The Light We Carry

The Light We Carry

Genre: Self-Help

The Light We Carry by the former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, is a compilation of tools she has developed to navigate her life. Some of these tools are her habits, mental notes, relationships with family and friends, values, and beliefs she has carried since childhood, and some that she has built based on her own experiences. These tools have come in handy for her either to navigate life in general or in times of crisis. This book is a collection of her stories and reflections, rather than here is a self-help guidebook for you, so go do XYZ. I see this book as her toolbox, but there are some tools that I thought could come in handy for me and maybe for you as well. At times the book’s narration was directed toward young girls and women, especially those of color so, I felt like I was able to resonate with some of those narrations, but I understand that not everyone may feel the same way.

As I read through the book, I found myself more connected to Michelle Obama’s writing and personality since I had already read her first book, Becoming. This book is NOT a sequel to the 1st book, but I think Becoming kind of set a stage for me to understand Michelle’s story and her personality and I was able to carry that on my head as I was reading this book. But, even if you have not read the first book, that should not be an issue at all.

So, coming back to The Light We Carry, the book is divided into three main sections. The first part emphasizes the importance of nurturing our own light. The second part highlights the light brought into Michelle’s life by her family and friends, including her friend circle (referred to as her Kitchen Table), her husband, her mom, and her daughters. The final part focuses on the importance of allowing our light to radiate even during challenging times. She discusses the importance of owning your story and the power of vulnerability that allows you to bring forward other stories. And if you have heard of her famous saying “When they go low, we go high”, that is also discussed in the last part.

I love Michelle Obama, and I can go on and on about this book, but I am not going to do that obviously. So, I am sharing a few things that I enjoyed while reading this book or let’s say my key takeaways:

  1. When things get overwhelming, smaller things that are simple yet accomplishable can help us keep centered and grounded. Knitting kept Michelle engaged during the pandemic and it helped her calm down in the face of adversity. Similarly, you can find your calm in cooking, baking, walking, running, reading, or anything else that works for you.
  2. I liked how she explained fear and the concept of being comfortably afraid. What it means is you acknowledge your fear, you may not necessarily conquer it all, but you learn to operate even in its presence. It is important because often fear can leave a person stuck, but once you decide to be comfortable with the feeling that’s when you see the possibilities and experience the growth.
  3. Often, we rely on external validation and approval to feel better about ourselves, but we should not have to rely on those extrinsic factors to embrace our being. We are capable of being our own cheerleaders, and we can do so by starting kind as early as looking into the mirror for the first time in the morning and seeing ourselves for who we are and accepting all of us.
  4. Having a quality circle of friends can make you feel less lonely, so invest in building and nurturing real connections and friendships outside social media. Especially for those of us who identify as different (for example, I am an immigrant), it is draining to carry the burden of being different sometimes. So, having friends and a community helps take off a huge part of that burden. I can resonate with this 100% because once I started finding people from my own community and started connecting with them, I have felt less lonely than when I first came to the US a few years ago.
  5. Long-term relationships are not glamorous. It comes with its own set of struggles and challenges, but it is worth working for if both parties are willing to work with each other.
  6. The part I enjoyed the most and resonated with the most was when she discussed the importance of being independent and a whole being before getting married because marriage is portrayed as some kind of trophy that you should strive for, especially for girls, when it is not true. Marriage should not be an ultimate goal for anyone, and young people should rather focus on understanding themselves, and recognizing what they want and if and when they decide to do life with another human being, they should do it from a place of strength.
  7. Michelle has dedicated a whole chapter to talking about her mom and her life lessons from her. I thoroughly enjoyed that chapter. In the spirit of keeping it interesting, I am not going to reveal any details- check out the chapter to find out how cool her mom has been since forever!
  8. The power of our story lies in its wholeness. It can mean we may have to be vulnerable when we are telling our stories. That might be uncomfortable, but also that openness could release the pressure off of us and also of other people whose stories might be similar to ours. Therefore, she encourages people to operate from a place of openness, vulnerability, and humility- it can be difficult yet rewarding and empowering.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. If you have already read it, please let me and The Growth Mindset community know what’s your favorite part. If you have not read it yet, I hope you find this review helpful!