Talking About Money Book Club:  Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Talking About Money Book Club: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Braving the Wilderness encourages you to reflect on your sense of self and how you fit into your social environment.  Its lessons can be applied to your relationship with money.

Brené Brown is one of my “sheros.”  Like me, she is a social worker.  Unlike me, she is famous in her realm of vulnerability research and through her many published books.  (But I am working on becoming famous in my own realm of talking about money – TED Talk, here I come!)   I could go on and on about how amazing Brené Brown is, but instead you can read about her for yourself here or watch her famous TED Talk here.

I recently finished Brené’s book Braving the Wildnerness published in 2017.  In this book she delves into the components of what it feels to belong, and conversely the importance of standing alone.  She’s got some wonderful quotes and great passages that I felt compelled to copy into my notebook.  Let me relay some of these passages to you and share how they relate to money:

Bravery in Life and Work

From Oprah Winfrey: 

“Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone.  It doesn’t work that way.”

This passage resonated with me, especially with regards to my status as a self-employed consultant.  I like to think of myself as a push-the-envelope type of professional.  At the same time I know there have been times when I have said “yes” to consulting clients when I should have said “wait, what?” for fear of rocking the boat and putting my income-generating capacity at risk. 

Yes, it is important to build trust with a client before you start to push them into uncomfortable territory.  That being said, is it useful to continue with the status-quo that doesn’t bring the client closer to their goals and doesn’t add to my consulting portfolio?  And all for the fear of disappointing or offending someone?  I say no.

Have you ever thought about going out on your own, through self-employment or with a game-changing business idea?  Have you gotten to the point when you’ve made you first sale?  Making that first sale is scary!  Building your brand and opening yourself to possible rejection is a ridiculously hard thing to do, and at the same time can lead to great things, like solving a problem for your customer or creating greater financial security for yourself.  The risk is worth the reward.

Empathy and Compassion

From Brené herself: 

“Find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a unique way.”

I think that there is a direct parallel in this statement to how we manage money.  How do you feel about how you manage your money?  Do you feel bad about it?  Do you have shame for your spending choices?  Are you embarrassed for your lack of budgeting? 

What would it feel like if you forgave yourself and understood that you are doing to best that you can?  What if you woke up tomorrow and for everyone that you saw or interacted with for the entire day you thought “they are doing the best that they can”?  It can be a game-changer in building your empathy and compassion for others…and for yourself. 

After you have practiced that positive self-talk you can take it a step further.  For every dollar you spend ask yourself “Is this spending in alignment with my values?  Is it bringing me closer to my goals?” Work on getting to “yes” in answering those questions, and remember that you are doing the best that you can.

Believing in Yourself

Another passage from Brené: 

“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; be who you are.”

Do you believe in yourself so deeply?  When teaching classes on credit reports I frequently ask my students if they perceive that their credit report – with its payment history and inquiries – is an accurate reflection of their character as a person.  Most say no.  And I admit that this is not a completely fair question, as many “life events” can wreak havoc on a credit report, like a medical emergency, lay-off or divorce. 

But what if you believed in yourself so deeply that you were mindful of every dollar that flowed in and out of your household?  That when a “life event” occurred you became your bravest self.  You talked with others about what was going on and asked for advice or help.  Would that make a positive difference in your life?

Belonging versus Fitting In

Late in the book Brené describes interviews conducted with middle school students focused on belonging.  Their insight into belonging versus fitting in was breathtaking to me.  If I had only been so wise in my younger years!

“Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you.  Fitting in is being somewhere where you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.”

“Belonging is being accepted for you.  Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.”

“If I get to be me, I belong.  If I have to be like you, I fit in.”

How can you find more parallels to these feelings with how you think about money?  Do you spend your money in such a way to impress others?  To make it seem like you are part of the group?  What would it feel like to “stand alone in the wilderness” with your money?  Terrifying?  Exhilarating?  Could it be grounding in some way? 

I encourage you to read Braving the Wilderness as well as Brené’s other books (and I just learned that another book comes out October 2018!).  Think about how being true to yourself will enable you to be true to your money.  Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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