Michelle Obama got candid about questioning her value and self-worth in conversation with Amal Clooney and Melinda Gates on Oct. 25. While announcing a collaboration between their respective organizations, Obama, Clooney, and Gates teamed up to support young women’s education and empowerment at an event for the Girls Opportunity Alliance’s Get Her There campaign and spoke about their advice and hopes for adolescent girls.
“When I meet with young girls, I don’t care where in the world it is, I don’t want them to know Michelle Obama, the former first lady. I want them to know Michelle Obama, that girl from the south side of Chicago,” Obama said. “I want to break down that wall of impossibility.”
“Whether you go to the White House, you are constantly batting away those negative messages of being not enough. And yes, I deal with that, too.”
Society makes women and girls second-guess everything about themselves, she said, even sharing how that personally affects her. “There are people with power who want us to stay small. They want us to stay doubtful, and our cultures reinforce that, so the one thing I want young girls to understand is that those feelings are real, they are not crazy, they are indoctrinated in us all, and we carry them around with us our entire lives. I don’t care how far you go. Whether you go to the White House, you are constantly batting away those negative messages of being not enough. And yes, I deal with that, too.”
The former first lady empowered young women to fight those overwhelming feelings of self-doubt with what you can control. “What protects me now from those voices is that life that I have lived,” she said. “It is looking back on 58 years of fighting back against those negative images and seeing that I have laid a path of who I really am, that I have recaptured my own story through the work that I have done. And that is why I have to now believe.”
In addition to her advice for young girls, despite the many global issues affecting women, Obama went on to urge people to pay attention to the backsliding of rights in the US. “Sometimes, women in the US, we can feel a little isolated and above it all,” she said. “We don’t necessarily connect to the rest of the world.” However, as she pointed out, women in the US are faced with the same challenges as those around the world.
She continued, “In the United States of America, we have lost children. Children are illiterate, children are living in poverty, children are being subjected to violence . . . This is our issue. This is not just a global issue; this is not just a women’s issue.” She implored the audience to continue fighting and challenging the system, because the apathy comes from “the agenda of leaders to somehow oppress us under some notion that that’s gonna give them more power and control.”