Former First Lady Michelle Obama may have left the White House, but she continues to rack up magazine covers — and dole out candid personal reflections. Most recently, the Becoming author gave an exclusive interview for the January issue of Good Housekeeping in which she revealed some of her biggest struggles — from lack of sleep to constant anxiety — while serving as the first lady.
“I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity that living in the White House afforded us,” she said about the little sleep she got, adding, “But it probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that sometimes it was a real challenge to keep up with the pace.”
Thankfully, she gets “more regular” sleep now. But during her eight years as the first lady, Mrs. Obama explained she was required to “crisscross” the country for various events over the course of two or three days (like a campaign function or a visit to a community after a “senseless shooting”).
“Then, on top of the demands of our schedules, I’d usually need to wake up long before Barack to get my hair and makeup done and dress for a public event,” the mother of two shared. “I laugh about how easy it was for Barack to choose his wardrobe—tie or no tie? ‘What do you think, honey, should I roll up my sleeves?’ These days, I’m more in control of my time.”
Obama also discussed techniques she’s learned to be more approachable.
“The best advice I can give here is the simplest: I think everyone just has to be themselves,” she said. “Of course, it’s not always easy to be yourself, particularly if you’re entering a new environment.”
The Chicago native also opened up about the anxiety she experienced throughout her career and while serving as the first lady.
“I’ve had many doubts through my life. They cropped up when I went to a high school across town and a college across the country, when I was a young lawyer in a high-rise law firm, when I took a leap of faith and allowed our family to venture into a Presidential race,” she said.
“In all those moments, a chorus of doubts rang out inside my head: Do I really belong here? Am I good enough?” she continued. “But after a while, I realized that I had every reason to be in those environments. I just had to trust my instincts and be myself — and then the rest would take care of itself.”
While her time in the White House was often stressful, Obama also found joy and meaning in her work.
“Something that always made me feel good was being around children and young people,” she said when asked to pick a favorite moment. “We made sure that kids—ordinary kids, not just the kids of a donor or a Congressman—had access to folks like Justin Timberlake, Janelle Monáe and Smokey Robinson talking about the doubts and struggles they fought through, giving their time to inspire young people.”
Obama added, “I’d walk away from those events so hopeful. Who knows what dreams these kids could have for themselves after that?”