Today marks what would have been Dr. Maya Angelou's 95th birthday. Born on April 4, 1928, Dr. Maya Angelou built a life as a poet, author, playwright, singer, actress, philanthropist, visionary, professor, and beloved world leader.
In honor of her legacy, here are 10 profound life lessons you can learn from Dr. Maya Angelou:
1. Be true to yourself.
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” – Maya Angelou
“Seek the fashion which truly fits and befits you. You will always be in fashion if you are true to yourself, and only if you are true to yourself.” – Maya Angelou
In a world that is trying to convince you to look, act, and dress like everybody else, Maya Angelou reminds you that you are perfect exactly as you are. You weren’t born to be anyone else. You were born to be you, and you have nothing to prove to anybody.
2. Know why you are here.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou
Greatness is achieved by knowing your life’s purpose. Mission statements create a roadmap to success because they help you clarify and express your deepest values and aspirations. If you do not already have a personal mission statement, we hope this inspires you to ask yourself the deeper questions of who you are, why you exist, and how your unique gifts can improve the world.
3. Be courageous.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.” – Maya Angelou
“If one has courage, nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”– Maya Angelou
Dr. Maya Angelou has taught us that “One isn’t born with courage. One develops it by doing small courageous things — in the way that if one sets out to pick up a 100-pound bag of rice, one would be advised to start with a 5-pound bag, then 10-pounds, then 20-pounds, and so forth, until one builds up enough muscle to lift the 100-pound bag. It’s the same way with courage. You do small courageous things that require some mental and spiritual exertion."
4. Love Liberates.
“Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates.”
With its many facets, love can heal, transform, and create miracles. From her own personal experiences, Maya Angelou understood that love does not bind, “Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.”
5. Forgive yourself and others.
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” – Maya Angelou
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” – Maya Angelou
Dr. Maya Angelou reminds us “It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'Well, if I'd known better, I'd have done better,' that's all.” She also reminds us that forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, not the other person. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.
6. Embrace change.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou
Life is cyclical and life’s journey is profoundly beautiful. Learn to see the beauty in change and celebrate opportunities for growth. Every day is a chance to start anew. If you don’t like something, focus on what you can gain from the experience or take ownership of your life and change it.
“Words are things. You must be careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.” –Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou recognized that words can either bring us closer together, or divide us, and they have the power to bring about positivity or negativity into our lives. We may not be able to measure the power of words yet, but you do have a choice in how you choose to use them. You can either tell yourself that words have no power (a disempowering statement in of itself), or you can make a conscious choice – starting today – to honor the impact of what you say and recognize the power that words have in creating your reality.
8. Celebrate your Sexuality.
“Does my sexiness offend you? Does it come as a surprise, that I dance as if I have diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?” – Maya Angelou
“I’m a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.” – Maya Angelou
It’s a daring act of self-empowerment to own your own attractiveness and sexuality. To get inspired, watch Maya Angelou recite her poem Phenomenal Woman, live and unplugged.
9. Never Give Up.
“You may encounter many defeats. But you must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.”– Maya Angelou
During this interview, Dr. Maya Angelou reminds us that “It may be necessary to encounter defeats, so that we can know who we are and what we can overcome”, and that we can turn our struggles into diamonds.
For more inspiration, watch Dr. Maya Angelou’s live performance of “Still I Rise”.
10. Do All Things With Love.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
“Have enough courage to trust love one more time, and always one more time.” – Maya Angelou
Dr. Maya Angelou teaches us that it is not enough to merely seek greatness for ourselves, we must try and be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud and lift others the way Maya Angelou has lifted us.
Today, and every day we invite you to honor Dr. Maya Angelou by striving to embody the wisdom, generosity, and unconditional love with which she has graced our world.
For daily inspiration and gifting ideas, you can shop our Maya Angelou collection here.