05/29/2014 02:50 pm ET | Updated Jul 30, 2014

35 Maya Angelou Quotes That Changed My Life


Though I did not know her personally, author-poet-truth-teller Dr. Maya Angelou gave me one of life's greatest gifts: the courage to speak. Seeing as the number three is said to represent creativity, joy, and inspiration, and five personal freedom and adventure, I offer you 35 Maya Angelou quotes that have changed my life:

1. "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
2. "If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?"
3. "You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody."
4. "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."
5. "I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it."
6. "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."
7. "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat."
8. "I speak to the Black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition -- about what we can endure, dream, fail at and survive."
9. "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."
10. "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."
11. "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."
12. "My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness."
13. "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."
14. "Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time."
15. "I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me."
16. "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
17. "Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."
18. "Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances."
19. "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."
20. "I might have it at six-fifteen a.m. just as soon as I get in, but usually it's about eleven o'clock when I'll have a glass of sherry."
21. "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
22. "If you get, give. If you learn, teach."
23. "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."
24. "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."
25. "You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise."
26. "The main thing in one's own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry."
27. "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.'"
28. "If more Africans had eaten missionaries, the continent would be in better shape."
29. "When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we're capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I'm trying for that. But I'm also trying for the language. I'm trying to see how it can really sound."
30. "All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells that we are all more alike than we are unalike."
31. When asked how she knows when her writing is where she wants it to be: "I know when it's the best I can do. It may not be the best there is. Another writer may do it much better. But I know when it's the best I can do. I know that one of the great arts that the writer develops is the art of saying, 'No. No, I'm finished. Bye.' And leaving it alone. I will not write it into the ground. I will not write the life out of it. I won't do that."
32. "If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."
33. "The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power.
The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic admiration."
34. "Nothing can dim the light which shines from within."
35. "And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed."