Maya Angelou Quotes
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.
Nothing will work unless you do.
Effective action is always unjust.
All great achievements require time.
Achievement brings its own anticlimax.
Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
I believe that every person is born with talent.
We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
I wasn’t a pretty girl. I was six feet tall at 15, you know.
The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.
The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.
The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.
Don’t let the incidents which take place in life bring you low. And certainly don’t whine. You can be brought low, that’s OK, but don’t be reduced by them. Just say, ‘That’s life.’
I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it – I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
Continue reading these motivational Maya Angelou success quotes about life
Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.’
There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.
Cooking certain dishes, like roast pork, reminds me of my mother.
If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
At 50, I began to know who I was. It was like waking up to myself.
Writing and cookery are just two different means of communication.
In so many ways, segregation shaped me, and education liberated me.
I know for sure that loves saves me and that it is here to save us all.
Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.
I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.
I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.
I think music is one of the hero/sheroes of the African-American existence.
If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.
The loss of young first love is so painful that it borders on the ludicrous.
One of the wonderful things about Oprah: She teaches you to keep on stepping.
How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
I speak a number of languages, but none are more beautiful to me than English.
If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.
All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.
When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess.
I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition.
There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.
I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.
It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.
A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
Most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.
I think that that’s the wisest thing – to prevent illness before we try to cure something.
I long for the time when all human history is taught as one history, because it really is.
Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery.
Loving someone liberates the lover as well as the beloved. And that kind of love comes with age.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
Continue reading these Maya Angelou motivational quotes
Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
I admire people who dare to take the language, English, and understand it and understand the melody.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It’s very clear.
I’m interested in women’s health because I’m a woman. I’d be a darn fool not to be on my own side.
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
The poetry you read has been written for you, each of you – black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay, straight.
The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’ – which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.
I love the song ‘I Hope You Dance’ by Lee Ann Womack. I was going to write that song, but someone beat me to it.
Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.
I wrote some of the worst poetry west from the Mississippi River, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.
I love a Hebrew National hot dog with an ice-cold Corona – no lime. If the phone rings, I won’t answer until I’m done.
I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.
Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
In all my work, I try to say – ‘You may be given a load of sour lemons, why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?’
While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man’s humanity to man.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around. I’ll probably be writing when the Lord says, ‘Maya, Maya Angelou, it’s time.’
I don’t think there’s such a thing as autobiographical fiction. If I say it happened, it happened, even if only in my mind.
Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.
The love of the family, the love of one person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive, powerful society.
We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.
My greatest blessing has been the birth of my son. My next greatest blessing has been my ability to turn people into children of mine.
At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.
My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.
Everyone has at least one story, and each of us is funny if we admit it. You have to admit you’re the funniest person you’ve ever heard of.
My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
As far as I knew white women were never lonely, except in books. White men adored them, Black men desired them and Black women worked for them.
I’ve read everything Thomas Wolfe ever wrote; my brother and I memorized whole chapters of ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’ and ‘Look Homeward, Angel.’
I would be stupid not to be on my own side. But I’m a human being, too. And I’m on the side of human beings, rather than on the side of crocodiles.
While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.
Won’t it be wonderful when black history and native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.
We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love. See, I don’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
That’s the biggest gift I can give anybody: ‘Wake up, be aware of who you are, what you’re doing and what you can do to prevent yourself from becoming ill.’
Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.
Those of us who submitted or surrendered our ideas and dreams and identities to the ‘leaders’ must take back our rights, our identities, our responsibilities.
Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.
Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright’s pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace.
I think a number of the leaders are, whether you like it or not, in the hip-hop generation. And when they understand enough, they’ll do wonders. I count on them.
You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’
I read the Bible to myself; I’ll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is.
I do like to have guns around. I don’t like to carry them. But I like – if somebody is going to come into my house and I have not put out the welcome mat, I want to stop them.
I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.
I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves that we can be ready and able to come to our own defense when and wherever needed.
Growing up, I decided, a long time ago, I wouldn’t accept any man-made differences between human beings, differences made at somebody else’s insistence or someone else’s whim or convenience.
I’m considered wise, and sometimes I see myself as knowing. Most of the time, I see myself as wanting to know. And I see myself as a very interested person. I’ve never been bored in my life.
When a person is going through hell, and she encounters someone who went through hellish hell and survived, then she can say, ‘Mine is not so bad as all that. She came through, and so can I.’
I’m a serious aficionado of country music – Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry. I’ve even written some songs. They haven’t done anything of mine yet. But it’s only a matter of time.
Once you appreciate one of your blessings, one of your senses, your sense of hearing, then you begin to respect the sense of seeing and touching and tasting, you learn to respect all the senses.
My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.
One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!
For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.
I have a feeling that I make a very good friend, and I’m a good mother, and a good sister, and a good citizen. I am involved in life itself – all of it. And I have a lot of energy and a lot of nerve.
I know that I’m not the easiest person to live with. The challenge I put on myself is so great that the person I live with feels himself challenged. I bring a lot to bear, and I don’t know how not to.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
And if a person is religious, I think it’s good, it helps you a bit. But if you’re not, at least you can have the sense that there is a condition inside you which looks at the stars with amazement and awe.
Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
I never expected anyone to take care of me, but in my wildest dreams and juvenile yearnings, I wanted the house with the picket fence from June Allyson movies. I knew that was yearning like one yearns to fly.
It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers.
All of us knows, not what is expedient, not what is going to make us popular, not what the policy is, or the company policy – but in truth each of us knows what is the right thing to do. And that’s how I am guided.
I agree with Balzac and 19th-century writers, black and white, who say, ‘I write for money.’ Yes, I think everybody should be paid handsomely; I insist on it, and I pay people who work for me, or with me, handsomely.
Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.
If you were the President of the United States or the Queen of England – you couldn’t have a person who would be more protective than my mother was for me. Which meant really that I could dare to do all sorts of things.
You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
When younger writers and poets, musicians and painters are weakened by a stemming of funds, they come to me saddened, not as full of dreams and excitement and ideas. I am then weakened and diminished, and made less rich.
Timidity makes a person modest. It makes him or her say, ‘I’m not worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.’ Timidity keeps people from their good. They are afraid to say, ‘Yes, I deserve it.’
For a person who grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in the segregated South, with so many doors closed without explanation to me, libraries and books said, ‘Here I am, read me.’ Over time I have learned I am at my best around books.
If you’re serious, you really understand that it’s important that you laugh as much as possible and admit that you’re the funniest person you ever met. You have to laugh. Admit that you’re funny. Otherwise, you die in solemnity.
I love the melodies in the Old Testament, how preachers highlight them when they read from the Scripture. But I was influenced forever by the New Testament. I love the Beatitudes, informing us that the meek shall inherit the earth.
It’s still scary every time I go back to the past. Each morning, my heart catches. When I get there, I remember how the light was, where the draft was coming from, what odors were in the air. When I write, I get all the weeping out.
I could fall in love with a sumo wrestler if he told stories and made me laugh. Obviously, it would be easier if someone was African-American and lived next door and went to the same church. Because then I wouldn’t have to translate.
Whenever something went wrong when I was young – if I had a pimple or if my hair broke – my mom would say, ‘Sister mine, I’m going to make you some soup.’ And I really thought the soup would make my pimple go away or my hair stronger.
On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there’s no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real loudly and get a good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my deck and look out at the
Independence is a heady draught, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.
I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.
The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you’re wrinkled.
Politicians must set their aims for the high ground and according to our various leanings, Democratic, Republican, Independent, we will follow. Politicians must be told if they continue to sink into the mud of obscenity, they will proceed alone.
Early on, I was so impressed with Charles Dickens. I grew up in the South, in a little village in Arkansas, and the whites in my town were really mean, and rude. Dickens, I could tell, wouldn’t be a man who would curse me out and talk to me rudely.
I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.
I’m working at trying to be a Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy – it’s serious business.
Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’
Black people comprehend the South. We understand its weight. It has rested on our backs… I knew that my heart would break if ever I put my foot down on that soil, moist, still, with old hurts. I had to face the fear/loathing at its source or it would consume me whole.
I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool – and I’m not any of those – to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.
The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerance. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.
I know some people might think it odd – unworthy even – for me to have written a cookbook, but I make no apologies. The U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins thought I had demeaned myself by writing poetry for Hallmark Cards, but I am the people’s poet so I write for the people.
I’m grateful to intelligent people. That doesn’t mean educated. That doesn’t mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call ‘mother wit’ means intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb. That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.
During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance, you must decide not to be reduced. You have your humanity, and you must not allow anything to reduce that. We are obliged to know we are global citizens. Disasters remind us we are world citizens, whether we like it or not.
Like a pianist runs her fingers over the keys, I’ll search my mind for what to say. Now, the poem may want you to write it. And then sometimes you see a situation and think, ‘I’d like to write about that.’ Those are two different ways of being approached by a poem, or approaching a poem.
To take a few nouns, and a few pronouns, and adverbs and adjectives, and put them together, ball them up, and throw them against the wall to make them bounce. That’s what Norman Mailer did. That’s what James Baldwin did, and Joan Didion did, and that’s what I do – that’s what I mean to do.
I liked to write from the time I was about 12 or 13. I loved to read. And since I only spoke to my brother, I would write down my thoughts. And I think I wrote some of the worst poetry west of the Rockies. But by the time I was in my 20s, I found myself writing little essays and more poetry – writing at writing.
If you will have a person enslaved, the first thing you must do is convince yourself that the person is subhuman. The second thing you have to do is convince your allies so you’ll have some help, and the third and probably unkindest cut of all is to convince that person that he or she is subhuman and deserves it.
Of course, there are those critics – New York critics as a rule – who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.
What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.
Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.
My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still.
Modesty is a learned affectation. And as soon as life slams the modest person against the wall, that modesty drops.
I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.
In a magazine, one can get – from cover to cover – 15 to 20 different ideas about life and how to live it.
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