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What We Can Learn From Alicia Keys’ Memoir “More Myself”

by Amanda L. Shore

Alicia Keys 

In her memoir, More Myself: A Journey, Alicia Keys asks two important questions: “Who am I really? And, as I discover my true essence, am I brave enough to stand in that truth?” These questions are the heartbeat of the story, Keys narrates. It follows her as she grows from a young artist into a best-selling musician and global activist.

Despite the professional and personal heights she attains, she continues to ask, “Who am I really?” Gradually, she discovers that the answer to this question is continually changing. She realizes that her self is continuously evolving as she constantly learns more about how to be true to her self.

This book reads less like a memoir and more like a self-help book for women. Keys’ life and the lessons she learns can be used as a template for improving one’s own self and learning how to answer the question, “Who am I really?”

In her book, Keys uses the experiences of her own life to teach readers how to say no, how to take control of their lives, how to show weakness, and how to make their voices heard. These lessons make Keys’ story relatable, despite her celebrity. In fact, she discusses many issues that ordinary women deal with every day. Issues such as social pressure, standing up for ourselves, overcommitting to things, being overly concerned with our appearance, and understanding who we are and what we want out of life.

In each chapter, Keys examines her life for the lessons she learned and discusses how she took those lessons and applied them to her personal growth. The narration is introspective and informative. Unlike many self-help books, Keys actually shows her readers how to better themselves—she leads by example.

Keys writes in such a way that her wealth and fame become secondary to her growth as a person. She does, of course, mention her trips across the world and her real estate purchases, but she does so in a down-to-earth fashion. In this way, the reader feels less like they’re reading about the life of a celebrity. The feeling is more like they’re getting advice from a friend who’s had deep and meaningful experiences in her life.

Keys goes into great detail about the psychological and actual steps she took to bring about changes in her life. Each lesson comes from specific situations she experienced. For instance, when she’s seven years old, she sees a bunch of prostitutes and vows that she’ll never be in a position where she’s “(h)alf-clothed. Vulnerable. Powerless. Exposed.” And yet, at 11, she does a modeling job in her bra and underwear. This makes her feel embarassed and defenseless. So again, she vows not to let anyone make her feel this way again. However, at 19, she again finds herself in a situation where she’s naked and vulnerable. A photographer convinces her to pose mostly naked. When the photographs are published, she realizes that she’s broken her promises to herself. She’s let herself be robbed of her power. This time she’s firm, she’s not going to let anyone do this to her again. But it’s not a magic spell. It’s a vow she has to work hard to keep. Again and again, people try to make her do things their way, and she has to continually insist on doing things the way she feels comfortable doing them. Especially when it comes to her music. In the course of the book, we see Keys get better at standing up for herself, staying true to her promise. She also shows us moments when her power slipped away from her. When she does a cover shoot for the single, “Girl on Fire,” and her photo is airbrushed. Keys realizes she doesn’t want to be portrayed this way, and from then on, she insists that she have photo approval on all shoots before publication.

What’s perhaps most inspiring about Keys’ story is that she has the same fears and concerns as many of us. She fears showing weakness, she wants to please everyone, she’s concerned with what people think of her, and she’s scared of her own uniqueness. However, through being open to the lessons of her experiences, she grows out of these fears. She shows women everywhere that makeup isn’t an obligation. She demonstrates that its okay to say no. She proves that you don’t need everyone to approve of you. Therefore the lesson at the heart of Keys’ book is that the most important thing for a happy life is that you remain true to your “true heart.”


More Myself: A Journey was published March 31, 2020

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