A Lesson Learned in Vulnerability

I found myself in a meeting the other day that had a surprising outcome. I went in expecting to help this company with a few things and then we ended up sitting there just… talking. Don’t you just love it when you truly connect with the right person at the right time?

One of the things that’s really taken hold of me, especially this summer, is this idea of vulnerability. (Of course, I wrote about it before, but I guess it hasn’t completely sunk in still!) This was a major point of the discussion we had during that meeting.

You see, I have this perpetual fear of being caught “off.” As if there is a switch inside of me that determines when I am “on” and when I am “off.” To be seen “off” in public seemed like the worst thing in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love when readers come up to me on the subway or in stores or on the sidewalk; it’s always amazing to know that real people actually read this blog. But there was one time someone tweeted a picture of me in running shorts and I was really upset. Ever since that night, I’ve been paranoid about being caught “off.” And it goes beyond how I’m dressed or what my hair looks like… I’m constantly afraid that if I’m having a bad day and I’m not 100% friendly to someone and they turn out to be a reader… what would that mean?

Honestly? I guess it means that I’m human. And I am. Not only is that an okay thing, it’s a good thing. I think being vulnerable is what really makes us all human at the end of the day. No one is perfect and in some weird, twisted way there is beauty in that global imperfection.

The risks of not being vulnerable far outweigh the risks when you are vulnerable.

I read a book this summer about wolves– Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf. I learned a weird amount about wolves from that book, more than I ever really imagined that I would know. Wolves will lie down and expose their bellies (which are largely unprotected) to each other to demonstrate trust and loyalty. They are vulnerable.

It seems counterintuitive, right? Vulnerability as a strength seems like the ultimate oxymoron. But that display of weakness is actually the biggest strength of all. It holds the biggest risks and can lead to the biggest rewards.

Back to the conversation I had with my friend. I was in a HUGE place of vulnerability. I shared (because I knew she and her friends went through similar) how I was beginning to feel like I was retreating from the world. I wasn’t… opening up to anyone. I was doing the opposite- completely closing myself off. This was affecting every aspect of my life. Work, social, and intimate relationships.

I was, for lack of a better word, paranoid. Paranoid of seeing people and being “off,” paranoid of saying anything to friends and being hurt, paranoid about being used for College Prepster. But the more we talked about it, the more we (I needed help here!) realized that all of the above HAD happened. There were pictures of me circulating on Twitter in running shorts. I had told things to friends that ended up being used as ammunition in a gossip ring (apparently we’re in high school still…). And I was seriously used by people I trusted for “social influence.”

And I survived. And it really didn’t matter.

What mattered was that I had shut off this “vulnerability” button. In doing so, I had shut myself off from meaningful relationships and shut myself off from enjoying the amazing benefits of risks and shut myself off from really being happy.

I flatlined on the emotions for a while, which led to a decline in emotion since my life was devoid of the positive feelings.

It’s scary, but worth it.

I’ve already been opening myself up more and feel incredibly liberated. My (true) friendships are stronger than ever. I’ve found myself in a really wonderful relationship (thing? how are these things defined nowadays anyway?). And… I’m digging into an exciting project for work.

Have you ever held back out of fear of being too vulnerable?


PS Everyone should watch this….

PPS Here’s a hint of the new project 😉

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Fairy Princess Jord

You know you're doing big things when people feel the need circulate pictures of you in running shorts around twitter…creeps! Seriously I'm so excited for your new project, whatever it may be…the Instagram pic has me soo anxious!


i know what that is.. and how it ends. Having people by your side because they want something from you and the minute they have it they leave. Its hard to trust people again , but if you did not then well we do miss out on a lot. I think that its normal to feel this way but also like Jordyn said it also means you are going places! Great Post Carly!


I know exactly how you feel! I used to be so afraid I would get hurt or people would make fun of me (happened a lot when I was younger), so I stopped trying in friendships and lost some friends I really wish I hadn't. Even though I become so introverted, I was finally able to come back out of my shell when I started dating my current boyfriend. He has been so supportive and has driven me to make friends with people and to not be so afraid all the time. I think dating him is also the reasons as to why I began to blog! I really wanted to and he gave me the final push I needed. I am so glad he did 🙂


Kelsey B

Wow, I totally get where you are coming from because I'm dealing with that myself. I'm trying to get myself back out into the world, because i've been closing myself off too. Great post!

Samantha J

I really can't shake that you felt off because you were pictured in running shorts? You seem to need to get a grip on reality, you aren't a celebrity and most people on the streets don't know who you are. Just live you life and quit worrying about what people think of you.


I feel you about being caught when I'm "off." It's a fear I have too. I'm always worried what people are going to think of me and want them to have a good impression of me no matter what. I'm working on trying to let that go but it's hard. So you're not alone.

Hannah Elizabeth

I've been paralyzed by vulnerability too. I had some serious medical issues and had to leave school. I shut myself off from my friends for over a year. You are the only person who can get yourself through this. It sounds corny, but believe in yourself, stay true to who you are, don't sacrifice your values, and lean on your family! Image isn't everything, but we all like to put our "best" selves forward. In the end, the people who are meant to be in your life will find their way to you AND they will love you at your worst (and in Nike running shorts)!!! Sounds like your on the right track girl.

I wish you the best on all your new endeavors, and will continue to be a loyal blog reader!


it still baffles me that people will use other people like that. every time i have met a blogger, i was just grateful to meet them and never even thought to put up pictures or anything on social media. i am so happy that you have great friendships and a wonderful relationship. you deserve great things.

Jessica Joyce

For me as a comedy writer, there's always this pressure to be "funny." I've always heard from my favorite comedians that whenever their around family or friends (non-comedians), they feel as though they must be "on" and make jokes. I learned from them that it's okay to be "off" and be "normal." I will crack a joke when it comes to me, or say that I'm at a networking event and I need to show my talents. But I know that it's up to me to be "on" or "off." So do you.
Your Friend, Jess
P.S. I actually expected to see that picture at the end of this post…how self-depricating would that be? LOL.


I suspect many people (especially others who share values of perfection, high performance, etc.) struggle with the same thing. I know I do! I've worked a lot on being vulnerable over the past 18 months and have been surprised that not only is it worth it from a personal perspective (the sense of freedom is, well, freeing!), it has been remarkably effective at creating connections with other people. Case in point? Your admission of discomfort with vulnerability has prompted a first-time poster to engage with you online! That's a score on a personal and professional level. ; )


I am a long time reader and have been really really really really connecting with and enjoying your posts as of late! THank you so much for making them more personal – keep up the good work!!



This is such a great "life lesson" post. I agree that it's better to take risks and open yourself up to people because you miss out on so many things if you don't!

3 Peanuts

I am so glad you are being vulnerable again, Carly, One cannot have close relationships without vulnerability. I am not sure if you are familiar with Brene' Brown but she lives n my neighborhood and has written some amazing books on this topic. You would LOVE her books. She also has a great TED talk. And BTW I'll nbet you look as cute as can be in running shorts. I have some on today 🙂

One more thing….As you get older (and I am old so I know) you care SO much less what other people think. I cannot even tell you how freeing that is.