When you live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., there’s a lot of pressure. The first family is always watched, always scrutinized. This is, most of the time, pretty fair, especially for the president and first lady, who are adults who know the world is watching them.
Sometimes, of course, there are missteps. Sometimes there are really big, tone-deaf Zara jacket-shaped missteps. But when Michelle Obama lived in the White House, she knew she couldn’t afford to make any of them (even the smaller kind).
“Barack and I knew very early that we would be measured by a different yardstick,” Obama told Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden of Barack Obama’s time as the United States’ first black president. “Making mistakes was not an option for us. Not that we didn’t make mistakes, but we had to be good — no, we had to be outstanding — at everything we did….When you’re the first, you’re the one that’s laying the red carpet down for others to follow.”
The former FLOTUS also touched on the dangers of seeing people only for the colour of their skin—something she’s personally dealt with.
“It’s just a shame that sometimes people will see me, and they will only see my colour, and then they’ll make certain judgments about that,” she said. “That’s dangerous, for us to dehumanize each other in that way. We are all just people.”
This article originally appeared on elle.com