Amazing, Inspiring Maya Angelou: 25 All-Time Favourite Maya Quotes!

Maya_AngelouOn Wednesday 28 May 2014, at the age of 86, activist and poet Maya Angelou passed away. An inspiration for many of us - she was raised by her grandmother (not her mother - although her mother was in her life) and overcame many personal trials including growing up in segregated South during the depression of the 1920s, being raped and having a child at a young age. But she never let any of these events define her - even as she acknowledged them in her many writings and seven memoirs!

Maya was awarded over 50 honorary degrees, served on 2 presidential committees and was given 2 medals - the National Medal of Arts from Bill Clinton and in 2010, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian honor in the US. She also received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for poetry book, "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie", 3 Grammys for her spoken albums and numerous health and educational facilities have been named after her.

For me, Maya Angelou was the epitomy of Fierce Kindness - a compassionate warrior - who never ceased sharing her wisdom and inspiring others. Not only that but she remained vibrant in both spirit and mind as she aged - showing us how to age with grace, style and verve.

Here are 14 of my all-time favourite Maya Angelou Quotes:

  1. "I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it." Maya Angelou
  2. "The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart." Maya Angelou
  3. "When someone shows you who they are, believe them" Maya Angelou
  4. "Each of us has the right, the possibility to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself she will be invented. Be bodacious enough to invent yourself."  Maya Angelou
  5. "Courage: the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently." Maya Angelou
  6. "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Maya Angelou
  7. "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty." Maya Angelou
  8. "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
  9. "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." Maya Angelou
  10. "It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength." Maya Angelou
  11. "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.' " Maya Angelou
  12. "How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" Maya Angelou
  13. "I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself." Maya Angelou
  14. "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." Maya Angelou

And a further 11 Maya Angelou Quotes from one of her many interviews with Oprah:

  1. "I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow."
  2. "I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."
  3. "I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life"
  4. "I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'."
  5. "I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
  6. "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 some things back."
  7. "I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision."
  8. "I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one."
  9. "I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back."
  10. "I've learned that I still have a lot to learn."
  11. "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."

If you want to learn more about Maya Angelou, a good place to start is her signature memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". You can also buy all of her poems in one volume called The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou.

What are your favourite quotes from Maya Angelou? Let us know which you like best or share your favourites, by commenting below!

Click here if you love quotes and are wondering how to use coaching quotes in your coaching practice!

And if you liked this inspirational article, you may also like:


  1. Felisa

    Thanks so much for the wonderful quotes from our beloved Dr. Maya Angelou. When I heard of her passing from this life to the next, my heart wept. I loved her like a close friend through the pages of her many books and life of service. It has been my pleasure to watch her from a distance.

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Felisa,

      I am so glad you liked the quotes. She was a truly amazing woman - inspiring, a true spiritual warrior. The world is a poorer place without her. Warmly, Emma-Louise

  2. Coach Arthur

    when someone tells you who they are, believe them?
    Maya Angelou

  3. Clara Davis

    I think my favorite quote is: "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty." Maya Angelou

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Clara,
      It is a beautiful quote isn't it! Thank-you for commenting - and I can't believe it's over a year since she has passed! She was one fabulous and inspirational woman. Warmly, Emma-Louise

  4. WitQuotes

    I have long been a fan of Maya Angelou and can truly appreciate your love of her words. Thanks for sharing your experience.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.