Michelle Obama begins her book with the adage that we all need tools—welcomed or not—to survive, especially in uncertain times like the ones we live in today. The Light We Carry: Overcoming In Uncertain Times is meant to be one of those tools, culled from the ones that the former First Lady uses to sustain her marriage, her public persona and her sanity.
Divided into three parts, The Light We Carry reveals Obama's insecurities in its first section. She is vividly candid, whether it was growing up too tall, or becoming an “only” Black individual during her studies at Princeton University. She points out that if you get caught up in the differences you think people are seeing and judging you by, you’ll never be able to concentrate on the traits that make you great. “No one can make you feel bad if you feel good about yourself,” she writes.
Addressing the fearful mind that tells us we’re not good, smart, pretty, etc. enough to accomplish our not-so-unreasonable life goals, Obama advises accepting her existence, and then to keep moving forward. Sharing the tale of a pal who greets himself enthusiastically every morning, Obama instructs us to be our own first person of the day who shows us some warmth. This simple act sets an intention for others to treat us with the same level of levity and openness.
In the second part of the book, Obama reveals the people you need around you to get further in life. That includes your girl crew, who can keep you bolstered when the love of your life is away.
She discusses the importance of family, sharing how her own mother, Marian Shields Robinson, moved into the White House to help care for her daughters Sasha and Malia as children. We also get a glimpse of Mama’s own rules to raising happy and adjusted kids (Number 5: Letting them know they can always come home, because we like you here).
Of course, there's an entire chapter on partnering well, and no one has done it better than Michelle and President Barack Obama. Her secret is understanding that their love is not perfect, but that they are committed to its constant evaluation, improvement and the decision to stay rather than to run. For anyone interested in studying every little detail of the couple’s courtship, Obama lays it out quite nicely here. She low-key advises not to rush into a relationship as she addresses her daughters’ “dating around” statuses, making it OK to take the time to find the right partner.
In the third section of the book, Obama encourages us to find our voice and the armor needed to thrive. It’s about using what makes us different to propel, not hinder our success, and shifting perspective to celebrate our uniqueness than fearing it. The fear of being an “outsider” may never dissipate. But with preparedness and adaptability, we can sail above it.
Obama’s final lesson expands on her famous sentiment, “Go High.” Even in the most trying of times, it’s still important to be thoughtful and respond with your head and heart to keep the poison out and power in. Obama ends with the lesson that going high is a commitment, but it’s always worth the yes.