshine and quiet, and of course I took an inspirational read with me: Brené Brown’s newest book, Braving the Wilderness. It helped me enormously; I hope you enjoy my review.

Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone

Brené Brown


An exploration of true belonging - through personal and collective courage and connection - in an era of fear and political division.


STRENGTH: Brené has a trademark style in which she merges research with storytelling and openness. This enables a qualitative understanding of emotions, accessible through simple language and clear case studies

WEAKNESS: Another of Brené’s traits is her absolute Americanness - she talks about her love of bluegrass music, and her support of safe gun ownership -  so the narrative may not resonate so much with a UK audience. The writing at times slips into a rather cheesy rhetoric, but I simply see this as an expression of Brené’s passion for the subject!

OPPORTUNITY: This is one for all of you who are despairing at the state of the world and the political and ideological divisiveness that is unsettling communities. Scaling it down, it also applies to our personal sense of belonging and fears of loneliness and vulnerability.  It’s a comforting reminder of what really matters amidst personal, and global, crises.

TIPS: Brené identifies 7 elements of trust which she breaks down into the acronym, BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault (referring to privacy), Integrity, Non-judgement, Generosity. Once you understand the elements, it can serve as a useful framework on many levels.


“If I had to identify one core variable that drives and magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions whilst at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people, my answer would be fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the pain of disconnection. Fear of criticism and failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of not measuring up. Fear.”

~ Chapter 3, High Lonesome: A Spiritual Crisis

“Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it. Our families and culture believed that the vulnerability that it takes to acknowledge pain was weakness, so we were taught anger, rage and denial instead. But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain [...] Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”

~ Chapter 4, People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.

“The foundation of courage is vulnerability - the ability to navigate uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It takes courage to open ourselves up to joy. [...] Pain is also a vulnerable emotion. It takes real courage to allow ourselves to feel pain. When we’re suffering, many of us are better at causing pain than feeling it. We spread hurt rather than let it inside.”

~ Chapter 7, Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.


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I received some heartbreaking news on Saturday.

I was meant to be hosting a party that evening to thank everyone that had supported me over the past few months. I thought about cancelling but realised that the alternative would be sitting on the sofa, weeping and wallowing. Instead, I surrounded myself with the people that care about me the most, and I told them exactly what had happened.

On what should have been a very bleak and anxious night, I was somehow able to laugh, chat and even have a dance. And when I crept upstairs for a cry, one by one each of my friends came up to join me, until the entire party was in my room, and I realised I wasn’t going to fall apart, because there were so many people there to hold me up.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers., stood out to me the most as Brené explains that true belonging comes from the belief in inextricable human connection. When we named the company, I hadn’t registered how important the term ‘collective’ was to our brand and company mission. Now I realise, it’s at the very core of everything we’re trying to achieve, (pun totally intended).

An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time
— Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers.

Lots of love, N x