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.
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."
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."
'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
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 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.
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, 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.
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."
Also on HuffPost:
In an essay titled "<a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20500603,00.html" target="_blank">Being the Father I Never Had</a>," written in honor of Father's Day, the President wrote about his desire to be the best parent he could possibly be for daughters Sasha and Malia. He expressed regret for time spent away from the girls when they were younger, and resolved to be there for them more as they grew up. "When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have," <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20500603,00.html" target="_blank">Obama wrote in People magazine</a>. "At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn't wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world."
When a fan asked McCartney what he would do if he had a time machine, the former Beatles member said that he'd go back and spend more time with his mother. Although his lack of family time wasn't due to overworking -- she died when he was just 14 -- the sentiment still stands. McCartney <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/the-beatles/9896636/Paul-McCartney-I-wish-I-could-spend-more-time-with-my-mother.html" target="_blank">has said</a> that his love for his mother, and eventually letting go of his pain over losing her, inspired one of the band's greatest hits and most moving songs, "Let It Be": <blockquote>At night when she came home, she would cook, so we didn't have a lot of time with each other. But she was just a very comforting presence in my life. And when she died, one of the difficulties I had, as the years went by, was that I couldn't recall her face so easily. That's how it is for everyone, I think. As each day goes by, you just can't bring their face into your mind, you have to use photographs and reminders like that. So in this dream 12 years later, my mother appeared, and there was her face, completely clear, particularly her eyes, and she said to me very gently, very reassuringly: 'Let it be.'</blockquote>
The 71-year-old's one regret, looking back at her life and career? “That I haven’t had more children," <a href="http://www.newyoumedia.com/hot-topics/top-stories/martha-stewart-talks/" target="_blank">she said in a NEW YOU magazine profile</a>. "But my daughter has two babies now, so the family is growing.”
Aung San Suu Kyi
Burmese politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has accomplished incredible feats in her career -- but she has regrets in her personal life. The dissident spent the past 20 years under house arrest in Rangoon, 2,000 miles away from her family in Oxford, England. Suu Kyi had the option to reunite with her family in the UK, but she knew that if she chose to leave, she might never be allowed to return and lead her people -- so she stayed. "Of course I regret not having been able to spend time with my family," <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19667956" target="_blank">Suu Kyi told the BBC</a>. "I would like to have been together with my family. I would like to have seen my sons growing up. But I don't have doubts about the fact that I had to choose to stay with my people here."
Hip-hop singer and producer Usher <a href="http://www.contactmusic.com/news/usher-regrets-not-slowing-down-for-his-late-father_1075097" target="_blank">said</a> that he regretted not slowing down to spend time with his sick father before it was too late. His father's final words, asking his son for forgiveness for not being around more when he was younger, inspired Usher to write a heartfelt song for his son called "Prayer For You." “Instead of being there when he was sick, I was working," <a href="http://www.contactmusic.com/news/usher-regrets-not-slowing-down-for-his-late-father_1075097" target="_blank">the R&B star told Contact Music</a>. "There was no amount of money that could have fixed my father’s health, but I could have just spent that time with him.”
Since adolescence, David Kim, the CEO of an investor consortium that operates chain restaurants like Sweet Factory, La Salsa, Cinnabon, Denny's and Baja Fresh, was motivated to work hard and succeed so that he could support his parents, who were first-generation immigrants from Korea. But sitting on his father's deathbed years later, he had a change of perspective that forced him to reevaluate his definition of success. "I regret not spending enough time with him, especially before he was going to go," Kim (pictured above on an episode of "Undercover Boss"), <a href="http://www.worldmag.com/2012/01/one_ceo_s_story" target="_blank">told World magazine</a>. This change in heart led Kim to quit his job so that he could spend more time with his wife and three children, while also working on his passion project Ignite Enterprise, a business education company for entrepreneurs.
Earlier this year, Former Lehman Brothers CFO Erin Callan -- who left her job in 2008 just months before the company went bankrupt -- wrote a New York Times opinion piece, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/opinion/sunday/is-there-life-after-work.html?ref=opinion&_r=5&" target="_blank">"Is There Life After Work?"</a>, expressing her thoughts on work-life balance and the sacrifices she made for her career. "I don’t have children, so it might seem that my story lacks relevance to the work-life balance debate," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/opinion/sunday/is-there-life-after-work.html?ref=opinion&_r=5&" target="_blank">Callan wrote</a>. "Like everyone, though, I did have relationships -- a spouse, friends and family -- and none of them got the best version of me. They got what was left over." Now, Callan says that although she can't make up for lost time, she is learning to find gratitude and appreciate the life she has.
Evangelist Billy Graham, "America's Pastor," <a href="http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/01/24/billy-grahams-regret-i-would-have-steered-clear-of-politics/" target="_blank">confessed</a> that if he could have done one thing differently, he would have avoided political conflicts and spent more time with his family. Looking back, Graham <a href="http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/01/24/billy-grahams-regret-i-would-have-steered-clear-of-politics/" target="_blank">told HuffPost Politics</a> that he would "spend more time at home with my family, and I'd study more and preach less."