It was as the First Lady of the United States that we first came to know Michelle Obama. But since leaving the White House she’s stepped seemingly effortlessly into a role that arguably eclipses her husband’s in terms of influence and inspiration.
As a mother, a leader and an advocate for women’s power (not to mention a sought-after speaker and best selling author), she’s managed to retain a genuine air of relatability.
I’m sure I’m one of many women who could totally imagine grabbing a coffee (or a cocktail!) with Michelle, instinctively feeling that sense of closeness that only comes from deep authenticity and openness.
It’s a rare quality in a public figure and one that speaks of remarkable inner strength. And as I read back over some of her best-known quotes, it’s easy to see why. So many of the Soft Power principles we live by here at One of many have been powerfully articulated by Michelle over the years. Here’s a roundup of just a few.
On the importance of taking care of yourself
In her interviews and conversations, Michelle’s repeatedly been an advocate for taking care of ourselves as women. Around here, we know it as “Soft Power Principle Number One”: First, replenish yourself.
It might sound obvious – if you’re hungry, you eat. If you’re tired, you sleep… Right? Only, as any woman who’s pushed through overwhelm, exhaustion or fed-up-ness knows – it’s surprising how long you can keep going past your own natural limits, when you feel you have no choice.
As mothers, as leaders and as team members we know that even when we’re mentally and physically depleted, somehow we can keep going. But that doesn’t mean we should. In Michelle’s words,
“Women in particular need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we’re scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don’t have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.”
I love how Michelle frames self-care not only as a matter of doing what’s right for ourselves, but as a model for the next generation.
Our actions matter when it comes to the example we set to the women looking up to us.
How can we show them how we expect them to be treated in the world? Leaving the office on time, so that junior colleagues see that holding power responsibly doesn’t entail burning the candle at both ends? Or letting the young people in your life – nieces, baristas, the student intern – see that you’re not afraid to show up as you are, and ask for what you need?
For Michelle, part of her leadership is showing her daughters how important it is to make time for herself.
“When I get up and work out, I’m working out just as much for my girls as I am for me, because I want them to see a mother who loves them dearly, who invests in them, but who also invests in herself.
It’s just as much about letting them know as young women that it is okay to put yourself a little higher on your priority list.”
Whether it’s taking responsibility for our finances; creating equal partnerships with our spouses, or standing up for the causes we believe in, we’re not only doing it for us but also acting as leaders to the women growing up in the world we’re creating. I don’t know about you but for me that’s a real motivator when it comes to prioritizing my needs.
We can’t do it alone
So it’s important to take time for ourselves, and to remember that we’re always modelling choices for those around us to. But what happens when things get hard? When perhaps the thought of being an “example” to others can feel like pressure we just don’t need.
Here’s another thread where I find our work hugely aligned with Michelle’s – connection with other women. In her words,
“Sometimes we can’t do this alone, and we shouldn’t have to.”
Our community of women is one of the most powerful I’ve ever experienced – when it comes to work, life, or relationships, I never fail to be astonished by the depth of the friendships and support I see at our retreats, at the One Woman Conference, and in our online community.
For some of us, it’s the first time we’ve experienced true connection with other women – who we can rely on to tell us the truth, share their highs and their lows, and stand with us as we grow.
On the days when I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water I can hugely relate to how highly Michelle speaks of her own inner circle of women.
“I relied on my girlfriends to get me through one of the hardest eight years of my life. … We have to remember to be that for each other.
We have to be each other’s light. We cannot get into that catty stuff. We have to find a way to continue to lift other women up in our worlds and in our lives as much as possible.”
Lifting other women up. It’s a phrase that sums up so beautifully the power of our community and the truth that we’ll all rise higher when we do it together.
If you’d love to experience it for yourself, click here to join us and find out more. We all need each other if we’re going to create the world we want to live in.
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