Michelle Obama is a phenomenal woman. She’s broken barriers large and small throughout her life, from enacting change in her community to becoming the FLOTUS of the first black family to grace the white house with their presence. Her memoir Becoming is a reflection of the magnitude of success in her life as she welcomes readers on an intimate journey. We’ve compiled 5 major lessons taught throughout the book from Michelle’s life experiences and we encourage you to read the memoir yourself to find your personal moments of revelation.
1.Your life story is unique and is what makes you special
Michelle is a black girl from the South side of Chicago. She grew up with loving parents and a brother, Craig, inside a small home shared with their aunts family. The intricacies of her early life are a series of unique and genuine interactions that she credits for helping her find the value in her story. “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” Everyone has a unique life story, finding the important moments within it that shape who you are will bring you closer to yourself and those you interact with.
2. Have a support system of like-minded, motivating women
Throughout her life Michelle has grown a network of passionate and supportive women (like Quilt!) who want to see her succeed. These women helped her navigate life in all its many stages from her career to motherhood and balancing it all. She notes the importance of always keeping a strong girl crew and actively making time for them.
3. Its okay to make major life changes; if something no longer serves you let it go
After finishing her undergrad at Princeton and surviving the intensity of Harvard Law School, Michelle landed a corporate law job with a major firm. Her life to this moment was maintaining a strict course on the “established path.” She had seen others “swerve” off course and seemingly land in more fulfilling or adventurous circumstances but it took her longer to build the courage to swerve herself. She wasn’t feeling fulfilled at her corporate job although her years of schooling were in pursuit of such a salary. After a minor life crisis and with support from her girl crew she took the leap and quit her job. Where she landed was on the track to the most important role of her life, first lady of the United States.
4. You can only control what is absolutely in your control
Michelle, like many of us, is a self proclaimed control freak. Moments throughout her life however taught her that things will more often than not be out of your control. Whether its an unruly roommate or the whole of the united states. By no means does this make you unable to change a situation. For instance Michelle realized that in her new highly publicized life she would be scrutinized for nearly every choice she made - from the clothes she wore, to the tone of her voice, body and facial expressions. Instead of letting the immense public gaze and opinion diminish her, she controlled what she could control. She used the attention to highlight underrepresented fashion designers, create platforms for her youth health and military family initiatives, and told stories of hardworking civilians to bring light to them. In any situation there are elements that you can control. Focus on these and plan your actions accordingly.
5. The burden of representation is very real
Throughout her life Michelle was often the first or only black woman to be doing what she had done. In that position you often become a stand-in for the whole of your race and people develop stereotypes from your actions. At Princeton this meant that Michelle had to perform twice as well, knowing that if she failed it would fuel a belief among her predominantly white peers that black people don’t succeed in academia. As FLOTUS she had to reprogram her body language to avoid triggering the “angry black woman” trope. For minority communities this is an ongoing reality in every arena that is entered for the first time. Being cognisant of this battle we must remove all preconceived notions of any human being. This may sound like a lofty goal in such a stereotype charged world, but with unbounded empathy and understanding we will progress.