3 Things I Learned From Michelle Obama's 'Becoming'

"Becoming," the newest book written by the inspiring Michelle Obama, takes the audience on her journey of becoming who she is today. In this memoir, Michelle tells us how she overcame obstacles, balanced her personal life and politics, and found her purpose. By reading it, one is able to have a deeper understanding of who Michelle is as a person. The messages embedded in the book inspire many women, especially young black women such as myself, to become the best version of themselves.

1. Don’t listen to people who underestimate you

In "Becoming," Michelle Obama reflects on a time she was unexpectedly underestimated. While exploring the different options for college, she met with her college counselor. After expressing her interest in pursuing a degree at Princeton, the counselor voiced her doubt that Michelle was “Princeton material.” The words stuck with Michelle from that moment on and even reduced her confidence.

Although the discouraging words of her counselor replayed in her head, she knew how much potential she possessed. Michelle followed through with her application to Princeton, which resulted in an acceptance letter to her top choice for college. Thanks to her determination, she accomplished the goal despite her college counselor’s underestimation of her potential.

I personally find this specific story inspiring, because we all have and will face underestimation from our peers at some point. It may bruise our egos and hurt our feelings at first, but the decision to continue striving for our goals is vital to our success. As a young black woman, such obstacles have and will be thrown my way during my journey. However, after reading Michelle's story, I know I can overcome the adversities that come along during my journey.  

2. “Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result”

Referring to her conversation with her college counselor, Michelle Obama discusses her feelings of failure that occurred afterward. Even though she hadn't attempted to reach her goal yet, she already felt defeated. However, Michelle realized her feelings of failure weren’t reality, which ultimately led to her success in reaching her dreams. If you want to pursue a goal, don’t allow the possibility of failure to get to your head. If you don’t try, you’ll never know!

As a perfectionist, my worst fear isn't spiders or heights, but failure. Failure is defined differently depending on a person's standards, meaning one person may not see receiving a "B" in a class as a failure while someone else will. To me, failure is letting both myself and my family down. A particular quote from the book, "Failure is a feeling long before it's an actual result", was extremely helpful to me. It demonstrates that sometimes we've failed in our mind, but haven't actually failed. If you're like me and tend to feel defeated before it's "an actual result," take a step back, get out of your head, and don't be afraid to pursue your goals.

3. The color of your skin doesn’t define your potential

At Princeton, Michelle Obama found herself at a predominately white university with only a few people of color in the lecture halls. It’s difficult to maintain your confidence when you don’t see many people of your same race pursuing a degree at your college. When you walk into a room, you sometimes feel like you don’t belong. However, Michelle knew she could get grades just as high as her white peers and be just as successful. 

As a young black woman attending a predominately white university, I understand the feeling of discomfort when walking into a classroom: the feeling that you're being judged based primarily on your skin color. Michelle went from living in a high-crime neighborhood to living in one of the most recognizable houses in our country, and she inspired so many people with her class and grace. Her journey shows young black women that regardless of your start, you can accomplish what you strive to achieve.

"Becoming" not only tells readers how Michelle Obama became the high-achieving woman she is today, but challenged them to think about who they wanted to become. Thousands of readers took part in the #IAmBecoming challenge, which went viral soon after the book was released. Who am I becoming? I am becoming the best version of myself: a strong young black woman, and a well-rounded person.   

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