Michelle Obama captivated audiences everywhere from the moment she stepped into the public eye. From her iconic fashion looks to her contagious positivity, the former First Lady has inspired us to prioritize self-care, use our voices for change, and be ourselves — unapologetically.
She’s been refreshingly candid about her struggles growing up, the pressures she faced in the White House, and her family-first priorities — so in honor of her 55th birthday, we’re reflecting on some her her most-inspiring quotes and moments.
When she encouraged us to take friendship getaways
In her 2018 bestselling book, Becoming, Obama opened up about how she stayed grounded during her hectic time in the White House. Her trick? Weekend trips with her friends. “Every few months, I invited twelve or so of my closest friends to join me for a weekend at Camp David, the woodsy, summer-camp-like presidential retreat that sits about sixty miles outside Washington in the mountains of northern Maryland,” Obama writes. “Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are born of a thousand small kindnesses, swapped back and forth over again.”
When she was completely honest about marriage therapy
During her book tour, Obama opened up about the realities of maintaining her happy marriage to Barack. “Marriage is hard, even for us,” she admitted on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon. “We have a great relationship, but the thing about marriage counseling is like I was one of those wives who thought, ‘I’m taking you to marriage counseling so you can be fixed, Barack Obama,’ because I was like, ‘I’m perfect.’ I was like, ‘Dr. X, please fix him,’ and then our counselor looked over at me and I was like, ‘What are you looking at? I’m perfect.’ Once the audience finished laughing, she continued, “Marriage counseling was a turning point for me understanding that it wasn’t up to my husband to make me happy — that I had to learn how to fill myself up and have to put myself higher on my priority list.”
When she showed us the power of not letting others choose for you
Obama has also been honest about finding her own path in life, which is what has fueled much of her success along the way. “This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path — the “my, isn’t that impressive” path — and keep you there for a long time,” she explained in an interview. “Maybe it stops you from considering a swerve, because what you risk losing in terms of other people’s high regard can feel too costly.”
When she taught us how to silence our inner critic
Like the rest of us, Obama has struggled with negative self-talk, and she’s learned to remind herself of her own power. She admits that she still struggles with imposter syndrome from time to time, and wants us to know that it’s normal to occasionally doubt yourself. “I still have a little impostor syndrome… It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously,” Newsweek reports her saying. “I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”
When she completely owned her style repeats
We love the power of a classic style repeat, and Obama seems to agree that we should be actively normalizing — and celebrating — our outfit repeats. She’s even pointed out that we need to get rid of the double-standard that allows men to rewear their looks without a question. “That’s the unfair thing,” she told Vogue in 2017. “No matter what we do [Barack] puts on the same tux. Now, people take pictures of the shoes I wear, the bracelets, the necklace — they didn’t comment on that for eight years, he wore the same tux, same shoes.”
When she showed us the importance of empowering other women
Obama has found amazing success in her own life, and when it comes to helping others, she hasn’t held back in inspiring other women to do the same. She recently sat down with new royal Meghan Markle to for some woman-to-woman words of wisdom, and she does the same for those close to her. “Like I tell my daughters, women and girls can do whatever they want,” she’s said. “There’s no limit to what we as women can accomplish.”
When she reminded us it’s OK to fail
“I wish that all girls could fail as bad as men do and be OK,” Obama said in an interview. The former First Lady has failed in her own life, and has learned from her failures to improve and move forward. Today, she sees the value in failing, and reminds us that it’s okay to do the same. After all, she’s also said that if she were to tell her younger self one piece of advice, it would be: “Stop being so afraid.”
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.