If you haven’t read Braving the Wilderness by the amazingly talented and inspirational Brené Brown I suggest you go buy, rent, or borrow it right now! It will change your life. Here are my takeaways from the three sections of this book that blew my mind; strong back, soft front, wild heart. Enjoy!
The saying “strong back” is often associated with hard work and an overall idea of strength. Our spine keeps us upright allowing us to stand tall and achieve many tasks. Our muscles support our spine by embracing its frailty and providing it protection. But this type of strong back is about courage. The courage to speak up despite an almost inevitable set of less than comfortable consequences. We demonstrate having a strong back when we hold ourselves up physically, emotionally, and morally. When we work a little longer and a little harder on the course of staying true to ourselves. Picture this, hundreds of people standing tall with their arms locked together forming a wall. They are all standing up for something. They. Are. ALL. And their locked arms keep up them upright in a statement of solidarity. Now picture this. One person steps forward for the line breaking the link. They are the ONE. They are not the ALL. And with the fear of rejection and judgment it would be easy for that one person to hang their head or worse, simply move back into the line. But imagine, just for a second. If that person stood there, tall and upright, scared shitless but somehow also fearless. What if their true beliefs acted as the muscles protecting their spine, while their spine resembled the links of courage it took to risk being labeled an outcast. This type of standing tall is not merely a physical appearance. It is an emotional, mental, and self rattling concept. Because even in a room of people who may be standing upright there are far more curved spines than the eye can see.
So many completely off topic thoughts raced through my head when I came across this saying. And when I mentioned it to a close friend she replied with “That sounds like my squishy belly…lol soft front”. Yes, with the holidays behind us the experiences of stretchy pants and oversized plates certainly could relate to a soft front, but this is different. This type of softness is possibly one of the hardest concepts to apply in our lives. It is that of vulnerability. Think back to the last time you were truly 100% vulnerable. If you are anything like me this may have been much more challenging than expected. As children we are often vulnerable. We are growing up in a world of unknowns. As we become adults those unknowns begin to hinder us. Our past traumas and pains, heartbreaks and failures have trained our minds to avoid vulnerability. It is bad. It is unsafe. Why would we open ourselves up to the chance of experiencing emotional or physical pain? Well, because it is absolutely vital. Vulnerability is a critical component of personal growth. I’m sure we all have heard someone say something like “After I felt that pain, I put up this wall”. And yes, we all know there is no physical wall, but it damn sure feels like it. Vulnerability comes in the form of having your heart broken and yet continuing to give love a chance. It is when your ideas repeatedly get shot down at work yet you continue to present them at meetings. With vulnerability comes the chance (and sometimes a very high chance) of discomfort, and as a species we have learned to avoid discomfort. But with vulnerability also comes the chance to truly engage, embrace and energize yourself. There are few rewards worth much if there is not risk involved.
I love this saying…”wild heart”. It makes me feel strong and fierce. It makes me want to go back in time and tell my teenage self to stay true to that wild heart of mine. But the idea of a wild heart is not great Facebook cover photos and wall quotes. It means stepping into the wilderness and becoming one with that part of your soul that thrives off of new experiences and new feelings. It is learning that your true belonging is in the wilderness of life. A wilderness so vast that you do not belong to any one such thing. You belong to everything. This next side note is extremely important…belonging to everything is not fitting in to everything. When we focus so much on fitting it we actually venture farther and farther away from a true belonging. True belonging is know that you can be in any situation, anywhere, anytime, with anyone and you can be you. Did you catch that? You. Can. Be. You. This takes a heightened sense of self awareness. A moment when you begin to jump into the gossip when your friends are bonding over their mutual dislike for someone, but instead you exit the room or simply change the subject. This does not mean you scold your friends for engaging in gossip…no, that is not your job. Your job is to stay true to your wild heart. You heart that is belonging everywhere, yet nowhere. Maya Angelou put it beautifully during an interview with Bill Moyers when she said “You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all.”
Now go, with your Strong Back, your Soft Front, and your Wild Heart. Share with the world the essence that is you.