Maya Angelou in Her Own Words

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: September 19, 2011

Critics point out that motherhood as “a creative and personally fulfilling role” is a motif that weaves itself through Maya Angelou’s books, and is realized at the conclusion of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, when she is at last bonded with her mother, and about to become a mother herself. The notion that the individual possesses the power to live a fully realized life—despite barriers like race and gender and poverty—is woven throughout Angelou’s work, and continues to inspire her legions of fans. A verse from her poem, “A Brave and Startling Truth,” underscores this idea:

When we come to it We must confess that we are the possible… We are the miraculous, the true wonders of this world Free to choose our ends, and our new beginnings That is when, and only when… We come to it


13 Inspirational Quotes from Angelou

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

“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.”

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.”

“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.”

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.”

“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.”

“Courage: the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

“If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?”

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

“Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.”

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

Read more about Maya Angelou's life in "Voice of Our Time" on