Lessons I Learned From Michelle Obama’s Becoming

The former First Lady’s memoir is filled with pearls of wisdom

Lessons I Learned From Michelle Obama’s Becoming
Photo by Jealous Weekends on Unsplash

The former First Lady’s memoir is filled with pearls of wisdom

Michelle Obama is an inspiration. She is a self-made woman with unflinching zeal to leave her mark on the world. She isn’t someone who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Rather, she fought tooth and nail to achieve whatever she has and ended up becoming the FLOTUS — married to one of the most powerful men in the world.

Image: Goodreads

When I started listening to her memoir Becoming on Storytel, I didn’t know what to expect, because non-fiction has never been my cup of tea. But, the narrative is so beautiful, I felt like I was reading a novel than a former first lady’s memoirs.

The best part is that the audiobook is narrated by Michelle Obama herself. Her inflexion and voice modulations make her honesty and brilliant sense of humour shine through her words.

This article is about the inspirational message in Michelle’s story and how it helped me rethink some of my core values. I wish every person knew about Michelle’s story because it truly has the power to change lives.

The Role of Parents in a Child’s Life

Michelle’s story is so inspiring — right from her childhood where her parents taught her the importance of never letting anyone walk over you and standing up to anyone who tried to bully you.

The mother-daughter bond

Michelle talks about an incident when she was in pre-school and always felt motivated to out-perform her classmates. The young Michelle loved thinking up creative solutions to common problems and revelled in the adulation of her teachers. She talked about her adventures in school with her mother, Marian Robinson, who encouraged her to keep working hard and thinking out of the box.

This urged the young Michelle’s on further, as, in her own words-

To me, there was magic in the learning.

Her enthusiasm dimmed in the second grade when the new class teacher was uninspired and downright cruel to the students. This had a huge impact on the young Michelle, who felt demotivated and discouraged. She stopped enjoying school — a change that didn’t go unnoticed by her mother.

When Michelle’s mother, Marian, came to know about this, rather than letting things take their course (as most parents would have probably done), she went to the school and had a discussion with the principal. The authorities decided that since Michelle had acquired enough knowledge, she could be promoted to the third grade, and hence, study under the tutelage of a different teacher.

This brought the spark back in young Michelle’s eyes.

Lessons learned

This incident helped me understand the important role parents can play in a child’s life. Rather than considering them as lesser human beings, if one can pay attention to the mood swings of their child and try to understand why something is causing them distress, they can play a huge part in improving the child’s childhood experiences.

I am not married, but, if I ever have children, I hope I can forge a bond with them akin to the love Marian and Michelle shared (and continue doing so). Here are some pearls of wisdom in Michelle’s own words:

My mother maintained the sort of parental mind-set that I now recognize as brilliant and nearly impossible to emulate — kind of unflappable Zen neutrality… She wasn’t quick to judge and she wasn’t quick to meddle. Instead, she monitored our moods and bore benevolent witness to whatever travails or triumphs a day might bring… When we’d done something great, we received just enough praise to know she was happy with us, but never so much that it became the reason we did what we did.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Being A Woman In A Male-Dominated World

Michelle’s parents instilled in her early on the wonders a good education can bring about — a value she adhered to even in her later years. Her story of how she ploughed through college, always being among the underdogs, and landed a well-paying job is motivating, impressing upon the reader how hard work can break all barriers of colour or birth.

Michelle’s raw honesty shines through in her words when she talks about her experiences of being the only woman, the only African American, in all sorts of rooms through her career, and still managing to hold her own. In her own words:

Women endure entire lifetimes of these indignities — in the form of catcalls, groping, assault, oppression. These things injure us. They sap our strength. Some of the cuts are so small they’re barely visible. Others are huge and gaping, leaving scars that never heal. Either way, they accumulate. We carry them everywhere, to and from school and work, at home while raising our children, at our places of worship, anytime we try to advance.

Lesson learned

Reading Becoming filled me with hope and the feeling that if a black lady from a middle-class family can achieve so much, what is stopping me?

Not Letting Love Define You

Michelle’s story of finding love and starting a family are awe-inspiring. Her words show what a compatible pair she and Barack made. She talks about the importance of holding your own in a relationship and not letting love define you. That sometimes, even though it might feel that all your happiness depends on the physical and emotional availability (or lack thereof) of your partner, the truth might be quite the opposite. Her realisations are relatable:

It was possible that I was more in charge of my happiness than I was allowing myself to be.

Flexibility vs compatibility

Michelle talks about how she didn’t let Barack’s vision and ambition overshadow her, rather helped her grow and become the best version of herself. She talks about the qualities needed to hold a marriage together, and how sometimes, adjusting is the only thing you can do. Flexibility is as important as compatibility to hold a family together.

The answer, I’m guessing, is probably the best and most sustaining answer to nearly every question arising inside a marriage, no matter who you are or what the issue is: You find ways to adapt. If you’re in it forever, there’s really no choice.

Lesson learned

It is possible that our partners would be different from the version we had in our head, but that does not mean they don’t love us (or we don’t love them). If we make a commitment and if our hearts truly beat for each other, we will make our relationship work in a way that helps us both achieve our dreams and reach our full potential.

Closing Notes

I have only touched upon a handful of topics that touched me the most. In her memoir, Michelle Obama talks about so many other heart-rending issues like losing a parent, dealing with criticism on a daily basis, being called out for belonging to a different race, cultivating a healthy self-love cycle after dealing with crippling criticism, among several others.

I love this book with all my heart. It taught me so much and left me with tears. It made me realise that no matter where we are in life, there is always a way to move past the adversity and carve a better future for ourselves.

Our stories have value and we should believe in them with all we’ve got. In Michelle’s own words:

Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.

Yes, we should own our stories and take full responsibility for how they turn out in the future. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone willing to gain a different perspective on life.

Purchase the book here.

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