4 empowering lessons I learnt from Michelle Obama’s Memoir “Becoming”

I am and will always be an ardent fiction lover, I have hardly ventured into reading non fiction and when I have , havent really enjoyed the reading experience. Its taken me far longer to complete non fiction and the joy of immersing myself in the book has not been as much. This is why I usually steer clear of non fiction, I rather spend my limited time to revel in something I truly enjoy. 2021 has turned out to be a decent year when it comes to sticking to my reading goals and I have pleasantly surprised myself.

A colleague recommended Michelle Obama’s Memoir “Becoming”, I had seen it displayed on bookshelves at Crossword many times but did not think of buying it. But when he told me about it and started to describe parts of her life, I was intrigued. I have always been a fan girl when it comes to Michelle, have loved hear her speak, her quotes have inspired me and I was suddenly ready to take the chance to read her memoir.

It took me longer than I expected , but I was determined to persevere and complete it. The thing with memoirs, biographies is its not as exciting, intense and doesn’t keep me hooked like a story. That is not to say that I do not enjoy reading it. There were many takeaways for me from her Memoir, I do not want to do a book review but rather focus on a few key aspects of her life which had me totally awe struck and I could relate to them very strongly.

  1. The part I enjoyed the most in the book was Michelle’s early life, her parents in particular and the upbringing that Michelle and Craig had. Despite all the difficulties, discrimination, bleakness around, her parents chose to show the brighter side of life to their kids. Their unshakeable belief in what a good education can do, how they earnestly wanted their kids to lead a life that was nothing like theirs, the values they ingrained in their kids and the investment in working hard to build a life that was starkly different from their parents – this moved me. I could see similarities to a life I have lived, the values I was brought up with. Michelle’s father’s indomitable spirit had me speechless. As she described his struggle with multiple sclerosis over years , while his body was giving up, his mind refused to budge and how he carried himself to work each day, a smile on his face. Her mother’s calm demeanour, and steely resolve underneath had me cheering for her. Knowing that someone’s got your back gives you wings to fly. How her mother took up the issues with her school teacher and was determined that Michelle should not suffer due to a system that fails her, how this ultimately led to Michelle moving to a higher grade and gradually paved the way for her stellar journey ahead. had me clapping in glee. Its never one moment but several of these where someone stands up for you, and you in turn pass on that good deed and uplift someone – and this is how we all progress and get better.
  2. “Am I good enough?” who had thought someone who is as confident, super brainy, charismatic, a Princeton and Harvard grad would have such inhibitions. But scratch beneath the surface and don’t most of us go through these moments? And there are people ever ready to make us believe we are not good enough. But as Michelle puts it so eloquently “That nagging feeling doesn’t go away, but the most successful people I know have figured out how to live with it, to lean on the people who believe in them and to push onward with their goals”.
  3. Being a nerd can be so cool and the way Michelle carries herself and self proclaims her nerdiness made me wish that there were more such role models in my early years. When I went to college and studied for my CA, my goal was to excel at what I do. I was always academically inclined and it was self driven , a big factor being my upbringing and the values instilled in me. Not everyone appreciated my stellar academic record and quite a few made me feel uncomfortable about it. This did not change my goals in anyway but it was those uncertain periods of a shaken self belief that I went through and having read someone like Michelle at that time would have been such an antidote. Over time I have come to revel in my nerdiness and am a self proclaimed nerd, a fan of other nerds and raising a nerdy daughter too, but hey its cool to be a nerd. Who decides whats good for you, but you yourself.
  4. Michelle’s career switch after having toiled insanely hard at Harvard to become a lawyer was where the book totally got me. It was difficult to digest how someone who is so set in her beliefs , has spent her whole life focussed on one goal, has dreams of making it as a partner in a prestigious law firm has an awakening one day. With so much at stake, she takes a bold move of a career switch. It is fraught with uncertainties, roadblocks but she figures out her way. Not everyone has the courage to take such a chance and sometimes its the circumstances which dont allow you to make such a move, but this was a refreshing twist that I loved.

Michelle’s journey from South Side to Harvard and being the First Lady is incredibly inspiring. It shows what self belief, grit, determination, fierce love and optimism can do. I would highly recommend this memoir to others.

Have you read it?

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