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The One Quality We Often Mistake For Weakness Can Actually Make You Stronger

10/25/2013 08:14 am ET | Updated Oct 25, 2013

We tend to equate vulnerability with weakness, but according to author and researcher Brene Brown, who has made a career out of researching shame and vulnerability, allowing ourselves to be truly seen and understood by others is a powerful source of creativity, innovation and transformation.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage," Brown writes in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. "Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”

Brown goes on to explain that love or any sort of connection are impossible without vulnerability, which she defines as the courage to show up and let yourself be seen. More leaders have become comfortable opening up and letting themselves be vulnerable, letting people see them in a real, rather than constructed light. And far from being a weakness, Brown argues that it's a sign of strength:

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

From President Obama to Jennifer Lawrence to the Dalai Lama, here are eight powerful moments from public figures who expressed their vulnerabilities.

Hillary Clinton

During a 2008 campaign stop in New Hampshire, Clinton shared an emotional moment with her supporters after a voter asked, "How do you do it? How do you keep up?" As CNN reported, the presidential hopeful got choked up as she responded:

"It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I just didn't, you know, passionately believe it was the right thing to do... You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards... This is very personal for me, it's not just political, it's [that] I see what's happening, we have to reverse it."

President Obama

In a rare show of emotion, President Obama cried on air twice when addressing the nation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy and expressing his "overwhelming grief."

"Each time I learn the news I react not as a president, but as anyone else would -- as a parent. And that was especially true today," Obama said, tears beginning to well up in his eyes. "They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping children fulfill their dreams."

Savannah Guthrie

savannah guthrie

'Today' Show viewers love co-host Savannah Guthrie because she comes across as warm, genuine and authentic. Guthrie recently opened up to Elle Magazine about the struggle of losing her father at the age of 16:

"Matt [Lauer] asked me at dinner the other day, 'What would you say the impact of losing your dad so young was on you?' And I said ultimately it made me more sensitive and gentler, and, I hope, kinder. Of course it was terrible, and I think about him every day -- but there's something about a dramatic event like that that makes you a bit more tender, a bit softer."

The Dalai Lama

dalai lama culture of compassion

A 2011 video of the Dalai Lama in Hunsur, India, racked with sobs as he spoke about his past and about bodhicitta, a Buddhist concept meaning the "mind of enlightenment" that cultivates compassion, went viral on YouTube.

As the beloved spiritual leader discussed the need for individuals to cultivate the "altruistic mind cherishing others over oneself," he broke down, sobbing as the audience waited in silence, and showing all who were present the power of his own empathy for others.

Jim Carrey

jim carrey incredible burt wonderstone

Jim Carrey has opened up about many personal issues and isn't afraid to share his own flaws with the public. He's discussed his quest for spirituality and struggle with depression in a matter-of-fact, relatable way -- and it's part of why his fans love him so much. At Elton John's Oscars viewing party this year, Carrey showed up wearing fake, huge feet and tiny angel wings, and explained that the costume symbolized his spiritual growth.

“I feel a lot of the time like I’ve got tiny little wings and giant feet and I want to get off the Earth into a spiritual place, but I’m grounded all the time by my own flaws," Carrey told the Mirror.

He also discussed how spirituality has helped him through his struggle with depression in a 2006 60 Minutes interview. "I was on Prozac for a long time... I had to get off at a certain point because I realized everything is just okay," said Carrey.

Jennifer Lawrence

jennifer lawrence

When "Hunger Games" actress Jennifer Lawrence -- who has come to be known and loved in Hollywood for her goofy, candid comments and refreshing authenticity -- tripped on the way to accept her Academy Award this year, her status as America's sweetheart was cemented. And the reason people love her so much? Because she doesn't try to play it cool.

"You guys are just standing up because I fell and it's embarrassing, but thank you," laughed Lawrence during her acceptance speech. "This is nuts!"

Lucy Danziger

lucy danziger

Lucy Danziger, Editor-in-Chief of Self Magazine, opened up about a (somewhat embarrassing) moment of personal realization she had while at yoga class. On a particularly frantic day, Danziger was running late and accidentally put on her shirt backwards (so that the built-in bra was hanging out for all to see). She didn't realize until it was too late -- she had gotten into the room and the door had closed behind her. After a moment of panic, Danziger decided to let it go and breathe through it, and enjoyed a relaxing class despite the fact that her bra was sticking out.

Danziger said at a Huffington Post health event Tuesday that the blog post she wrote about the experience generated a more overwhelming response than nearly anything else she's ever written for the magazine. According to Danziger, readers were happy to know that the editor-in-chief of their favorite magazine wasn't so different from them.

Olivia Munn

olivia munn

At a recent Huffington Post AdWeek panel, the "Newsroom" actress had a moment of connection with the audience when she opened up about her struggle with trichotillomania, an anxiety disorder that causes her to pull out her eyelashes.

“I don’t bite my nails, but I rip out my eyelashes,” Munn told the New York Daily News when she first opened up about the impluse-control disorder last year. “It doesn’t hurt, but it’s really annoying. Every time I run out of the house, I have to stop and pick up a whole set of fake eyelashes."

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