Michelle Obama quotes: Inspirational speeches from the former First Lady as 'Becoming' is on track to be the best-selling memoir in history

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, we look back at some of Mrs O's finest quotes.

Michelle Obama quotes


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 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)


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)

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