Feeling Vulnerable and Exposed

Feeling Vulnerable and Exposed


Last week my car got rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic on the highway during the morning commute.

I stopped. The young guy behind me decided to go.

My body jerked into place and instantly trembled. Stuck in a middle lane, neither of us could get out to assess damage to the cars or each other.

vulnerabilityMy body shook uncontrollably. I struggled to keep the phone steady in my hand as I dialed 911. When the operator answered I couldn’t think clearly to tell him where the accident happened. I felt so vulnerable and exposed, sitting in a middle lane, during rush hour traffic, with no where to go but where I was.

Luckily the police arrived on the scene quickly (he must have been in traffic, too), made sure we were OK (we were) and then cleared traffic so we could pull over into the breakdown lane.

Within minutes, the cop compiled our contact and insurance information and asked if I wanted to drive the car somewhere or get it towed. 

Wanting to Hide

My first thought: “I’m not driving anymore! Tow it!” Then I took a deep breath and asked if he thought the car was drivable. See, he wouldn’t let me out of the car to look. “Where are you going?” He asked. I told him I’d head home to Weymouth. He said he’d allow me to drive home, but no further.

Still shaking, I put the car in gear, squeezed the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white and managed to get myself and the car home – one deep breath at a time.

You know what else makes people shake, lose the ability to focus, feel vulnerable and exposed, and want to hide, never to be seen or heard from again?

  • Public speaking (i.e. giving presentations or running meetings)
  • Networking/Relationship building (i.e. promoting yourself, staying in touch with people, “working a room”)
  • Sales (i.e. talking about pricing and exchanging money for services)

Be Visible, Have Purpose

Putting yourself and your ideas into the world can most definitely leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed, because these activities leave us open to rejection, judgment, and criticism.

But here’s the thing. The very activities that make us want to run and hide are the very activities that allow us to solve important problems, build meaningful relationships, grow a business and give our work purpose.

Which would all be lost if you decide to stop speaking, networking and selling just because it makes you feel vulnerable. The world needs more vulnerability.

And according to Brené Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher out of Houston, TX, you can’t have vulnerability without courage. (Have you watched her Netflix special or Ted talks yet?)

Which means you might feel nervous or afraid – yet you step in anyway.

Silver Lining

towingFor those wondering, my 10 year old Honda with a mere 77,000 miles, no rust, no rips, that had just the day before received an oil change and excellent bill of health from the mechanic, was deemed a total loss. 

The silver lining? Although I wasn’t quite ready for a new car, looks like I’ll get a new one very soon!

Guess what? Putting yourself out there for public speaking, selling and networking has a silver lining, too. You get more sales, clients, collaborative work environments, confidence, joy, freedom, purpose, (insert what you want more of here).

The world needs you and your ideas

So, even if your body shakes, your heart races, you can’t think clearly, and you feel vulnerable and exposed, find the courage to take action anyway. Trust the process, grab the wheel and as gently or as forcefully as you want, put your foot on the gas. One deep breath at a time.

Your turn to talk to me

What kind of car do you drive? Do you love it?

What value do you get by “putting yourself out there”?

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About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.



  1. Helen Bartucca on November 1, 2019 at 9:32 am

    I am writing a memoir not as the cancer patient, but as the caregiver. My editor, a professor of writing at a leading university, commented after her first read: you have a good story, but you need to dig deeper into those areas of your personality and life that will engage the reader more fully. Writing about those areas will cause as much anxiety as public speaking. If I shy away, my story will not be told. If I face this anxiety, my story has a chance. Not easy. Today I am back at my desk writing.

    • Stacey Shipman on November 1, 2019 at 9:43 am

      Helen! Yes writing leads to the same feelings of vulnerability and angst. Keep digging! And thank you so much for adding to this conversation. Putting ourselves out there in any form is scary as heck. Yet so rewarding in the end.

  2. michael katz on November 1, 2019 at 10:07 am

    Ford Focus! My second. Great little car, I just hope I can keep getting those with manual transmissions in the future. Great story too, Stacey!

    • Stacey Shipman on November 1, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      We become loyal to our cars. And what happens if you can’t get a manual? Thank you for stopping by!

  3. […] my walk I meditated some more. And that’s when it hit me, like that young guy rear-ending my car on the highway back in October. A nudge I wasn’t expecting yet jolted me from a […]

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