Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn From Maya Angelou

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities – Maya Angelou 

Maya Angelou was one of the most influential literary voices of our time. Born in 1928 she was in turns a poet, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, historian, film-maker and civil rights activist. She worked for Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, acted on Broadway, was nominated for a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize, and won three Grammy Awards.

Despite a raft of setbacks and brutal racial discrimination throughout her life; she never lost her wit, grace, humour and realness. Here are ten of her most potent and powerful quotes, along with some life lessons that we can gather from them.

1. Give Your Best Self to Your Family

"If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love." - Maya Angelou

There's a tendency when it feels as though the world is crumbling, for people to implode in a private way. As humans we tend to take out anger or sadness on those who we love the most. This is a mistake. No matter how beaten or sad you feel, always preserve the best of yourself, a smile or act of kindness for those who you wake up with every day.

2. Own and Celebrate Your Sexuality

Our society is petrified of women who own their sexiness and wear it like a gilded, antique brooch.

It's a daring act of self-empowerment to own your own attractiveness and sexuality. To know (and not in narcissistic way) that you possess the power of womanly attraction. In a world that worships impossible standards of beauty – don't worry about disrupting the balance of things. A woman who loves and respects her own body, is by nature a rebel of self-love.

"Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.”

Maya Angelou 

3. Creativity is an Infinite Resource

"Life loves the liver of it." - Maya Angelou

In our mindset of scarcity, we all seem to be scrambling to get a slice of the pie and as a result we forget how to creatively live our own life. It may seem as though creativity is one of those scarce resources, like jobs or blue chip stocks. Although like with anything, the scarcity mindset exists between your ears, not in the outside world. Stop saying no to everything and start saying yes. There is unlimited creativity and experiences to go around!

4. Colour and Diversity Are The Richest Tapestry in Life

"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."  – Maya Angelou

There is a richness and a beauty in everybody's body. Skin colour is a spectrum not a label. There are wonderful shades of black, white, brown, pink, beige and everywhere in between. This is best illustrated in an art exhibition Humanae by Angelica Dass in 2012. She created an inventory of skin colours referencing the PANTONE® colour scheme. The objective? To record and catalogue all possible human skin tones. We all exist on a spectacular colour continuum. Without labels there is only beauty and wonder.

5. Beauty Lives in Transformation

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.  – Maya Angelou

From chrysalis to caterpillar to butterfly, it's a miraculous cycle of transformation. There are a myriad of changes in life, from the quiet period of growth to the majestic fluttering away and migration. This is the same for all of us who go through a stage of awkwardness, difficulty and then later emerge energised, wiser and victorious from it. Life is cyclical and the whole journey is profoundly beautiful.

6. Don't be Normal – Be Yourself

"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 lived this truth. She was a true iconoclast that flit from one artistic endeavour to the next, leaving her sparkling mark on everything she touched. She did this because she was truly herself – the world embraced her as a result.

7. If You Don't Like Something – Change It!

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." - Maya Angelou

Such simple and pragmatic advice. Maya Angelou certainly knows how to keep it real. She sliced through the mire of life's troubles and brought it all back to a simple formula that begins and ends with you. 

8. Be Generous

"Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud." - Maya Angelou

When Oprah interviewed Maya Angelou on her 74th birthday, she revealed lessons that she learnt from her life, including one about generosity: ''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.'' Being generous with others brings abundance into your life ten-fold, like a boomerang and a banquet.

9. The Heart Is Where We Store Memories

"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." - Maya Angelou

Emotion has a much longer shelf-life compared to facts, figures, academic knowledge and ideas. We are reminded of this when old people with dementia are provided with songs from their youth. When their favourite songs play their faces light up with recognition as the memories come flooding back. The heart is a gateway to memory. So tread lightly and come from a loving point of view. This is ultimately what will be remembered.

10. Rise Strong

"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." - Maya Angelou

One of Maya Angelou's most popular and moving poems is "Still I Rise" which is a powerful, empowering poem all about the struggle to overcome prejudice and injustice. 

The poem is a beacon of hope for the oppressed and downtrodden. It is a gentle reminder that no matter how tough things get we have the strength and power within us to rise strong.

Maya Angelou is the epitome of timeless beauty and loving the skin you're in. Likewise, Botanical Trader is all about celebrating women of all colours, ages and ethnicities.  

And the best for last - Maya Angelou reminds us 

"A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim"