6 things we can learn from Maya Angelou

Many people had never heard of Maya Angelou until her passing earlier last year. Yet she was a woman who spoke her mind and turned the adversity she faced throughout her life into a catalogue of insightful, inspirational commentaries to encourage and bring positivity to others.

There are simply too many of her quotes that I take inspiration from to list here, but I’ve managed to shortlist just 6 to share with you today.

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‘If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.’

We are under so much pressure to conform in this life. If we stand out or are different, we are ostracised and singled out, we are ‘wrong’ somehow. But what is ‘normal’? We are all different. Plus, conventions are different no matter where you go – and everyone can ‘fit in’ – you just have to find like-minded people. What is ‘cool’ or ‘fashionable’ in one country or one era differs from one to the next – doesn’t that show that none of us are ‘wrong’? Trying to be someone else wastes everything that’s good about you; and prevents you from reaching your full potential.

‘You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.’

It’s easy to see one more negative thing at the end of a string of unfortunate events as the ‘last straw’. But think back now to something which at the time was equally as challenging – chances are you feel fine about it now, and possibly can even laugh about it. Part of life, and individual aspects of life, is dealing with the downs as well as the ups. Without the downs, there wouldn’t be any ups! And allowing yourself to go through them and deal with them means you can enjoy the ups even more.

‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’

I often say that perspective is everything. This quote is very black and white – most of the time if we are stressed over something, chances are we can’t change it – that’s why we’re stressed. Especially if we have control issues.  

Often the worst things that happen to us are blessings (wearing a very good disguise!) and with a bit of reflection we can find something good in them. As human beings we are fighters, we rarely accept defeat. It’s this dogged determination that keeps us ploughing on. And how do we do that? We adopt a different attitude, see the positives and continue.

‘If you only have one smile in you, give it to the people you love.’

It’s easy to reserve the best side of ourselves for strangers, taking out our anger and frustration on our loved ones because they are there for us unconditionally. These people are there for you no matter what – they won’t judge you for how you treat them, but think about the effect it has on them. They deserve your kindness – and whilst of course it’s important (and sometimes imperative) to spend energy on people we dislike or who don’t deserve it, make sure you reserve at least a little bit for the best people in your life.

‘We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely acknowledge the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.’

Success doesn’t come overnight. Our society with its vacuous celebrity culture perpetuates the mistaken view that quite simply and with little talent or experience each one of us can be destined for great things. But it’s simply not true.

Each one of us has experienced our own struggle – even the ones who appear to have ‘made it’ have bad days and good days. We need to praise people for their achievements but also ask them: ‘What have you gone through to achieve this?’ Recognise that nobody is perfect, and behind every success there have often been hardships, failure and missed opportunities along the way.

In addition the more good you have and in being successful, the more you lose sight of how lucky you are and become greedy for more – that’s why gratitude is so important.

‘I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.’

Everything ‘negative’ that happens takes a little piece of us, sets us back a little bit. But often in time we replace that little piece which allows us to grow and move on. I think this is just a little reminder that we can and should learn and grow from bad experiences, rather than be reduced little by little to eventually be broken down by life.

It’s very much easier said than done – however I genuinely believe that it can be achieved with a shift in perspective.

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What’s your favourite Maya Angelou quote? (If you can pick just one!)

Rose xx

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Inspirational Women – Kate Upton

 

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She’s only 20, yet she’s a number one sex symbol worldwide. But there’s also something really refreshing about Kate Upton – she’s honest, she’s curvy and she comes across as incredibly normal whilst possessing maturity beyond her years.

She’s aware that she is a prominent person and a huge role model to women globally  because of her modelling career – but also has something to say about Photoshop culture and marketer’s responsibilities to women.

Of beauty and the falsehood of Photoshop, she says: “Most of the time the model is retouched and too skinny and other people get depressed by it…it’s not realistic for that model or for that woman reading the magazine to think she should look like that.”

Of her own body image: “Everybody goes through hard times, regardless of if they are being criticised for their body.”

Some might say Kate speaking out is ‘all very well’ considering she is a beautiful globally recognised model and a prominent part of the industry itself. No, she’s not necessarily brave or noble, but she speaks with kindness, honesty and integrity which may inspire other women and also proves that each and every one of us has bad days. What do you think of Kate and her comments?

Rose xx

Marilyn Monroe – An Inspiration in more ways than one

 

I love Marilyn Monroe. She’s famous for many uplifting quotes about love and life, despite her own troubled existence and many difficulties. She once wrote: ‘Wishing you were someone else is a waste of who you are’. Yet she had numerous plastic surgery procedures throughout her life, rendering her an almost entirely different person from her former self, unrecognisable from the young Norma Jean. Despite this however her natural beauty and infectious personality always shone through.

There is that hypocritical voice inside all of us, I believe. We all know that what she says is right, yet still we insist on relentlessly berating and ‘improving’ ourselves. How can we beat this cycle?

Amongst other things, perhaps we can take heart from some of her other famous musings on life. Here’s my favourites below along with what they mean to me – please share your favourites too!

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‘She was a girl who knew how to be happy when she was sad, and that’s important.’ – Marilyn herself struggled with numerous demons throughout her whole life. A tumultuous childhood coupled with a rise to fame at a young age, added to by a string of high-profile failed relationships must have put a lot of strain on her, and she admitted she frequently felt isolated and depressed. Yet as she rightly identifies here, it’s not feeling sad that’s the issue – it’s how you feel better. If you can at least ‘fake it till you make it’ you’re already winning half the battle.

‘Imperfection is beauty’ – Damn right. There’s no such thing as perfect (if I had a pound for every time I said that I’d be loaded!) – it really is true. Little quirks which some might see as imperfections, such as moles, cowlicks, freckles, the way your nose is turned up slightly at the end…they make us who we are. You might see them as imperfections because they have been pointed out to you as such, but remember that people often throw stones at pretty things. Perspective is everything – look at yourself as a whole and try and see ‘imperfections’ as beautiful additions to your whole self.

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‘We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.’ – A stark reminder that life is too short – something which unfortunately Marilyn herself fell victim to. When she died at the young age of 36, she was about to embark on an exciting new phase of her career after taking time out due to illness, and talked of her ambition to start a family. We often get so caught up in the trivia of modern life and how we look yet it’s essential not to forget what’s really important in life and live it the way you want to.

‘Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can come together.’ – Excepting bereavement, I believe that everything bad that happens to us in our lives happens for a reason. When one door closes, it is so that another can open. I’ve had a lot of bad things happen in my life, yet every time I have been through something difficult, something better than I could ever have imagined has come from it. Each time you’re going through a hard time, you simply have to believe that something better is waiting for you on the other side.

‘Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there is so much to smile about’ – This one is so, so important. We all have bad days, we all have days, weeks, months and even years where we feel like the world is against us and there’s no way out. But life itself is wonderful. It’s overcomplicated in the first world into a competition that essentially we all lose at. But if you look at it simply, think about all the positive things that happen every day. The sun rises and sets, birds sing. If you’re lucky enough to have family and/or friends, pets, someone who loves you, think about that. Think about the food on your plate, the roof over your head. It’s easy to forget the ‘mundane’ in search of the spectacular, yet if you really look at it, it’s these small things that are the most beautiful, and the most important.

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Rose xx

Isn’t this just so inspirational?

So today I was reading the news and once I got past the pages of superficial articles filled with plastic vacuous celebrities talking about their latest boob job, I came across this article. It really filled me with so much joy because it is just so positive and such a departure from what we’re all normally used to reading in the papers.

In India, acid attacks are sadly becoming an increasingly popular method employed by some to suppress women and serve as retribution for ‘bad behaviour’ which encompasses anything from wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes and hairstyle to the desire to be educated, or falling in love with someone ‘unsuitable’. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that nothing on earth these women could have done or said warrants this horrific penalty.

Rupa, Laximi and Rita have participated in a photoshoot by photographer Rahul Saharan, instigated by Rupa herself, who was attacked in her sleep by her stepmother. She has founded a fashion range, which she and the girls model in this very special photoshoot.

Not only are these beautiful women brave and inspirational, they have also set up a charity, Stop Acid Attacks, and Chhaon, a clean, safe centre for those who are undergoing treatment.

The women had previously been forced to hide their horrific scars with scarves to avoid probing stares and the frightened reactions of strangers, ashamed of their appearance and living with fear and little self-esteem. Yet now they ooze confidence and happiness, modelling beautiful clothing which promises a new horizon for them, doing what they love and are passionate about. I can only wish them the very best and I’m sure everybody reading this will agree!

If you’d like to support the girls and others like them, please visit http://www.stopacidattacks.org

Rose xx

Inspirational Woman – Monica Bellucci

For me, Monica Bellucci is femininity defined. Like the quintessential ‘Madonna’ figure in the beautiful murals of Caravaggio and Michaelangelo, she is sensual and demure, exquisitely expressive and passive all in one.

What’s more, she is not afraid to be herself. Unapologetic, many of her images in her heydey were nudes. Sprawled in front of the camera, with a wry half-smile or a piercing glare dominating the image, it’s still impossible not to notice her figure.  But voluptuous Bellucci is not a stick insect. She is a woman with imperfections, yet this is what makes her so perfect for me.

Not only does she refuse to conform or comply with ‘rules’ on body image and a desire to be perfect, her attitude to life is also unique and she feels strongly about beauty not playing  a dominant role in her life, despite being imbroiled in an industry which is centered around it.

My favourite quote from Monica has to be this one:

“I know many beautiful people and their lives are just so terrible. They feel so uncomfortable with themselves. Being comfortable is not about what you look like, but how you feel.”

This rings true for me because often, those who are the most insecure are very beautiful, striving constantly for a form of perfection which simply does not exist. It really is so important that you feel comfortable and love yourself, as that way you don’t worry about the opinions and expectations of others.

In addition to this, how many of us have ‘fat days’ – when you feel ugly and huge and nothing is right? You stare vehemently at your ‘imperfections’ in the mirror, and berate yourself inside for not paying more attention to your appearance. The next day however, you could be on top of the world. Those imperfections which were so mortifying just 12 hours ago now seem to have disappeared. This proves the power of the mind – and that it really is down to how you feel, and not how you actually look, that determines happiness.

Isn’t this a running theme that these women are all beautiful, in completely different ways; yet what they all have in common is their incredible hunger for life and desire to live it to the full, without being shackled to an obsession with appearance.

Enjoy Monica in all her glory below:

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Rose xx

Inspirational Woman – Cindy Crawford

An iconic model in the 1980s and 1990s, Cindy Crawford is world-renowned for her exquisite beauty and luscious curves.

Yet throughout her whole career, and even now, she struggles with body image issues. Despite a goal to ‘come to terms’ with her body before she is 50, she still remains sensible about food.

“Being five pounds lighter…what it would cost me…I don’t want to be like, no salad dressing, no wine, no fun.”

Unwilling to sacrifice the better things in life to be a certain weight or shape, Cindy is setting an example for all of us. There really is so much more to life than a number on a scale.

Cindy’s heyday feels like a lifetime ago, even though it is literally a matter of ten or twenty years. Back then, models had shapes, figures – no bones in sight. They looked happy and healthy, smiling was in vogue, as was having breasts and thighs and curves.

She has commented in the past that she would not be able to be a supermodel now. And she’s probably right. If so, Cindy would be ‘Plus Size’. But isn’t she beautiful? See some vintage Cindy below…

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Rose xx

Inspirational Woman – Lizzie Miller

This is Lizzie. These images of the model were featured in Glamour magazine in an article on self-confidence. Previously she’d been informed that she was ‘too large’ for plus size. Now her agency have instructed her ‘not to lose any weight’. These beautiful un-photoshopped images instantly gained popularity with readers, who flooded Glamour’s website with a deluge of praise for the model. The surprise here is that Lizzie has a ‘tummy’. Girls I think you’ll all agree that Lizzie is very slim…yet just the inclusion of a tiny roll of skin or fat has got real women everywhere rejoicing. We want to see real, normal women in magazines, not plasticised doll-like creatures. It shows the extent to which images are altered and perfected in the media, so much so that a perfectly beautiful, slim woman is championed for having a tiny bit of tummy.

Again it demonstrates how unaware the public are of how what we see daily as ‘normal’ is actually doctored and tampered with beyond recognition. If adults are so oblivious, what effect is this all having on our children?

Personally, I’d like to see more images like this in the media. I didn’t even notice the tummy until it was pointed out to me. Did you? Is it really so important that every lump and bump should be flattened in photoshop before publication?

More than anything, this is proof that trend, money and popularity determine people’s idea of ‘beauty’, not truth. 

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Rose xx