“Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes”

Not many people can imagine interviewing First Lady Michelle Obama, but one lucky high school senior recently got that chance. Nene Sy, an 18-year-old student at the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem, sat down with Mrs. Obama to talk about failure, success, and how young women and girls can become more confident.

The interview aired during the third day of the fifth annual Women of the World Summit. Sy took the stage to discuss the interview with Ann Tisch, founder and president of The Young Women’s Leadership Schools, and ABC News correspondent Barbara Walters.

Sy asked Obama if she had any advice for a first-generation college student like herself. “Know that you can do it,” Obama said. “You can’t do it alone, and you shouldn’t. … Don’t be afraid to ask for help. … And call your mom and dad at least once a week. … For me, I’ve learned to turn self-doubt into energy. … I know it’s my obligation to do my best. … Push yourself and don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. I tell my daughters all the time: Greatness comes from learning from those mistakes. Walk proud, work hard, and be confident.”

Sy also addressed the topic of how teenagers can deal with the pressure to fit in with their peers, using her own insecurities as an example. “I’m 1.75m and I didn’t like being tall at first,” she said. “What was it like for you growing up?”

“It’s the same thing. When you’re this age, you just want to be like everyone else,” Obama said. “But then you start to grow up and you realize that whether you’re 5’10” or 6’10” like us, or 5’10” or 5’10” it’s all about how you feel about yourself. So you learn to embrace that height… That’s true for all girls, (who need) to work on that self-confidence.”

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