7 Life Lessons Everyone Needs to Learn From Maya Angelou

7 Life Lessons Everyone Needs to Learn From Maya Angelou

Rashmi Daryanani
Maya Angelou (©ImageCollect.com/HenryMcgee)
Maya Angelou (©ImageCollect.com/HenryMcgee)

Maya Angelou was, without a doubt, one of the most brilliant women the world has seen. Throughout her career as a poet, author and activist, she has shared some wonderful insight and nuggets of wisdom that have inspired many people. In fact, just starting off my day by revisiting some of her quotes for this post has made me feel so much more positive. Although she passed away on May 28th, the lessons she taught will remain relevant for many, many years to come – here are 7 of those things that you should always keep in mind.

1. Don’t ignore the red flags

Maya Angelou quotes
Maya Angelou quotes

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Oprah’s Lifeclass

People may not necessarily tell you in words who exactly they are – actually, chances are, they’ll tell you the opposite! – but their actions will always speak for them. When that happens, you’re better off listening and believing them rather than holding onto the (possibly deluded) hope that they’re not like that at all.

Oprah said during her Lifeclass that she had a conversation with Maya about failed relationships, and the poet had said: “When people show you who they are, why don’t you believe them? Why must you be shown 29 times before you can see who they really are?” So, when you see red flags in the beginning of a relationship – or anything, really – learn to pay attention to them. You may want to believe something else entirely, but some way or the other, people will always show you exactly who they are. You’re better off listening the first time, rather than waiting to be disappointed again and again and again before it sinks in.

2. Make an effort to make people feel good

Maya Angelou quotes
Maya Angelou quotes

If you think about it, it’s true: you may not remember exactly what happened during a certain time, but you’re very likely to remember the feeling that accompanied it. We send out “vibes” on an everyday basis through the smallest of things, and people are very perceptive in picking those up. Be mindful of how you treat others, because they’re likely to pick up on those feelings and use them to form a perception of you – even if they don’t realise that’s what they’re doing.

3. Be good to yourself

Maya Angelou quotes
Maya Angelou quotes

It’s up to you to set – and maintain – the standards for how someone else treats you. If you treat yourself with dignity and respect, you automatically send out the message about how you expect to be treated – and you won’t tolerate it when someone else gives you less than you deserve.

4. Forgive

Maya Angelou quotes
Maya Angelou quotes

Really, forgiveness has very little to do with the other person, and a lot more to do with you. The longer you hold onto the resentment, the longer the other person stays in your consciousness. Let it go – you’re not doing them a favour, you’re doing yourself a favour.

5. Trust your instincts

Maya Angelou quotes
Maya Angelou quotes

More often than not, we’re guided by a voice inside of us that knows what the right thing to do is. It’s easy to tune out our own instinct because we’re listening to other things and people instead. But you may find it worth your while to instead go with your gut feeling, because it knows something that you may not know on a conscious level.

6. How you deal with bad situations is important

Maya Angelou quotes
Maya Angelou quotes

There’s a lot that you can tell about a person from the way they deal with disappointment, stress and irritation. These things bring out the worst in us, and in a way, that’s okay, because we’re only being human. But still, pay attention, because how someone handles these situations gives you a clue about who they are. It’s not always about how a person acts when everything is good – their reactions when things actually matter is what’s the most important.

7. Ditch the guidebook

Maya Angelou quotes
Maya Angelou quotes

Practically all of us are expected to live within a certain framework of rules and regulations, whether they be society’s or our family’s. It’s possible that you’ll live a fairly peaceful, conflict-free life if you follow the path laid out for you. But, at the same time, you’ll probably miss out on a lot of things – and prevent yourself from growing to be something exceptional.