Response to Michelle Obama’s Advice to Women

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I recently read a BBC report on Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” book tour event in London. In it, she was quoted as saying:

"My advice to young women is that you have to start by getting those demons out of your head. The questions I ask myself - 'am I good enough?' - that haunts us, because the messages that are sent from the time we are little is: maybe you are not, don't reach too high, don't talk too loud."

My guess is that many people who suffer from having self-defeating thoughts already know that the thoughts are debilitating and unhelpful in moving through life. However, thinking your way out of the behavior, or using willpower to overcome the thoughts, is futile. This is an emotional problem, and using one’s intellect to solve emotional problems is nearly impossible.

Michelle herself in the same interview talked about how she still suffers from imposter syndrome. It’s not surprising, because had she learned how to overcome it, she would likely not tell someone else to “get those demons out of your head”.  This type of advice is well-meaning, but can come across as unintentionally unkind, if not borderline cruel.

A person who has actually managed to successfully overcome the self-defeating thoughts knows how much time, energy, and possibly money goes into it.  One kind approach is, “I’m sorry you are feeling this way. You can overcome those demons in your head. Would you like a solution?” If you get a yes, then you might proceed with, “The demons in your head are not going to go away without some effort, but if you find the right people to help and do the deep emotional work, the self-defeating thoughts will eventually go away.  It will require an investment of time, energy, and money, but the most elegant work works quickly and is probably a lot easier than what you are going through now. Is this what you want?”

I suspect that the response will likely be “yes”.

Here are some resources that have helped me:

Mark Wolynn’s family constellations workshop. If you can’t see Mark in person, pick up a copy of his book “It Didn’t Start With You

Best option: In-person sessions with Oana Marcu, who brilliantly combines multiple ways of working with the subconscious and the emotional center in providing a powerful experience for personal change. Read more about Oana’s approach