Michelle Obama’s memoir called Becoming has officially been named the best-selling book in the US. In this honest and intimate book, Michelle tells the story of her life from her early childhood that she spent with her family in Chicago, to becoming the First Lady of the US. She shares her sad and happy memories, her fears and doubts, the adversity she had to face, and the decisions that helped her stay strong and successful despite the obstacles.
Here at Bright Side we read Becoming so we could tell you about the rules and principles this strong woman follows. It turns out that they are quite simple for all of us to adopt, and at the same time, powerful enough to change our life for good.
1. Take your failures as learning opportunities.
In 2016, Michelle Obama participated in an international discussion about girls’ access to education. In her speech she encouraged young female students to support each other and not be afraid of failing. “The only way you succeed in life and the only way you learn is by failing,” said Michelle. “It’s not the failure, it’s what you do after you fail. Do you quit? Do you give up? Or do you let it bolster you?”
This idea is developed in the book as well, where the former First Lady stressed how important it is to fight the fear of failure as soon as it appears. “Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s the vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”
2. Never view your challenges as a disadvantage.
Michelle Obama is a woman who definitely knows what it means to overcome challenges. In her memoir, she writes, “I’ve been a working-class black student at a fancy, mostly white college. I’ve been the only woman, the only African American, in all sorts of rooms.” The guidance counselor at Princeton said to her, “I’m not sure that you’re Princeton material,” without even asking Michelle any questions and not even trying to figure out who she was.
But obstacles and prejudices did not destroy this strong woman, and never knocked her off her feet. “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages. And I know that because I’ve seen it myself,” said Michelle when delivering a motivational speech to students.
3. Know your own value and don’t apologize for who you are.
It’s sad, but we still live in a world where the size of our bank account, our social background, our skin color, and other physical features often define our attitude toward each other. Many of us hear judgmental comments about ourselves now and then. Mrs. Obama’s piece of advice on this is to always say to yourself, “This isn’t about me, this is about the person who says or writes this.” In her book Becoming we find lines that vividly describe this principle.
“Since stepping reluctantly into public life, I’ve been held up as the most powerful woman in the world and taken down as an “angry black woman.” I’ve heard about the swampy parts of the internet that question everything about me. A sitting U.S. congressman has made fun of my butt. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been furious. But mostly, I’ve tried to laugh this stuff off.“
4. Learn to prioritize yourself.
Being daughters or sisters, and then wives and mothers, women often put themselves at the end of the list. Michelle confessed that at a certain stage in her marriage she got so deep into her husband’s life, that she didn’t care that much about her own happiness. “I was too busy resenting Barack for managing to fit workouts into his schedule, for example, to even begin figuring out how to exercise regularly myself. I spent so much energy stewing over whether or not he’d make it home for dinner that dinners, with or without him, were no longer fun.”
It all changed when she realized that she herself was in charge of her own happiness. Michelle introduced a new routine where her daughters’ and her own comfort was the focus. “The routine was ironclad, which put the weight of responsibility on Barack to either make it on time or not. For me, this made so much more sense than holding off dinner or having the girls wait up sleepily for a hug.
It went back to my wishes for them to grow up strong and centered, and also unaccommodating to any form of old-school patriarchy: I didn’t want them ever to believe that life began when the man of the house arrived home. We didn’t wait for Dad. It was his job now to catch up with us.”
5. Set new goals and count your wins.
Throughout her memoir, Michelle speaks about the goals she set at different periods of her life. This is a wide range of goals, from those she set in the school classroom to the goals she and Barack thought over when his presidential term was about to end. Michelle has always been a great achiever, and it was partially driven by a question she wouldn’t stop asking herself: “Am I good enough?”
“Beneath my laid-back college-kid demeanor, I lived like a half-closeted CEO, quietly but unswervingly focused on achievement, bent on checking every box. My to-do list lived in my head and went with me everywhere. I assessed my goals, analyzed my outcomes, and counted my wins. If there was a challenge to vault, I’d vault it.”
6. Plan your life and be in charge of what happens in it.
Planning is essential. This is the truth Michelle learned in her family. “I’d been raised, after all, in a family that believed in forethought—that ran fire drills at home and showed up early to everything. Growing up in a working-class community and with a disabled parent, I’d learned that planning and vigilance mattered a lot.
It could mean the difference between stability and poverty. The margins always felt narrow. One missed paycheck could leave you without electricity; one missed homework assignment could put you behind and possibly out of college.”
7. Have fun during hard times.
Mrs. Obama knows how important it is to stay uplifted when life gets hard. Fun and laughter gives you the power to overcome any obstacles in the way, and cheer up those around you. When the US economy was in rough shape, she found ways to make people around a bit happier. Even though Barack’s communications staff found it too showy and costly, she hosted a Halloween party for local kids and military families at the White House, dressed as a leopard.
In Becoming, Michelle recollects how Barack’s team was tracking all photos that came out of the White House so that they didn’t look frivolous or light. “This didn’t always sit well with me. I knew from experience that even during hard times, maybe especially during hard times, it was still okay to laugh. For the sake of children, in particular, you have to find ways to have fun.”
Which of the rules impressed you the most? Which of them would you like to follow? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments!