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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

Kirjoittanut: Seungyeon Shin - tiimistä SYNTRE.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Brené Brown
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 4 minuuttia.

Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. Last summer, I heard the term from the podcast Unlocking Us which has ever since then carved into my heart. The host Brené Brown shared her experience meeting with Joan Halifax who initially introduced her to the Buddhist approach of a strong back and a soft front.


“All too often our so-called strength comes from fear, not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence.” – Roshi Joan Halifax


During the time of Proakatmia, I believe many of us experience some sort of realization moments, fulfilling moments, but also countless self-doubting and frustrating moments. Last Spring semester and summer for me, to be frank, was the hardest period of my life. My mind was so filled with fears and self-hatred that I wasn’t able to be in any social circumstance. Even though I was around people, I was stiff trying hard to conceal my lack of confidence. There were many reasons which I don’t want to bend your ear here, but the biggest reason that I learned from the recent therapy was the feeling that I didn’t belong anywhere either in Korea or Finland, a bad comparison between myself and others, and the fear that I couldn’t see my future in Finland.


So, I guess that’s why the term, strong back, soft front, and wild heart was needed especially in that moment of life.


Strong back. The assumption around a strong back might be perfecting, pleasing, proving, and pretending. But Braving the wilderness tells us that we need to learn to put BRAVING into practice to develop a strong back. BRAVING stands for boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, nonjudgement, and generosity. There has been a significant improvement when it comes to setting, and respecting boundaries which led me to have more generosity both to myself and others, but I would like to share firstly my integrity-practicing experiences. Integrity is learning how to practice our values even when it is uncomfortable and hard, choosing courage over comfort. (Brown, 59-60)


Last November, I got suggested by a couple of people to apply for a board member of the Tampere Entrepreneurship Society aka Tre.es. And I decided to try it out. In the general meeting, after giving the presentation on why I wanted to be part of Tre.es, I could sense that something was wrong. Several people asked me questions that truly caught me off guard. “What kind of board members do you want in Tre.es? How would you connect Tre.es with many different startup companies in platform 6?” Shortly after the meeting, I realized that it was meant to decide the next former of the organization. I was embarrassed and regretting how stupid I was there without even knowing the agenda of the meeting. I somehow felt like I humiliated myself. I guess I was getting used to using my “vulnerability muscles”.


Armored front. It sounds attractive and quite convenient especially when we want to defend ourselves from getting hurt, but it may lead to much more pain in the end. An armored front is caused by the misconception of vulnerability: that it is a weakness, or it is dangerous. But without vulnerability, I wouldn’t have been able to experience this learning nor eventually, to be part of Tre.es as a board member. On the way back home, I kept reminding myself that I was willing to show up and brave enough to put myself out of my comfort zone although I couldn’t control the outcome. And that was a step for me to understand how to have a soft and open front. (Brown, 61)


PICTURE 1. 2023 Tampere Entrepreneurship Society new Board members picture.



Wild Heart. It is about being tough and tender, excited and scared while being brave and afraid. It is about knowing the feeling that how to stand alone and brave criticism, fear, and hurt. A wild heart is having a sense of true belonging, meaning that you so deeply belong to yourself that you can show the most authentic side of yourself to the world. The daily practice that Brown recommended for us from the podcast was: to stop looking for proof that you don’t belong anywhere because you will always find where you belong as long as you get to be yourself. And stop looking for evidence that you are not enough because you will always find that you are enough. (Brown, 61-64)


This short term: “Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.” helped me not only to get through a hard time but also became my life motto. And I believe this term is strongly related to entrepreneurship as well: Building self-awareness, taking the initiative, learning through experience while coping with uncertainty, and spotting opportunities which are the entrepreneurial competencies identified by European Commission.


To clarify the meaning of entrepreneurship, the European Commission defines entrepreneurship as the capacity to act upon opportunities and ideas and transform them into the value of others.

PICTURE 2. EntreComp: 15 entrepreneurial competencies


As I joined the Tampere Entrepreneurial Society, it would be another launchpad for me to execute my way of entrepreneurship by creating value for others and for the world.



Reference list:

  • Brown, B. 2017. Braving the wilderness: the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. New York: Random House
  • European Commission. 2017. The European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp). Read on 19.5.2023. https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1317&langId=en

Soonie from Entre.

  • Katrina Cirule

    Soonie, I believe this essay is an excellent reflection of your experiences in the past year. Thank you for being courageous and sharing! Oh, and I will definitely check out Brené Brown’s podcast 🙂 Kiitos!

  • Flóra Lang

    This was so good, thank you for writing about your experiences! And I will also check out the podcast 🙂

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