Leadership

Michelle Obama: 'It's okay to be bossy'

First lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama arrive during the presidential inauguration.
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First lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama arrive during the presidential inauguration.

Michelle Obama doesn't care if you call her bossy. In fact, the former first lady encourages young women and girls to be proud of being labeled as such.

Last year in Madrid, during a tour to promote her Let Girls Learn initiative, Obama discussed the importance of breaking down gender norms.

"It means telling your sons that it's okay to cry, and your daughters that it's okay to be bossy," Obama said in the speech, as reported by Harper's Bazaar.

Obama dismissed the bossy stereotype again last year while discussing the obstacles she faced as a young girl, at a speech in Argentina for the same initiative.

In the speech, she said that she's dealt with "teachers who didn't think I was smart enough and would call on the boys instead of the girls, even though the girls had better grades."

As she got older, Obama said that she had to deal with being sexualized by men who would catcall her as if she were an object or a piece of property to be commented on. This, she said, led to self-doubt.

"I began to realize that the hopes I had for myself were in conflict with the messages I was receiving from people around me," Obama said. "Messages that said that, as a girl, my voice was somehow less important. That how my body looked was more important than how my mind worked. That being strong and powerful and outspoken just wasn't appropriate or attractive for a girl."

This started to chip away at her confidence. She began to question herself. "Was I too loud? Too much? Was I too bossy? Was I dreaming too big?" she asked. "For years, I would lie awake at night and those doubts would eat away at my heart."

The former first lady said that she eventually became tired of constantly worrying about what others thought about her and soon dismissed her doubters. She encourages young girls to do the same.

"Instead, I decided to listen to my own voice," she said, "and to rely on the support of the people in my life who believed in my ability to achieve my own dreams."

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