In the episode, “Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart,” of On Being, author and research professor, Brené Brown sits with Krista Tippet to talk about the role of fear and courage in achieving true belonging. Sourcing from her own experiences, Brené explains the dynamics at play while people interact with one another as social beings.
Read this if...
- You find it hard to connect with people
- You want to know how to build relationships
- You’re interested in knowing more about yourself
Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. She has studied courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy for the past 20 years. She’s also the author The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead which were all New York Times bestsellers. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband Steve, and two children, Ellen and Charlie.
the distilld lessons (extended)
Humans have an innate need and desire to connect. We feel the need to do what we can to belong. We try to belong to religious or friend groups, the companies we work at, and our communities. Sometimes, we even have to work hard to belong even to our own families.
Sometimes, to belong, we change ourselves to connect with other people. The things we do in order to belong are the very things that’s keeping us from the sense of belonging we need.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do,” says Dr. Brené Brown, a renowned professor, researcher, author, and podcast host, on her website. For her, it’s not worth it to belong if we lose our true selves in the process.
So how do we truly belong? In this episode of On Being, Brené says that when we are true to ourselves, we can find belonging. She also shares her thoughts on true belonging.
Here are the distilld lessons inspired by the “Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart” episode of the On Being with Krista Tippet podcast:
1. Despite differences, we have innate connections with others.
Humans are innately connected. However, in today’s highly polarized political landscape, we’ve separated ourselves into what Brené calls “ideological bunkers.” In a 2017 interview, she attributed these factions to fear of hurt, of criticism, of failure, and of conflict, among others. We close ourselves up to those who do not share our beliefs. Now, sharing space with others who think like we do may seem like belonging, but the these ideological bunkers only run on common hatred of the other side.
We have an innate connection with other people, regardless of ideology. We can find that innate connection with others spark something deeper. These interactions can be difficult to engage in, but the most honest conversations are often about things we would rather hide like fear and pain. When we have hard conversations with others, we should be curious rather than defensive. In this way, we get to know and understand each other. When we open up, we experience true connection that is bigger than our differing beliefs.
In that same interview, Brené emphasized that “the key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection.” We need to have the courage to be vulnerable with others. We need to be present for others without losing ourselves in the process.
2. Some social constructs are barriers to true belonging.
Society has created constructs that are barriers to true belonging. Prominent among these are patriarchy, racial supremacy, and misogyny. Brené encourages us to stand our ground on values we hold dear. Despite the fact that these systems seek to bring us down and ridicule our views, we should keep speaking up about what we believe is right.
This is where leadership comes in. Brené says that leaders should create an environment where people feel secure, not threatened, when they speak out. Leaders should support the courage of people speaking against injustice.
When we do speak out, we should try not to do so with the intention of exacting revenge against perpetrators of injustice. The pain caused by these constructs can be healed by justice and forgiveness, not revenge.
3. To be vulnerable is to open ourselves to be understood.
Our deepest human need is to be seen and understood by other people. By being vulnerable, we’re giving ourselves permission to feel and experience life. When we let our armors down, we give ourselves space to see and be seen, to hear and be heard. Brené, in an interview in 2013, shares “When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.”
Being vulnerable then isn’t a weakness but a strength. When we bare ourselves to others, they can see our sincerity and our willingness to listen.
4. Belonging happens through authentic connections.
Belonging is inherent in us. It is a connection with others that cannot be severed. But this connection can be forgotten especially when we’re experiencing fear and oppression. What we’re afraid of and what oppresses us keeps us away from each other.
For Brené, we need to find ways to come together again as a community. We need to be authentic, and not “not conditional or fake or constantly up for negotiation.” It’s only through our true and imperfect selves can we share collective joy and pain with others.
True belonging doesn’t happen in isolation. By holding a space for others, we’re letting them into our lives and giving them the courage to let us into theirs.
Belonging can be a paradox. When we show our authentic selves, we end up connecting with people who are similarly authentic, who can be vulnerable or courageous to live their true selves. We do not have to change or be inauthentic to belong. Rather, the most important part is to remain true to our personal values and beliefs.
For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.