When asked about her braids, she had a relieved expression. “[Braids] they are an important protective style,” he explains. “As public figures, we’re frying ourselves and dyeing our hair,” she says, referring to the conservative image she was meant to propose. “For eight years I’ve been praying ‘just let me have hair on my head.'”
She expressed that being outside the White House made her voice louder.
“We have become so divided. You put a D or an R on your chest and alienate half the country. Outside of politics, people can hear me better.
Each chapter of The light we carry offers readers just that: a chance to hear a vulnerable, diminished version of a much-revered woman. Behind that squeaky clean image is a woman battling with insecurities and fears. Self-care messages are embedded throughout, and the book serves as a self-help toolkit.
Obama offers a message of hope, as he did in his first book Become. This time he talks about using the pandemic as a time for radical self-care. Like the rest of us, he worried about making sure elderly loved ones were safe, wondered whether his young adults were responsible, and whether or not he had enough toilet paper. Also, like the rest of us, he got a new one hobby– knitting occupied her hands and helped calm her mind.
“Knitting isn’t just for old ladies,” she mused on stage. “Unbeknownst to me, knitting was meditative. When you turn off your mind and let your hands do the work, there is something about it that clarifies. Coming from a family of sewers and knitters, she felt it was her legacy of hers, something that would have surprised her younger self.
A big part of Obama’s self-care message was not only finding an outlet, but also dealing with fear, which was key in dealing with the COVID lockdowns and when he started writing the book. Pandemic or not, the message of not letting fear lead the way rings out.
Obama devotes an entire chapter to how fear disconnects us from our truth and from others.
He explained: “Fear is a necessary evil, right? He keeps us safe.” Anyone who grew up like her on Chicago’s Southside knows that fear can keep us out of trouble, but she believes we shouldn’t give it too much power. If she hadn’t sat down and listened to what her fear of her was trying to say, her husband would not have run for president.
Sometimes that fear is rooted in self-doubt, and although she once lived in a prestigious house, she too has to fight it.
“I wanted to be Perfect”, he told the audience. “But now I don’t feel like I have to prove anything. Excellence is now my habit.
However, leaving the White House revealed two realities for her: “The bad news is this [leaving] it hasn’t eliminated the fear and doubt in my life. The good news is, I’m no longer intimidated by my own thoughts.
An important part of staying steadfast in your truth is “eliminating your inner critic.” Another is to have a circle that can validate your experiences and help you keep perspective. Relationships can be everything when insecurity creeps in.
Obama reminds us of the importance of forging friendships, something many adults struggle to do or seem to overlook. “Friendship is a tool that has sustained me throughout my life,” she recalls. Starting a family and busy work schedule can force us to lose the connections that nourish us mentally, spiritually, and socially. The former first lady learned early in her presidency how difficult it could be, but still, despite clearances, intelligence and snipers, she was able to form a tight-knit girl group like Survivor-era Destiny’s Child .
Combine these messages, plus many others, that are scattered throughout her book, and you’ve not only got a revealing look at the former first lady, but a map to harnessing your own light as well.
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