Michelle Obama quotes: Inspiration from her Meghan Markle Vogue interview and powerful speeches

Lisa Brown

Whether she's preaching self-worth, delivering a practical piece of career advice or a classy riposte to her critics ("when they go low, we go high" anyone?) Michelle Obama is a walking wisdom generator.

As her book Becoming is set to become the best-selling memoir in history, with sales figures hitting 10 million, clearly people are clamouring to listen. One woman who’s just as keen to soak up her wisdom is the Duchess of Sussex, who interviewed the former First Lady for the September issue of British Vogue. Opening up to Meghan Markle, Obama’s words on female empowerment and motherhood struck a chord with many.

Calling her “my former First Lady and now friend”, Meghan wrote, “Whatever your background, it’s easy to feel connected to Mrs Obama. There’s something magical about the way in which she draws you in with her endearingly frank, down-to-earth personality.”

Michelle, who was recently declared the Most Admired Woman in the World according to a YouGov poll, has provided no end of inspiration for her grace and determination. Here’s some of Mrs O’s finest quotes over the years.

Michelle Obama quotes


On always moving forwards: "I imagine that [15 year old Michelle Obama would] be proud of how far I’ve come – but she wouldn’t let me off the hook, either. I feel like she’d give me one of those silent nods of recognition, you know? She’d remind me there are still too many girls on the South Side of Chicago who are being shushed, cast aside or told they’re dreaming too big. She’d tell me to keep fighting for them. If I’m being honest, she’d probably smile about how cute my husband is, too."

(Speaking to Meghan Markle and British Vogue)

On imposter syndrome: "I still have a little [bit of] impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you're actually listening to me. It doesn't go away, that feeling that you shouldn't take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is. If I'm giving people hope then that is a responsibility, so I have to make sure that I am accountable."

(Speaking at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington)

When you’re reluctant to use your voice: "Don’t waste your seat at the table... If you are scared to use your voice, then you’ve got to get up and give it to someone who isn’t afraid to use the spot."

(Pennsylvania Conference for Women)

Michelle Obama and Barack Obama attending the Inaugural Ball in 2013. (Getty Images)

When you’re facing the worst of bullies: "When they go low, we go high."

Obama first used this phrase at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. The quote was then borrowed by Hillary Clinton in the final rounds of her 2016 presidential campaign.

More recently, Obama expanded on the motto in an interview with Blavity: "Now, going high doesn’t mean giving up or ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean you shy away from the fight or weaken your principles. It means you lead with your whole heart and your whole soul—your whole value system—and not just whatever happens to be your stance on a given issue. Going high isn’t just about the fight you want to win, but it's also about the person you want to be—and the kind of country you want to have."

Michelle Obama speaking at the 'When We All Vote' Rally In Las Vegas. (Getty Images)

When you're trying to find your way in the world: "Don’t just check the boxes you think you’re supposed to check, like I did when I was their age. I tell them that I hope they’ll keep trying on new experiences until they find what feels right. And what felt right yesterday might not necessarily feel right today. That’s OK – it’s good, even."

(Speaking to Meghan Markle and British Vogue)

When you’re searching for more self-awareness: “..I think as women and young girls, we have to invest that time in getting to understand who we are and liking who we are. Because I like me. I’ve liked me for a very long time... You’ve got to work to get to that place.”

(In conversation with Oprah Winfrey at the United State of Women Summit)

Michelle and Barack Obama arriving for a state dinner in 2014. (Getty Images)

On being brave at work: “If you’re going out into the world as a professional and you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want, you don’t know how much you’re worth, then you have to be brave. And then you have to count on the kindness and goodness of others to bestow that goodness on you when you should be working to get it on your own. Because you deserve it.”

(In conversation with Oprah Winfrey at the United State of Women Summit)

On motherhood: "Motherhood has also taught me that my job is not to bulldoze a path for [my daughters] in an effort to eliminate all possible adversity. But instead, I need to be a safe and consistent place for them to land when they inevitably fail; and to show them, again and again, how to get up on their own.

(Speaking to Meghan Markle and British Vogue)

When you’re feeling inadequate: “Success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives.”

(2012 Democratic National Convention)

When relationships turn toxic: “Choose people who will lift you up. Find people who will make you better.”

(ABC interview)

Michelle Obama giving a speech during day one of the Democratic National Convention in 2012. (Getty Images)

When you’re feeling hopeless about an issue you care about: “...Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise.”

(Final remarks as First Lady)

When you’re trying to overcome body shame: “Being a healthy woman isn't about getting on a scale or measuring your waistline—and we can't afford to think that way. Instead, we need to start focusing on what matters—on how we feel, and how we feel about ourselves.”

(Essay for Women’s Health)

Michelle and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. (AFP/Getty Images)

When you’re intent on reaching a goal: “One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals.”

(Marie Claire)

Michelle Obama at the Democratic Convention in 2012. (Getty Images)

When life and hardships get you down: “You may not always have a comfortable life. And you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems all at once. But don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”

(Young African Women Leaders Forum)

When you make a mistake: “Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail.”

(Glamour’s “The Power of an Educated Girl” panel)

When you're struggling to make a tough decision: "Don't ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn't."

(Campaigning in Phoenix in 2011)