Even Michelle Obama Gets Imposter Syndrome

The former First Lady feared her book might flop. It really, really didn’t.

Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama
Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Michelle Obama covers the latest issue of People magazine, as one of the magazine’s “People of the Year.” And the former First Lady did have a very, very good year. Her blockbuster memoir, Becoming (published in November 2018), sold a mind-boggling 11.7 million copies and she promoted it with a sold-out stadium tour—with thousands of free tickets set aside for charity groups and students. She also wore a lot of cool clothing.

Becoming was a massive, record-breaking success. But despite Obama’s many, many accomplishments, she still feared that the book wouldn’t sell, that the tour would flop. Apparently even Michelle Obama gets imposter syndrome.

“I still remember waking up in a bit of a panic the night before my first tour event in the United Center in Chicago, this huge basketball arena,” she recounted. “Were people really going to come? Was it going to be any good? Here I’d been first lady of the United States for eight years, giving speeches in front of huge crowds, but this felt so different. I recognize now that the memoir and the tour were really different than what I’d done before — I wasn’t promoting a policy or rallying votes; I was out there, alone, talking about my feelings and vulnerabilities. That’s enough for anybody to lose a little sleep.”

Obama added that her favorite part of her year was connecting with people on her tour, particularly young women. “I asked how many of these girls didn’t feel like they belonged in a room with me. Almost every girl raised her hand,” she recalled. “That’s been the most powerful part of the last year — talking with all sorts of young people about how the things that we think are our inadequacies are usually our strengths. The simple act of sharing our fears and vulnerabilities helps us embrace our own stories and recognize how much we share with one another.”