Afrovational: Michelle Obama's advice to her younger self

Illustration by Nicholle Kobi

Michelle Obama is my favorite person in the White House. She has such a beautiful mind, and her grace is transcending. Michelle, is the real life embodiment of the fictional Claire Huxtable character on the Cosby Show that so many of us grew up loving.

Michelle wrote a special essay for people magazine in October 2014. The essay, A letter to my younger self is a timeless empowering message for all women. Sage advice for girls and women who want to grow up well and be the best possible versions of themselves.

Authenticity starts by letting go of fear of how others will perceive you.

“If I could give my younger self just one piece of advice, it would be this: Stop being so afraid! That’s really what strikes me when I look back—the sheer amount of time I spent tangled up in fears and doubts that were entirely of my own creation. I was afraid of not knowing the answer in class and looking stupid, or worried about what some boy thought of me, or wondering whether the other girls liked my clothes or my hair, or angsting about some offhand comment someone made to me in the lunchroom. I would love to go back in time and tell my younger self, ‘Michelle, these middle and high school years are just a tiny blip in your life, and all the slights and embarrassments and heartaches, all those times you got that one question wrong on that test—none of that is important in the scheme of things. Instead, what matters are the true friends you make, the activities you throw yourself into, the books you read, the skills and knowledge you acquire. Those experiences—the ones that make you stronger, smarter and braver—are what really matter.’ So I would have told myself: Walk away from ‘friendships’ that make you feel small and insecure, and seek out people who inspire you and support you. Focus more on learning than on succeeding—instead of pretending that you understand something when you don’t, just raise your hand and ask a question. You’re a smart girl, and chances are if you’re confused, plenty of other students are too. And for heaven’s sake, let yourself really fail once in a while—not some tiny little mistakes here and there, but big, glaring, confidence-shaking, dark-night-of-the-soul-inducing failures. Understand that no one—especially folks who are truly successful—simply coasts from achievement to achievement. The most accomplished people in the world fail and fail big. That’s how they learn so much and grow so quickly and become so interesting and wise. In short, stop trying to be someone who will impress everyone else, and just focus on being and becoming fully, sincerely and passionately yourself.”

Can you think of ways you can start embracing everything about you? What are your likes, dislikes, preferences? Do you unapologetically accept them all and refuse to be a slave to external validation?

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