3 Important Life Lessons From Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou was considered a universally admired figure for her inspiring lessons, especially in light of her passing in May of last year. Although our society has since evolved in cultural norms and beliefs, I believe it is beneficial to revisit her classic teachings, and to apply them to our current situations today.

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

We all naturally want to see the best in people. We want to believe that the people we care about can eventually change, or even that we have the power to change them ourselves. The truth is, they revealed their persona from the start, but our persisting faith leaves us blind to the obvious. We inadvertently stay fixated on their desirable traits, and convince ourselves not to let go just yet. As difficult as it may be, at some point we have to face reality – all we’re doing is clinging on to false hope.

Whether they revealed their true traits implicitly from certain behaviors, or explicitly (“Trust me – I’m an asshole”), one thing is clear. Giving out unlimited chances to this person isn’t doing either of you any favors.

Of course, it is challenging to think logically when we let our emotions get the best of us. Therefore, don’t dwell on the fact that you stuck around for longer than you should have. Just move forward, and bring this knowledge along for the ride.

“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.”

When it comes to reminiscing on a situation, the specifics eventually fade from our memory. We’ll forget the color of their shirt, or if it was a Tuesday or a Friday. We’ll forget how the conversation started – just how it ended.

However, the emotions invoked will never fully go away. No matter how “over it” we are, our minds will still wander to that dangerous place unexpectedly, and we’ll feel just as defeated as we did at the beginning.

On a less depressing note, our minds can wander back to uplifting memories as well. If you’re having a bad day, and just thinking of someone sparks a brief moment of happiness, hold on to that person – that’s someone worth keeping around.

Keep this in mind when interacting with people daily. Be nice to waiters, your next- door neighbor, and even that difficult co-worker. That one rude comment may cause you to be forever stigmatized as an inconsiderate person – and nobody wants that. Therefore, by giving off positive energy in social situations as often as possible, you can ensure that you are always remembered fondly.

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

Life can deliver us unexpected challenges, and sometimes we need outside support to tackle them. When we are overwhelmed with feelings of discouragement, a boost of optimism from someone we care about can be an extremely valuable gift.

So when a friend is going through a tough time, whether it’s anything from a bad breakup to financial issues, don’t forget to help keep them motivated. Send them a text out of the blue about how much they mean to you. Address their specific traits that you admire most. Remind them of a difficult situation of the past, where they managed to prevail.

Plus, by elevating a loved one’s spirits, you’re not only improving their life – but also your own. Helping others is always a rewarding feeling, but being responsible for instilling that glimmer of hope during an otherwise dark time? That’s a gratifying experience that can’t be beat.