“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
Maya Angelou has long inspired me, in her writing, with her wisdom, and in her expansive life. I have many favorite Maya Angelou quotes, but in the following, I’m sharing 23 favorites.
Maya Angelou grew up in Arkansas, traveled extensively, learned many languages, lived overseas, and then began to write and speak and share her story. We share these things in common.
In November 2013, Maya Angelou visited Ohio to narrate the Cincinnati Symphony’s performance of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln’s Portrait”. I had the immense privilege of getting to be there with my husband. It was a powerful event. Despite her age, Dr. Angelou’s voice carried more weight than the entire orchestra. I count hearing and seeing her in person as one of the most moving times of my life. I will never forget it.
She is known for her first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I have also recently read Letter to My Daughter, published in 2008 and written for all women, whom she calls her daughter. It is packed with important wisdom and advice–and it is a collection of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou.
23 Favorite Quotes by Maya Angelou
- 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.
- 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.
- When people show you who they are, believe them.
- If human beings eat a thing… and if it is visually clean within reason, and if I am not allergic to the offering, I will sit at the table and with all the gusto I can manufacture, I will join in the feast. – Letter to My Daughter
- You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. – Letter to My Daughter
- We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
- The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. – Letter to My Daughter
- There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
- If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
- I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.’
- Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
- Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage, you cannot practice any of the other virtues consistently.
- Let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
- All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.
- In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions or lessons. The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity. – Letter to My Daughter
- Never make someone a priority if all you are to them is an option.
- I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t 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.
- (Essence magazine interview: “Are you enjoying yourself?” Maya Angelou: I don’t know any other way to live my life. If I wasn’t amused I’d get out of it. That’s the way I feel about life. I’m blessed with high energy, and I throw down in all areas. Some people, out of their own ignorance or because they’re jealous, discourage young people from doing many things. They say, “Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none.”You can be a master of everything, to a degree. Not everything you write is going to be a masterpiece. Not everything you cook is great, not everything you paint—but you’re trying for it. From the moment you put the pen to paper or sit down at the piano, you’re trying for it. Then, when you reach your sixties or seventies or eighties, you won’t have to be jealous of young people because you can say, “When I was there I did that thing fully, and now I’m here, doing this thing fully.” Interview link
- …Love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free. – “Touched By an Angel“
- 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! ― “Still I Rise” (My favorite poem of all time.)
May her legacy long live on. Thank you, Dr. Maya Angelou, for sharing your gifts with the world!