What I Learned From Michelle Obama

Last night, I had the good fortune to join my sister and two of my closest friends at event called A Conversation with Michelle Obama. Michelle talked about how to be our authentic selves; the power of our stories and how we need to share those stories to expand the space for women and people of color to be included; how to parent by example; and how she and Barack are thinking about their future in public service.

While I loved everything she had to say, and she’s a great story teller, I left feeling like I hadn’t gotten exactly what I wanted. First of all, how can I be my authentic self (possibly a bitch) and also parent well by example? Just kidding (although I did have to think through to where I acknowledged that my authentic self is not a bitch).

Then I asked myself: What did I want Michelle to say? I wanted her to impart wisdom about how to be as amazing as she is, for her to gossip about politics and tell us how good people will take this country back. I wanted her to share the secrets of fabulousness and beauty and perfection that only she knows. In short, I wanted a quick course in Becoming Michelle Obama (“Becoming” is the title of her forthcoming memoir).

The reason I didn’t get all this is, Michelle Obama steadfastly refuses to be put on a pedestal. In her words and deeds, she says, “You won’t get this power and beauty from me; you will find it in yourself, in your story and in your deeds. You’ll find it in the way you treat children and other women and the people you love and the people you work with. You only become like me by being you.”

That’s not a quote; that’s a synopsis. And while it sounds trite, it’s actually really complex and difficult, subject to all kinds of self-doubt and self-criticism.  It’s much easier to aspire to be Michelle Obama than it is to aspire to be me, especially since I am not 100% sure who I am. But it was immensely helpful to hear from Michelle that she, too, is still trying to figure out who she is. Even in the midst of her journey, she knows who she is, she knows the power of her story and she knows she is searching for her passion. And in that way, I don’t have to aspire to be her at all – I’m already just like her.

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