I first read Michelle Obama’s Becoming a few years ago when it was first published. I got it as a present from Kaloyan who went above and beyond to get me a copy before it was even published on the Bulgarian market which must have been extremely hard back then. I had already been familiar with the majority of Michele’s story before reading the book but I still wanted to get a more personal glimpse into her life, narrated with her own words.
Because Becoming is primarily a very personal account of everything that has shaped Michelle Obama into the woman we all know today. I felt like she was letting me and only me into her life, welcoming me as a friend. It is not a simple memoire, it is more like a journal of all her thoughts and experiences that have had a major impact in her life.
Becoming, however, is not only a personal and real account but also a very valuable treasure in terms of the life lessons it transmits. Michele shares some of the most precious moments of her life and how those have shaped her personality. This is what makes me pick her book time and time again when I have found myself in a challenging situation. For this reason, I wanted to pay tribute to her book and share with you the three most valuable lessons that Michele Obama taught me in the pages of Becoming.
3 Lessons I’ve Learned From Becoming By Michelle Obama
1. Advocating for yourself is a real strength
Throughout her career, Michele Obama had to make strong efforts to advocate for herself when there was a need to do so. Starting from the Ivy League world, through the Sidley & Austin firm, up to the non-profit organization Public Allies where she truly found herself, with every career choice Michele Obama had to defend herself and demand what she deserved. “I couldn’t be shy or embarrassed about my needs,” she says in Becoming. “I still had roughly $600 of student debt to pay off each month on top of my regular expenses, and I was married to a man with his own load of law school loans to cover” (177).
This has helped me negotiate my current salary up to a level that I really feel that I deserve at this stage of my career. I was neither ashamed nor afraid to ask for whatever I believed I was worth and this paid off in the long run.
2. It’s Okay to Leave Patriarchy In The Dust
I have always known that the traditional patriarchal type of family would not be something that I would strive for. I have seen what it does to some women in my closest circle and I don’t want that for myself. However, I have seen time and time again the rather negative reaction that the “un-traditional” women get when they say that their husbands should do laundry, play with the kids, change diapers, etc., etc. I am extremely happy that I have found a future husband-to-be that joins in the home errands as much as he can and I am sure that one day when we have children, he will be a fantastic father who will love to spend his time playing with them.
Michelle Obama shares in her book that she has stopped asking her girls to wait up for Dad to get home and instead has told Dad he needs to get home at a certain time if he wants to see his kids: “It went back to my wishes for [my girls] to grow up strong and centered and also unaccommodating to any form of old-school patriarchy,” Michelle writes.
She drives the point in deep: “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” (207).
3. Mentorship Is Crucial
When I was in high school in Cyprus, we had a few mentorship classes that were designed to help us pick up the correct career path for us by evaluating our biggest strengths. The lady who ran these classes helped me see that I was very good at writing and made me believe that language would be part of my career in some way or another.
Even though my parents have always supported me in my decisions and have provided any guidance that I wanted, having an extra, trusted woman mentor made me feel extra-loved, extra-listened-to, extra-cared-for. So it was really interesting to read about Michelle Obama’s mentorship program in the White House, where she and other powerful women “spent hours talking with [younger women] in a big circle, munching popcorn and trading our thoughts about college applications, body image, and boys. No topic was off-limits” (357).
This is what every teenage girl needs. It’s the beginning of those priceless woman friendships that carry us through our highest and lowest times, without judgment and with support and understanding.
Have you read Michelle Obama’s Becoming? What was the biggest lesson that it taught you? Let me know in the comments.