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

Good things are just around the corner!

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There’s a saying – ‘An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.’

So essentially, when life is pulling you back and taking things away it is preparing for new things, making room for better things.

Have you noticed that ‘bad things’ all come at once? Life as I knew it a few months ago has been turned upside down and my physical and mental health have deteriorated as a result. But I’ve had an amazing year this year which I am incredibly grateful for and unfortunately that’s life – there are ups and downs and good times can’t be good without the bad.

Yet the bad things aren’t really bad. Perspective is everything – you see them as bad, but if you look at them they are only bad to you because of your opinion and circumstances. Look at what it is you are unhappy about. You may not see a way it could ever be viewed as good. But something good will have (or already has) come from it. You were expecting another outcome – so when the outcome is unfavourable, it’s an understandable blow and knock to your confidence and self-esteem and the plans you had.

It’s also a gift that they all come at once; as happiness often does.   Here’s why I think it’s good sometimes to have a complete ‘meltdown’:

  • You’re forced to re-evaluate, and often see that things can now be better. You take a step back and see that perhaps you’d fallen into a comfort zone which whilst it may have felt like it suited you actually wasn’t the best.
  • Perhaps you lament the way things were and struggle to cope with the changes which have suddenly come about in your life. We are creatures of habit; no-one likes change, especially when it is unexpected and unwanted. But these things happened for a reason. Try and remember the last time things fell apart for you – chances are you felt exactly the same then. But when things were good afterwards, you were pleased that they had done or had perhaps forgotten how hurt you were in the first place.
  • It gives you the opportunity to reflect and learn from your mistakes. You now have time to think about what has happened, and how you can learn from the experience to ensure that in the future you can employ the knowledge and strength you are gaining. Don’t, however, beat yourself up over your mistakes (I’m a perfectionist, I do this daily). It’s draining, counter-productive and unnecessary. At the end of the day we all make mistakes – and that’s okay, as long as you learn and grow from them.

 

Rose xx

Philosophy for everyday life from Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela. We all know that he is the epitome of strength and inspiration – and following his sad passing in and a subsequent film documenting his life there has been further recognition and an outpouring of praise for him from a younger generation, many of whom had no idea how instrumental and influential he was not only in changing the lives of many South Africans, but also for his infinite wisdom imparted on the world.

Whenever I feel despondent or negative I always look up his quotes, amongst others (they’ll be covered on the blog too!) This is a man of incredible strength and integrity who despite suffering the most unbelievable injustice, spending precious years of his life in prison for standing up for what he (rightly) believed in, showed no malice, spite or indignation towards his captors, enemies or towards life in general. Instead he had only forgiveness, kind words and wisdom learned from his time in prison to impart after his emancipation.

Whilst I’d never encourage comparison of experiences, this really does make me think: ‘Who am I to feel that my life is over or futile because of what has happened to me?’ We all have so much opportunity in life, yet it is often ourselves and our personal perspectives on it and what happens in it that hold us back.

Below are my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela. They shift your perspective when you’re feeling down or hopeless – they’re filled with positivity and reason and encouragement.

Do you have any of your own that I have missed here? Please share them!

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‘Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.’

This is especially poignant because each one of our lives are full of ‘failures’, large and small. Except they are not really bad things at all – they are challenges which force us to grow and change. The important thing to focus on is not the fact that you fell down, but the fact that you got back up again, and how you did so. That in turn is a success in itself – in addition to the fact that more successes will come from each of your failures.

‘May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.’

This one scares me! It’s so true. It’s very much like the old adage ‘We only regret the chances we don’t take.’ If we constantly choose based on playing it safe and being risk-averse with our lives, we miss out on all the things we really want to do but just feel too frightened to take on.

We only get one life – we have to do the things we want to do, before it’s too late.

‘Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?’        

We all have the potential the right to be whoever and whatever we want to be. We just have to work hard and believe in ourselves! Not only do you short-change yourself by not reaching your full potential, you may also short-change others who you could have influenced for the better with your experience and wisdom!

‘As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.’

Inspiring others by simply making your own positive life choices and having confidence in yourself is completely subconscious yet it can really help give other people the opportunity to shine. I have met several people in my life who have an incredible energy, yet they are also open and honest about their weaknesses which makes them so human and even more remarkable! Speaking candidly about what you can’t do, whilst recognising what you can do (and more importantly do well) is really inspiring to others.

‘Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.’

There were so many barriers in the way for Mandela. He didn’t come from a privileged background, yet he worked hard to become a lawyer despite being expelled from a good school at an early age for taking part in a protest. Of course after this he fought hard up against the powerful white domination movement and apartheid on his entry into politics, a dangerous and difficult struggle wrought with difficulty and anguish. He even encountered personal issues such as his divorce from his first wife.

Sat in that prison cell, year after year, unable to speak to his wife or his children, he must have felt as though his life was over. The battle had not been won – in fact everything indicated that he had lost the battle.

Yet still he found that courage and strength to continue. When he was released, despite having spent a large portion of his life in prison, he was not discouraged or disheartened and instead continued his fight for equality, becoming President of South Africa in 1994 at the age of 76.

This is because he was passionate, dedicated and determined in the extreme. Which leads nicely onto the next quote…

‘When people are determined they can overcome anything.’

I have a tattoo dedicated to my dogged determination. It has got me through every single struggle in my life. It’s absolutely true that if you want something bad enough, determination kicks in and you will achieve it no matter what. If that determination doesn’t kick in, it’s not important enough to you.

‘There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.’

Very much like his quote on playing small, this encourages us to live the life we want, imagine, and are more than capable of.

‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’

People often talk of ‘forgiveness’. Forgiveness is really difficult because it involves accepting and allowing the actions of others which have upset or injured us. We are conditioned not to let people ‘get away’ with things and to hold a grudge.

Whilst we shouldn’t forget what people have done to us, it is possible to forgive in a sense. Not for their benefit, but for yours. Holding on to that anger and resentment only serves to make you feel bad – it poisons your life going forward, not theirs. By not forgetting we can also learn from what has happened and protect ourselves in the future as we can hopefully deal with new situations using knowledge learned from the last.

Mandela realised that if he held on to all the bitterness and resentment (and he certainly had reason to feel that way) he could not move forward with his life, enjoy his freedom and continue his campaign for equality and freedom. Whilst many of us won’t experience anywhere near the level of injustice or condemnation that Mandela had to endure, we can at least apply his mentality to smaller issues of our own.

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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

Comparison is The Thief of Joy

The author of this quote is unknown; however they were incredibly wise.

I talk a lot about comparison. And this sums up my opinion on it.

Body Dysmorphia I believe is fuelled almost completely by comparison. What is it that first makes us think ‘Something is wrong with me?’ A throwaway comment perhaps. Or maybe you see so much of other people, and see that they aren’t the same as you. And that makes you think, ‘Why am I different?’

Children see ‘different’ as ‘wrong’. Which is why anybody who stands out gets picked on.

We appear to take this philosophy through the later life with us, and instead of using it as beating stick against others, we turn it on ourselves.

Have you noticed how generally your comparisons are opinions? And rarely positive?

“She’s fatter than me.”

“He’s more built than me.”

“My skin isn’t as nice as hers.”

Ever heard a positive comparison?

Someone always loses. And that person is usually you.

Instead of making comparisons, see other people and admire their beauty impartially. Try to see them as someone different, not somebody that you can, and should, emulate.

And don’t forget how many people are looking at you and comparing themselves unfavourably to you. They want to look like you. And there you are, wanting to look like someone else.

 

Rose xx

Quote of The Day

Don’t Compare Your Chapter One to Someone Else’s Chapter Twenty.

We all do it. This week’s theme is comparison. But whilst comparison can sometimes improve us in one way or another, generally it only serves to make us feel inadequate and to prioritise the opinions of others over those of ourselves.

One thing, though, that we are all especially guilty of, is forgetting to take into account the journeys and experience of others when giving ourselves a hard time for not being as pretty, intelligent, funny, popular as the next person. Often there is a huge oversight on our part of what these people have done, how old they are, and also if they truly are as happy and popular as we believe them to be. This person is probably idolizing someone else – ignorant to their own fortunes.

What’s more, are we really so insignificant compared to them? Chances are, these feelings of inadequacy are completely misplaced. We’re all doing the exact same thing, in an unhealthy vicious cycle of bad feeling and poor self confidence. Don’t forget – there is always somebody who sees you, and your life, as a goal. They would do anything to be you. Try to remember that when you are feeling bad and looking at another person, they probably don’t feel too great themselves; however confident they feel. Then look at yourself.

What would you, a year or two before now, have thought of the person that you are looking at today? I can almost guarantee that you hae achieved over and above what you could ever have hoped for. Be proud, and also confident in the knowledge that you will be in an even better position in years to come. Give yourself time.

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Rose xx