“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity…” Brené Brown

It started during middle school, roughly age 12.  A stressful relationship with a step-parent was what fueled the beginning of some pretty severe control issues for me. To make up for the things I couldn’t control, I focused intensely on what I could – my appearance, my schoolwork, the organization of my room, at times the food I consumed, other’s opinions of me…the list goes on. Tack on puberty and general teenage angst, and you’ve got a great recipe for the need to fixate on such things.

There were some pros to my rigid patterns. I maintained straight As, did the whole extracurricular thing with flying colors, became a skilled piano player, and generally, from the outside looking in, appeared to “have it all together.” But the downside was that internally, I was riddled with anxiety. Over the years, that ball of anxiety grew bigger and bigger.

The “having it all together” shell was a double-edged sword. Deep down I loved (and let’s be really real, still somewhat do) having people think I lead a relatively flawless life. Being able to control what they thought of me was not something I ever wanted to let go of. During those rare times I couldn’t control what they thought of me (like getting in trouble for something at school that wasn’t my fault or being teased by other students), I was an absolute wreck. Tears, self loathing, anxiety attacks – the works.

As these patterns continued into my adult life, I paid the even bigger price of living somewhat inauthentically. I often bottled up my feelings and emotions in an effort to appease or not burden others. It was hardly a selfless act. I was completely driven by never wanting others to see my faults or imperfections, and to continue to receive praise for “having it all together.” This made it extremely hard to be present.  I spent, and still do, a lot of time in my head.

Even though these patterns died down in intensity after high school, it wasn’t really until the last 8-12 months that this exhausting act truly started to give way (or that I even realized the magnitude of the act). I’d be knocked down in a way that I couldn’t conceal. The energy I had previous fueled into seeking other’s approval and praise was completely taken oven by simply trying to move forward.

Through a series of very raw and real events –  sobbing uncontrollably to a friend when I didn’t know where I was going to live last year, avoiding new relationships for fear of the person discovering my imperfections and faults, or simply really having to ask for major help from numerous people for the first time ever – I was almost forced into being vulnerable. I had to really be myself, and the “me” at the time was a mess, lost, struggling, and hurt. The real me, by no means, had it all together.

This was one of the main reasons why I really slowed down on blogging. My life wasn’t shiny and pretty, and I didn’t have the energy to make it seem that way. So for a period it felt like the only solution was to share nothing at all. Even though I knew the best blogs struck a balance between the real and staged moments, I didn’t know what that balance was for me. Candidly, I’m still figuring it out.

I’m fascinated by people who seem so naturally vulnerable, or who at least don’t have to make such a concerted effort.  I’m making strides, but it is a serious, serious struggle for me. I still tend to run in the opposite direction of newness, uncertainty, and discomfort. I hate when things are messy. My automatic response is still very much a desire to fix and change and control and make perfect.

I have to remind myself daily that life is messy, and that just because something is uncertain, doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Letting go and really exploring that thing, person, or path, could turn out to be the best thing ever. But I won’t know or experience the positive or the negative if I try to skirt this whole vulnerability thing all together. Apparently, it doesn’t work that way!

Thankfully, seeing the good of staying open, especially in the last few weeks, has really opened my eyes. The having it all together shell is slowly being shed, but simultaneously, a huge weight has been lifted. And with that a whole lot more joy and growth.

Touché, Brené.

Homemade Garlic Knots

  • One small ball pizza dough (I used one ball of dough from this recipe, which makes two. Store bought would also work.)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of red pepper flake
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for extra sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Cut the ball of dough into 8-10 pieces. Take each piece and roll it into a 5 inch rope. Tie the ropes to form the knots. Place the knots on the baking sheet in two rows.

Whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, salt, red pepper flake, garlic powder, and grate garlic. Spoon the butter mixture over the knots.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 9-11 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Top with additional parmesan cheese and fresh parsley if desired. Serve immediately. They’d be great alongside these meatballs as an alternative to past and garlic bread!

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank YOU!!! This is so real, authentic and vulnerable…thank you for the transparency. You literally put into words how I’ve been feeling lately especially this morning. Gosh, you have no idea how much this post has helped me. Keep doing what you’re doing! Those that truly love you for you will take you as you are…authentically YOU!

  2. I agree with Shawnell — this post speaks to readers in a whole new way. It shows that you are, in fact, a real person with real emotions and real struggles, and most importantly… a past.

    I often wonder why I feel the need to control so many aspects of my life and my relationship, and after reading this post, it’s clear that a lot of it DOES come from our past and sometimes from those childhood/teenage “horror stories” that we try to bury. I, too, grew up not getting along with a step-parent, and it’s taken he and I a LONG time to get to where we are now, which is basically tolerating each other and not bringing up the past.

    For whatever reason, I’ve felt down in the dumps this week, and this post has helped me realize that I just need to be more open. When I am struggling with something, I should likely tell my husband, rather than hide it until I can fix it on my own. I mean, we did get married for a reason, right?! If I’m not open to receiving help, chances are, I won’t think to help someone else when they need it most.

    Thank you for this honest post!

  3. La Torontoise

    Clara, thank you so much for writing this touching post! I’m identifying myself in this text. It’s so liberating to read it. I lived the streght As life and the having it all together (and I’m still living it at times). It’s sticky and hard to unlarn, especially if the culture around us nurtures this attitude…

    Yes, anytime when I ventured out to explore uncertainties, I got rewarded. Changing towns, countries and cultures is part of this, too. Keep doing the good stuf~f! Cotrolling the amount of change in your life is a good thing in itself : -)

    Can not agree more about the need to find the right balance between real and staged. I got acutely aware of this shortly after the birth of our son. A kind of unavoidable. And then, being vulnerable helped me experience long-years’relationships with friends in a new way… which was an enrichment in itself. Over the years, I gradually learned to trust my gut feel and do the staged things only if I had he stomach for them. Otherwise, the stress level would have been unbearable.
    Thinking of you.

  4. La Torontoise

    P.S. Love these knots; and love garlic:-) I have some pizza dough in my fridge and this would be the focus of the evening, tonight.

  5. I’m always so happy when I see that you posted! Thank you for sharing this, I’ve always admired your honestly in this space!!

  6. You are an amazing woman to share so openly. I really loved this post and have been dealing with some of the same issues for the past few years. I can’t recall if that Brene Brown quote is from Daring Greatly, but I adored that book and found it so helpful. Keep on keeping on girl - the good, the bad, and the ugly is all part of the journey. Sending some love your way!

  7. Thanks for your openness, Clara. I’ve been following your work for years (since 2013, perhaps) and I am constantly inspired not only by the creative eye you have, but your passion for creating a community of collaborators and family in this virtual space.

    Keep sharing. The good, the bad, and everything in between.

  8. Sandy

    Thank you for this.

  9. Meredith

    Beautiful! Giving far less effs is a lot easier and more rewarding the long run. I love you for posting this; I know how much it took! Xoxo

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