Michelle Obama’s «Becoming» and The Big Question

Last year, I bought Michelle Obama’s autobiographical book, Becoming. It was a bit long but it was rather good and pretty interesting. She talks about her life, her early childhood in Chicago (the south side, as she proudly says), how she was placed in a group for particularly talented students, how she went to college at Princeton and later to Harvard Law School, and how, after so many years of academic excellence and success after success, she came to a realization: 1) Her need to be the best had been rather aimless, and 2) she was still asking herself the same question over and over: Am I good enough?

And these two key aspects of her life are what stayed with me the most. She went down a path that many people can only dream of: she was smart, motivated, had high marks at school, got into the best schools and programs, and got a high-paying job at a law firm in her twenties, and after achieving all of this, she realized that she did not feel like she was living a fulfilling life. It was a successful life, but not a fulfilling one.

It is interesting to see that this rather straightforward but ultimately disappointing path to success was guided by her constant need to prove to herself and to the world that she was good enough.

Am I good enough?

This question has followed Michelle Obama since her early childhood. It made her insecure, but it pushed her to be the best she could be, and then it kept haunting her.

Becoming resonated with me because that four-word question is the same one I ask myself at least every week. It’s the same one a lot of us ask ourselves.

Am I good enough?

I asked myself that question when I applied for my bachelor’s program and then my master’s program. I have asked myself that question every time I apply for a job, every time I start a new project, every time I write an article, a university paper, a blog post, or a script for a video. It is always with me.

I have found that the only way to go, is to move forward. There is no way I can say «no» to that question because then I’d never get anything done. For Michelle, the only answer was also to push forward with all the energy and intensity that she had until she crashed into a wall. But then, she started looking for other projects, projects that were meaningful and that helped her have a fulfilling life.

This book helped me remember that, no matter what I do, I want my life to be meaningful, to be fulfilling. I don’t want to be successful just for the sake of it.

I can’t say, however, that I loved this book. It is well written and it is very interesting to read about her life and her adventures, first as a single woman and then with Barack Obama, who is undoubtedly an interesting person, even if I disagree with many of his policies. But there were some elements of this book that simply didn’t click with me. For starters, it is decidedly U.S.-American, which is totally fine and expected (she is the former First Lady of the United States, after all), but I’m not American. I’m not into all that patriotism and American exceptionalism. I expected those elements, of course, but I never enjoy them, and this book was no different.

But the honesty with which she talks about her life, her flaws, her ambitions and insecurities, as well as the warmth of her storytelling made it worthwhile. It made me connect with her. She and I have virtually nothing in common, but I found myself in those pages, feeling those insecurities, asking myself that same question, the big question, am I good enough?

I sure hope yes.

Happy Easter.

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