Becoming Fearless: a Lesson from Michelle Obama

Today I listening to the audio version of the book  “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. Michelle is a great narrator by the way. Being in chronological order, chapter 6 begins her journey of arriving at Princeton. Coming from a family on the lower side of Chicago, she often talks about the fear of “not being enough” when compared with other kids at her newly integrated high school. She goes on to tell the story of applying for Princeton…

“It’s possible, in fact, that during our short meeting the college counselor said things to me that might have been positive and helpful, but I recall none of it. Because rightly or wrongly, I got stuck on one single sentence the woman uttered. “I’m not sure,” she said, giving me a perfunctory, patronizing smile, “that you’re Princeton material.” Her judgment was as swift as it was dismissive, probably based on a quick-glance calculus involving my grades and test scores. It was some version, I imagine, of what this woman did all day long and with practiced efficiency, telling seniors where they did and didn’t belong. I’m sure she figured she was only being realistic. I doubt that she gave our conversation another thought. But as I’ve said, failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result. And for me, it felt like that’s exactly what she was planting—a suggestion of failure long before I’d even tried to succeed. She was telling me to lower my sights, which was the absolute reverse of every last thing my parents had ever told me. Had I decided to believe her, her pronouncement would have toppled my confidence all over again, reviving the old thrum of not enough, not enough.”¹

This story really struck a chord with me especially that feeling at times of not enough. But what I loved more than anything was her attitude, “…failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result.” Wow. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this or not. But I know times where things have gone horribly wrong, and I’ve “failed”, the nagging feeling of failure was there long before I ever failed.

I think it all has to do with mind-set and the actions you take when you think you are going to fail. Or should I say the actions you don’t take when you think you are going to fail. When you believe in yourself, really believe in yourself, you give yourself the opportunity to do everything necessary to get there. You hold your shoulders back. You look for ways to make things happen instead of letting the world go dark around you inhibiting your way.

That is where faith comes in. Faith is believing before things ever seem possible. Faith is knowing there is a way when there seems to be no way. But just because there is no way to be seen does not mean that it does not exist. Belief pushes you to work harder because you know that it is possible. When I was living in Tulsa, before moving to Nashville, I had a scripture that I hung on my door. It helped me kept my sights on my dreams. “Faith without works is dead.”² I think today I’ll hang Michelle’s quote along with that scripture on my bathroom mirror to remind myself that I to was made to become fearless.

Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl

Read Becoming by Michelle Obama along with us here.

Reference:

  1. Obama, Michelle. Becoming (pp. 65-66). Crown. Kindle Edition.
  2. Title of scriptures taken from James 2: 14-26 ESV

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