Do you want to be part of something? Be yourself!
Do you want to be part of something? Be yourself!

Belonging in a time of increasing contradictions? Brené Brown delves into this topic in her book ‘Braving the Wilderness; The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone’ (2018), published by Ebury Publishing. What does that mean? Do we have to change who we are?


Brené Brown teaches us that really belonging is not something that we negotiate or achieve together with others. Belonging does not require us to change who we are. On the contrary, it requires us to be who we are.

You belong if you want to be somewhere and the others want you, exactly as you are. You only really belong if you are accepted for who you are. If you adapt, you will be accepted because you are the same as the rest and there will be no genuine connection.

If you are a member of a group, it does not immediately mean that you belong. Brené states that you only really belong if you dare to be vulnerable. Yes, that can be uncomfortable. You have to find your place. To really belong, you don’t have to sacrifice who you are. And that requires trust and courage!

Trust in others

First of all, it requires trust in others. Brené Brown explains that you can ask each other for the following:

  1. Limits: Respect my limits, if you are unsure about my limits, ask me.
  2. Reliability: You do what you say, you are honest and you know where priorities lie.
  3. Responsibility: If you make mistakes, face them and try to make up for it again.
  4. Confidentiality: You keep things that you should not share for yourself. It is important that I know that you are not passing on things.
  5. Integrity: You choose courage over convenience, you choose values and norms for things that are quick or easy.
  6. Don’t judge: I can ask for what I need and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about what we feel without judgement.
  7. Generosity: You open yourself to the intentions, words and deeds of others and you assume the best.

Trust yourself

But there is more than only trust. It is also important to have confidence in yourself and to occasionally consider:

  1. Limits: Have I respected my limits? Have I been clear about what is okay for me and what is not?
  2. Reliability: Have I been reliable? Did I do what I said?
  3. Responsibility: Have I taken my responsibility?
  4. Confidentiality: Have I respected confidentiality and shared things appropriately?
  5. Integrity: Have I acted fairly?
  6. Don’t judge: Did I ask for what I needed? Have I been non-judgmental about the fact that I needed help?
  7. Generosity: Have I been open and loving towards myself?


To belong somewhere we have to break down our own walls, leave our own “ideological bunkers” and live from our hearts, instead of fear or pain. We cannot assume that someone else is doing this for us, we must all find our own way. This will not always be fun or easy. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable and unfair.

It is about learning to listen, having difficult conversations, sharing pain, seeking joy and being curious rather than defensive while being vulnerable and looking for togetherness at the same time.

Do you dare to be vulnerable?

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Ard Van Oosten

I am a psychiatrist trained in business management and researcher. My heart goes out to talent development. I connect knowledge of the brain with leadership and offer tools for personal growth and development.

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