Gosh, it’s crazy how getting older can really creep up on you. Yesterday, I realized as I turned the page in the calendar, was my half-birthday. I’m not that kind of person who would celebrate a half-birthday, but in six months I’m going to be 25! Twenty five! To be totally honest, I’m excited. I like getting older. It seems like life gets a little bit sweeter with every passing year.
A few major things that I’ve noticed about myself, especially since turning 24, is this sense of self-confidence I didn’t have when I was younger. I’m still anxious meeting new people, but it’s less of a panic and more of a mild anxiety. I don’t hate on my body like I used to; in fact, I think it’s safe to say that I love my body, imperfections and all. I trust more and have opened up in new ways with friends and my personal relationships have never been stronger or more genuine.
The biggest challenge that I’m facing right now is something that’s been increasing since, well, the past six months. It’s the “publicity” of being a blogger. It’s probably the weirdest element of my life and comes with great opportunities and not-so-great consequences. To be completely candid, the reality is that it’s only going to be magnified as I continue down this amazing journey. I definitely signed up for this and I have had to really come to terms with what it means and what it doesn’t mean for me. In light of everything, I completed an amazing exercise my mentor– who is an actual public figure– encouraged me to do. Whether or not you find yourself in the public eye, I think it’s something everyone should do. Especially young women. It really taught me a lot of who I am and how I identify myself when you strip away public perception. (The truth is that we all live public lives to a certain extent!)

So, at the very core of the exercise, you essentially lay down all the “non-negotiables.” What things are SO important to you that you absolutely need it in your life; the things you won’t compromise on. Questions I asked myself as I did this included: What makes me happy, who do I like spending my time with, what characteristics about myself do I like, what characteristics/behaviors do I not like seeing in other people, where do I spend my time, how do I unwind, who do I go to for support/fun/advice, what makes me feel most powerful or most weak? Really, the questions can be endless… but hopefully it gives you a sense of how to find your own non-negotiables.
To complete the exercise, I spent about a week collecting my thoughts and taking mental (and real notes) about the times I laughed/cried/smiled, the things that made me feel happy/annoyed/loved, etc, the tasks I wanted to do more of or less of, etc. Then I took a quiet hour or so by myself to look for patterns, refine, and compile the list.
I’m going to share a few of mine so you can get a sense, but there’s quite a few on here I’m leaving off for privacy’s sake. (See #)
1) I always want to walk Teddy. Always. One of my friends was an assistant for a Devil-Wears-Prada type boss. My friend had to walk her dog all the time and she thought it was so annoying. One night, apparently after a couple of drinks, the boss told her that she wished she had the time to walk her own dog and that it was a little luxury she missed. Honestly, walking Teddy is always THE best part of my day and I never want to have to give that up no matter what my schedule ends up being like.
2) As much as I can, I want to keep my most personal relationships offline. I thought for a time that I was ready to be more public about that part of my life, but I just don’t like it. It’s one of those things that’s so special to me, I kind of want to keep it to myself for the most part. 🙂 Even some of the deeper parts of my friendships are left offline and that’s okay.
3) I need one morning (at least four hours) “off” once a week. If there’s anything I know about myself it’s that I can go go go for a while, but I need time off to rest and recuperate. Even spending a slow morning by myself in my apartment (with Teddy) is all I need to gear up for more. But rushing off to places every day of the week takes its toll rather quickly on me.
4) I always want to be grateful. I recently went to a dinner hosted by Reward Style for the Top 25 during fashion week. It was beautiful and amazing and I met incredible bloggers from around the world. But I was also horrified by some behavior. The sense of entitlement was really mind-blowing. I always have this sense of this amazing life being a fleeting moment. I didn’t get here alone and I’m not staying here alone. If I ever sound like a brat, everyone has the right to slap me 😉 I truly pinch myself every day and say a list of things I’m grateful for before I go to sleep. I’m fortunate to have the opportunities I have and I never ever want to not be grateful for every ounce of it. 
5) On that note, I don’t want to become jaded. I think that being jaded is a decision, not something that happens. Invites for fashion week are always exciting and I always want to be excited and (see above!) grateful. Meeting my personal idols and readers of my blog is always exciting. I never want to let a moment go by without being whole-heartedly enthused.
6) Another non-negotiable is that I never want to live in fear. This is a personal reminder for myself and really just means that I need to keep my paranoia in check. I’m notorious for being paranoid. About everything. There was a time this past year where I was honestly a little bit hesitant to leave my apartment. I stayed in as much as I could because I felt like I needed to hang on to the feeling of being alone. It was weird and made worse by some sketchy things happening on the internet, but I (thankfully) worked with people to nip that in the bud. Getting in control of that has helped me really regain a lot of confidence and wash away a bunch of the fear I was living with.
7) READING. I always always always want books to be a part of my life!!! Even if it’s only a page or two, I want to continue to be an avid reader! Books are my escape and they help ground me and keep things in check.

8) I want to fail. I know, weird… right? But failing happens. It happens when you take chances and take risks. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You win and you lose. But you can never win if you don’t give yourself the chance to win and sometimes that means you might fail. So failing really only means you’re attempting success. So I’m okay with failing.

9) Seeing my family is also something I always, always want to make time for. In college, when I was on the rowing team, I didn’t get to go home often. Even with my parents visiting for short weekends, I got (and still get) terribly homesick. Going back to Tampa at least twice a year is something I really need. I let a lot of stress go when I’m under my parent’s roof. Just long enough where I feel prepared and ready to return to my real life and short enough where I don’t get annoyed with being with my parents. (I kid, sort of…) I love my family and they’re super important to me for too many reasons to count.

So those are some of my non-negotiables. My list is hovering around 20– I keep collapsing some together to be more concise, but also adding some! I feel a lot more confident to handle what the future holds… and excited knowing that I intend on remaining completely and utterly myself along the way.

Have you ever done this exercise? What are your non-negotiables as you get older?

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i have read every single blog post since you very first started TCP — and i've loved it all — but this is my absolute favorite post ever.


I love this. Being in a relationship, we both have made clear to each other over time what the most important parts of our lives are, and that we need them to remain a part of our lives. Family time definitely tops my list. I need it. And he respects that. This is such a great idea for you to look back on and keep yourself in check. Beautiful!


I really like this idea. There are a lot of things on your list that would probably overlap with mine. This is one of my favourite posts that you have written in a long time. Thank you!


Isn't it crazy how failing somehow becomes a goal? It's amazing what you can learn about yourself and about your career in those moments. Keep up the good work, Carly!

Taylor Anthony

I definitely agree with #3. Having some relaxation time is necessary and important. It's great to see you stay true to yourself and take the time to think about what's important in life!

I need to make my own list of non-negotiables soon!

Taylor Anthony :: Prep, Please!


Inspired to make my own list! Thanks for sharing, Carly! You'll always be one of my favorite bloggers. 🙂

Olivia Stieren

This is a cool concept. I'm definitely going to have to do this to go along with my personal mantra :). Thanks, Carly! And I love your list!

Caitlin Bowman

Your work ethic absolutely blows me away. Everything that you have accomplished you deserve, 100%. You put yourself out into the public eye which I am sure comes with more criticism than expected, yet you still maintain a classy disposition. I always look forward to reading your blog with my coffee in the AM! Go on with your bad self, girl.

Sense and Sequins

This is so amazing and honest. I love it. #4 & #5 always bothers me about bloggers glad you finally said it out loud. I think these are amazing non-negotiables, many of them would be my own (family, personal life, humble etc). Thanks for sharing!


Ahh you always give me such good ideas to blog about! I'm definitely going to do this exercise myself! And I totally agree with your #9 about Family. There is something about going "home" that brings such a relaxed, most comfortable state where you feel like everything is going to be OK. I'm grateful to have come from a family where I can feel like that!

Amy Marie

Taking time to reflect is so important. I get into these weird funks where I am neither happy or sad. I just feel like I am existing. That is when I do my most self reflection. These weird funks seem to happen not too often but maybe when I've lost interest in my job, or social life. I just need to remind myself of what I do enjoy, and remember to do them.

Great post Carly!
– Amy


I've never thought about this before but I'm definitely going to have to sit and draft up my non-negotiables! Now your newest follower – looking forward to future posts!

Eilidh x