Is Michelle Obama a Warrior Woman?

image from her book “Becoming"

image from her book “Becoming"

That's the exact question I had to sleep on for a couple of days when preparing the slides for last week's talk "Meet the Warrior Woman: Finding Inner Power to Speak Up at Work". Wonder-woman, Katniss Everdeen, Oprah Winfrey, Jacinda Ardern, Sally Ride, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and Malala Yousafzai yes, without doubts. But, Michelle… 

We've been sold the idea of what a strong, independent woman looks like. In my case, and maybe in yours too, it definitely didn't mean standing by a man.

I have this belief so embedded in myself that when I met Teresa last April, an energetic woman who quit her corporate job to go on a one-year-solo road trip across Australia, I was inspired. She was a living example of what a strong independent woman meant to me. 

I was thrilled when a few months later she surprised me coming by Singapore. I walked into the rooftop bar we're meeting with a big smile, and I see her seated next to a man. A man she soon introduced as "my boyfriend". 

My excitement was such that I let that comment pass, and characterised by my machinegun questioning capability, I did what I'm best at: How is Australia? Where have you been so far? How are you managing the solo experience? How is riding on the opposite side of the road? Have you crashed the van already? How many kangaroos have you seen? Any spider or snake? 

As I pause to take a breath, she said, "I didn't do the road-trip. I met him at my first stop and decided to stay there with him"

And suddenly, everything went in slow motion… Teresa, the determined independent woman, was putting up her "dreams" on the side for a "man"... Whaaaaat!!!

Those who know me can confirm that I have never been particularly good at poker facing so, Teresa clearly got my discomfort with her decision. I could have never expected what her next words would be. She said "No, I didn't give up my dreams. What makes me happy now is to work on the island with him, so I changed my old plan to match it with what makes me happy now. Because honestly, I won't be happy if I leave the island to go on the road trip by myself". 

And just then, the penny dropped. She was authentic to herself and her wishes. She was choosing for herself; instead of letting her choice being dictated by others/society, by what an independent woman should do. That's power. That's a real warrior woman. And thanks to that I didn't end relocating to India end of last year. But that is a story for another time.

What makes a warrior woman?

Teresa's story made me reconsider the definition of warrior women.

A warrior woman is actually a woman who understands who she is, what she values, and what she wants to represent. Is the one who permits herself to choose, to stand up for what she wants, whatever that is!

Like Teresa, who decides to adjust her journey; or like Michelle, who chooses to stand next to her husband. 

The power to choose, to stand up, and to speak up is inside all of us. We're born as warrior women. However, as we grew up, we've been socialised and educated to fit in. And how can we do this? By being good girls, ignoring and quieting the flame of the warrior woman that burst within. In other words, by following the rules, not by creating new ones. As one of my favourite quotes says

"our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. […] We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? when the right question is, who are you not to be?

Building on Marianne Williamson's reflections, I wonder what could happen if we allow ourselves just to be us, powerful beyond measure? What if we start ruling our lives based on our own beliefs, values and vision, instead of accepting someone else's? 

There are no universal definitions of success, happiness and balance. We can and should create our own. When we genuinely choose, the feeling of guilt that follows us is replaced by the sense of empowerment, and the word "sacrifice" disappears from our vocabulary. Choosing, make us free. 

This applies to all areas of our lives; when choosing between jobs, when deciding between attending an evening event or going home to put your kids to bed, even when choosing among watching Netflix in our PJ or going out on a Saturday night. In every case, ask yourself "who is making the decision?" Is it myself? Or is it my ego? Am I choosing based on what society, my family and friend believe I should do? Am I choosing for myself or for pleasing others?

We've been shaping our lives to please others, hence choosing for ourselves might feel odd at the start. As like with any new habit, it requires conscious awareness and effort. Start with something small like genuinely choosing your next meal. If you think this is easy, let me ask you something, how many times have you ordered a salad when deep inside you, you're craving for fries? 

Be gentle to yourself and give it a go. You will feel energised, authentic and empowered. I promised. Dare to choose for yourself, to speak up, and to stand up. Not just because you can, because you deserve it.


For more inspiration, join us in the next Empowering Women event on the 24th of July in Singapore. 

You might also enjoy reading of "When You Say YES to Someone Else, You Say NO to You", "How Women Are Reclaiming Power In Their Careers" and "Happy Mondays in a Complex World"

And if you feel the warrior in you has awakened and want some additional ideas and tips, drop us a line at or connect directly with our founder, Sandra Quelle

sandra quelle