Throughout your childhood, people place a lot of emphasis on who your role models are and what role they play in your life. Parents might forbid certain artists and schools might forbid certain authors. But why are they so insistent on who you have access to?
The answer is quite simple, actually: influence. A child is easily influenced, and role models have so much influence on what a child might perceive to be okay. It’s so important for a child to have good role models early on in their life, whether it be family members or other.
Unfortunately, for a very long time, having a broad range of role models was not possible for girls. Not because there weren’t any, but because women who weren’t stay-at-home mothers were frowned upon by society. Nowadays, however, we have so many women from all different types of fields to look up to and who inspire us to want to be better and do better.
In the spirit of Women’s History Month, I want to share with you a role model who inspires me to be the best version of myself: Michelle Obama. She grew up experiencing poverty, racism and sexism, she was discouraged from studying, and despite the death of her father, she managed to overcome all obstacles and graduate from prestigious universities.
And yet, her time at university wasn’t a walk in the park either. The racism she faced during her time at Princeton made her question her identity, especially during her thesis, which included a survey that concluded that Black scholars felt that they no longer identified with the African American community. This raised the question: who would she side with, the Black community she hailed from or a new academic community? By the time she had arrived at Harvard, however, the question that had plagued her throughout her Princeton years (who would she choose to identify as, her parents’ daughter or the accomplished scholar from Princeton?) had an answer: she could be both Black and brilliant.
And she is. She’s a talented lawyer, the first Black former First Lady, an advocate for minority groups, a wife, and a mother. She’s found a healthy work-life balance and makes sure her children are a priority.
When I look at all that Michelle Obama has accomplished, I can almost feel her determination. She’s intentionally doing her best to make this world a better place for the disadvantaged. As a mother of two and a woman of color, her will to create a better world really inspires me. It makes me determined as well. Determined to inspire others in my own way. Determined to encourage other women to reach their goals. Determined to lift other women upwards and onwards.
Following her example, I feel empowered to create a better world not only for women, but also for girls. For girls who want to achieve greatness. For the next generation who will follow in my footsteps. And most importantly, for my daughter. I want to be a role model she can look up to, I want to be a positive influence in a world of consequence.
And when I catch sight of my daughter smiling back at me, I only have one thought in mind. How could I not?