Updated: Oct 25, 2020
By: Tasnin Khan
If you know me, you know that I love Michelle Obama and always have.
So it goes without saying that when I found out that our former First Lady was coming out with a memoir, I was more than ready for it. So much so that when news broke out about the book’s release date, I set an alarm on my phone in 2017 so that I would be able to pick up my copy as soon as it reached stores this past Fall.
A few months ago as I was scrolling through Twitter, I quickly came to find out that Michelle Obama was planning an impending tour to celebrate her new book, Becoming. I was equal parts excited and cautious, as I was expecting the tour would be very exclusive and out of reach for most people. Instead, it turned out she was filling out stadiums, with scores of tickets being sold.
With great luck, I secured a spot at the Barclays to go and see someone I admire with the woman that I most look up to, my mom.
Although I knew it was going to be a really special experience, I didn’t expect how touched I would actually be. While reading her book, I could feel her energy and felt so connected to her story as I pored over every page of her book. To then have the chance to sit in a room watching her before my eyes discussing her life and the very same book was so amazing to say the least.
Here are a few glimpses into our former First Lady’s life as per her book and tour that especially resonated with me. I promise I won’t give much away, but here are some points that will serve as positive reminders for all of us:
1. She was told by her high school counselor that she wasn’t “Princeton material” -
When Michelle Obama was applying to Princeton, she was told by her counselor that she shouldn’t bother. Despite her hard work, diligence, good grades, and the community involvement she had to show for what she had to offer in college, her counselor was quick to place her into a box based on the assumptions she made about Michelle as a young black girl from the South Side of Chicago.
Whether you are in school or have had someone doubt your capabilities at work or question or dismiss your dreams - be it a counselor, family member, boss - we can all relate to people doubting us, questioning if we belong where we are, or where we aspire to be. It was so endearing to hear Michelle Obama remind us that other people’s doubts or projections about your capabilities are not a reflection of you and what you can actually do and become.
She reminded us that it doesn’t matter what other people think you can or cannot do. She was quick to brush off her initial pain after this remark and move to find other adults at her school who could advocate for her because they actually believed in her. She reminds us that while we can’t control how others perceive us, we can change our surroundings and how we choose to react to their doubts in order to keep it pushing. Michelle proves that there is a seat at the table for us and we do belong.
2. She switched careers when she realized that being a lawyer just wasn’t it for her -
This one really stuck with me and was so reassuring. Michelle Obama considered herself to be a “serial box checker,” who went up the ranks and did what she felt she was supposed to do in order to secure her idea of success. She felt like it made sense for her to become a lawyer, and make a lot of money after Princeton. When she realized that she wasn’t fulfilled in her job, she took the initiative to be bold and explore a career better suited for her in her late 20s. This was so refreshing to me because it is something that you don’t hear about often. I did not know that she was struggling with the question of who she was and what really fulfilled her, and it was really nice to know that we are not alone when wondering what our path should look like. Her courage to switch gears instead of settling into the comfortable life she paved for herself serves as a reminder to us that it is okay to not have it all figured out, and to start fresh along the way as you begin to better understand who you are.
3. She spoke about the importance of positive male figures in our lives -
In a time where we are making a lot of noise and progress in creating better representation for women, our unique experiences, and challenges in society, I thought that it was really important that Michelle Obama emphasized the value and impact that men have in our lives. It is so important for our men to really rise up and treat daughters, sisters, and everyone with respect because every time that we have an encounter reeking of doubt, dismissiveness, or dangerous behavior at the hands of a man, we are left with cuts that we carry through our lives. Michelle Obama spoke about how her dad being a strong figure in her life set the standard high for men to come in her life in her future; his belief in her, respect for her, and love and compassion resulted in her learning to always value herself highly and never tolerate anything less than the excellence modeled by her father. In a female empowerment movement, including men in the conversation to inform them of the important role they play in making us feel safe in our own environment, cared for, and believed in feels crucial but often is left unsaid.
4. She spoke about finding happiness and wholeness within yourself instead of seeking it from your partner -
Michelle Obama opened up about marriage counseling with her husband after things started to get tough managing their jobs, marriage, and raising their two young girls. She spoke about how she, like many women, is used to putting everyone else’s needs before herself. Doing so made her resentful and overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of being a wife, mother, and professional when Barack Obama was unable to help out at home because of work. Marriage counseling taught her that it is easy to put all the blame on her husband, but that there was growth to be had within herself. Michelle Obama reminds us that marriage is hard and while it’s important to have that love and affection, there is a lot of work to be done. If you are not happy with yourself you must find outlets to take care of yourself and cultivate your own needs, interests, relationships with your girls… otherwise, you will not be happy in your relationship, and you cannot put that blame on your partner.
5. She has a core group of girlfriends that have and always will be her support system.
Just like us, Michelle Obama has her group of girlfriends that she drinks wine with, works out with, and makes it a point to keep up with even while in the White House. Despite her busy everyday life, she found that having her core group of girls and growing together was such a rewarding release for everyone. The former First Lady emphasized how without her girls, she would go crazy, as having each other’s backs and empowering one another has been so important to the person that she has grown to become. This made me so happy because I love that she is using her platform to highlight the power of women uplifting each other in a culture that loves to focus on the negative drama and beef between women in music and entertainment. It meant so much that she was shining a positive light on focusing on ourselves and guarding our passions, friendships, and the things that make us happy. Our girlfriends are so important and our true friendships should be cherished as we go through life’s challenges trying to juggle so many different things as students, mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, and working women.
I admired Michelle Obama deeply for her indisputable strength, confidence, humility, humor, and compassion. But her book reminded me with all its details why I feel extra connected to her -- her humanness, the way that she is so relatable and is unapologetic through and through about who she is. Her book reveals an extra layer of depth and humanness to the Michelle Obama that we know her to be; she reminds us through all of her experiences that we are all a lot more alike than we may realize and in turn, all so capable of living out our greatest, most purposeful and fulfilling lives, whatever that may look like for us as individuals.
Check out the link below to order your own copy of Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming: