10 Lessons from Michelle Obama’s Becoming

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I bought Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” at the beginning of this year, and it took me embarrassingly long to get to it. Once I did though…..I could not put it down! In reading, her voice comes through so clearly to me, and I realized that the former First Lady and I have a lot in common: from our strong, silent stay-at-home moms to our bossy older brothers… Needless to say, I learned so much about her life both pre- and post-presidency, and picked up some amazing nuggets of life advice along the way. See below for 10 things I’ve learned from “Becoming”:

 

  1. The best parental support often comes in unexpected forms. In the early portions of her book, Michelle paints a very clear image of her childhood life – a close knit family of 4 living in cramped quarters – and parents who took every thought of theirs seriously. As a child Michelle was feisty, and she credits her parents with nurturing that spark instead of extinguishing it or reprimanding her for being outspoken.
  2. Female friendships are important to maintain, even when you’re in a committed and loving romantic relationship. Time and again, Michelle emphasized how the strong women in her life, and her mom especially, have all pushed her to get out of her comfort zone, ask for what she really wants in life, and do it all with grace. Even with a partner like Barack, those kinds of friendships are necessary for companionship and support.
  3. A long-lasting, loving marriage doesn’t come without doubts or frustrations – I think a lot of people, or maybe just I, imagined that Michelle and Barack were pretty much on the same page from day one about his presidency. It was amazing to read about how she did in fact have her (serious!) doubts, which she voiced, and that through her doubts their relationship actually grew stronger.
  4. Marry the person who pushes you to think about your life differently and pushes you out of your comfort zone. This was HUGE for me, because I definitely used to think that the best partner for me would be someone who came from a similar place as me. I thought that sameness would serve as a foundation for better understanding and love. While that can be true, it’s also important to pick a partner who will encourage you to do those things you talk about always wanting to do, the person who will say yes when everyone else is saying it’s not the right time, the person who listens to your craziest dreams and ideas and says they’re 100% attainable.
  5. The southside of Chicago has become the “dangerous” place we hear about on the news in only relatively recent history. As a transplant here, it’s hard to not imagine that the city has always been segregated the way it has been, and that the south side has always had the issues with violence it has now. She reminds us that, like so many other inner-city neighborhoods, the occurrence of white flight and the shift from the southside being a middle class, diverse neighborhood to a lower class black one was a recent one. So many people see neighborhoods like that as having always been that way, almost as a way of justifying not trying to go in and addresses systemic issues in those areas. The reality is, that’s a misconception with dangerous consequences.
  6. Black women are not crazy for thinking that they are scrutinized more severely, judged more harshly, and held to impossibly high standards. Michelle reminds us in her book that she had to fight for her footing as a First Lady, and earn the “grace” that was automatically afforded to her white predecessors.
  7. Barack really is as incredible as we think he is. The way Michelle describes Barack, it’s clear that she is entirely in love with him. From the time they first met, he had the kind of star quality that most of us were only going to become aware of much later in life. His inquisitive nature, even temperament, and concern for humanity’s biggest problems are all qualities that we came to know and love him for – and Michelle confirms that he almost seems to have been born with them.
  8. Question why you’re on the path you’re on. Michelle talks a lot about being on the “established” path – from a young age, she got used to telling people what they wanted to hear and what would make them impressed by her. As a child, she told people she wanted to be a pediatrician because she liked hearing how they reacted to that pronouncement. When older, she chose impressive schools, courses of study, and career paths based on that same desire for a certain kind of reaction from people. It wasn’t until after law school and some years as a lawyer that she started questioning that path, and making life and career changes that were based on her personal values, not societal pressures.
  9. Becoming is an ongoing process. No matter your age, your career, your relationship or family status, there is always room for improvement and growth, room to take on new projects, and especially room to learn new things about the world and people around us.
  10. Humility will keep you young. Michelle is a perfect example of this.

 

My name is Safiya and I am a NY-born blogger based in Chicago. You can find more of my writing at sliceofsafiya.com or follow along at @sliceofsafiya for more great content!

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10 Lessons from Michelle Obama’s Becoming