#IAmBecoming: 10 Lessons From Michelle Obama’s Memoir to Help You Along Your Own Journey to ‘Becoming’

"There's power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there's grace in being willing to know and hear others. This for me, is how we become." -Michelle Obama

As someone who grew up feeling unseen and unheard, this quote hit home. 2018 for me has been the year where my faith was tested the most - it had just as many trials as there were triumphs. My story is still unfolding. As I continue to grow into the woman I am destined to be, and touch the lives I am destined to reach, I have come to accept my journey as an ongoing series of evolutions. It will never stop as long as I continue to LIVE - in every sense of the word. I admire Mrs. Obama’s eloquence, her style, and grace. She took us into her life, leaving us with life lessons that’ll help us along our own journeys to becoming. Here’s my top 10:

  1. Be relentless. Don’t take no for an answer. Mrs. Obama’s kindergarten class were going over sight words. When it was her turn, she forgot the word “white” and missed her gold star. Embarrassed, 5 year old Michelle went home, practiced over and over, and the next day demanded that the teacher give her another try. She ended up getting that gold star that day.
  2. Life is short. Live it to the fullest. Suzanne was Mrs. Obama free-spirited college friend. She focused less on being a box-checker, and more on exploring the joys of life, like traveling and seeing the world. She was in her 20s when she lost her battle to cancer.  
  3. Think about the impact you want to make in the world. Through the course of his career, Barack Obama inspired Michelle to look past the box checking mentality and explore a deeper meaning in life and what she can contribute to it. During his presidency, she didn’t want to be a “well-dressed ornament” like some of her predecessors. She wanted her presence to be of purpose, to get out into the community and make an impact.
  4. Share your story. As Mrs. Obama says, “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” I’d also add that it’s something to share. After her speaking engagements, people would come up to her and share that they, too, had a family member diagnosed with MS, or they too, were dealing with infertility. Sharing your story humanizes you, and lets others know that they’re not alone in their journey.
  5. If there is a skillset you need in order to do your job more effectively, don’t be afraid to seek or ask for proper training. When Mrs. Obama’s 14-word comment was being taken out of context, she met with the team to look at some videos from her public appearances. She was on the road for over a year without getting any media training or speech prep. She asked why hadn’t anyone said anything to her before it became a problem and demanded for the proper resources in order to do her job well.
  6. Follow your instincts. When Mrs. Obama was attending public events, she made it a point to make personal connections with people she met. When voters saw her and connected with her personally, she learned it’s harder to hate up close.
  7. Remain humble. Just because the Obama’s had access to a more privileged lifestyle, Mrs. Obama wanted her kids to keep their humility in tact. She had them make up their own beds and do the same as if they were back home. She also paid attention to what was on the White House food menu and made sure not to spend carelessly.
  8. Real life has no blueprint. Make your own. Mrs. Obama made the position of First Lady her own. She brought modern furniture and Black art into the White House. She attempted to democratize the space by allowing the guards to dress casually once in a while. She focused on causes where she felt she could make real impact. Similar to Lesson #3, she wanted to be more than a pretty face that smiles and nods.
  9. Find your power in any given situation. Anytime Mrs. Obama’s name came up in the press, it would be about what she’s wearing. She used that to her advantage. With eyes on her, she could talk about things that were meaningful to her like military families, ending childhood obesity, letting girls learn across the world, and encouraging kids to pursue higher education. She learned how to “connect her message with her image and direct the American gaze.”
  10. Progress and change happens slowly. Be patient. Nelson Mandela shared some of his wisdom during the Obama’s visit. We’re told to be the change we want to see, but we also have to be comfortable with that fact that we’re planting seeds we may never see. Having patience is key.

Have you read “Becoming”? Which lesson resonates with you most? Anything you’d add?