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“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou is an amazing poem likely to resonate with people who feel degraded, diminished, embarrassed or looked down upon.
Have you ever been put down by people because of some mistake you made, or maybe for no reason at all? Has someone ever embarrassed you intentionally or mocked something about you?
You may shoot me with your words
You’ve probably met the kind of people who will tear you down for things you have no control over. The will direct insults at you because you are black or white or brown; you are a woman or man; you are old or young; you live a simple life; you live a luxurious life…there is no end to what overcritical people can use against you.
Here is the thing—no matter who you are, people will criticise you. It doesn’t make them any better than you, but it might make them “feel” superior to you, temporarily.
Some people seem to thrive on other people’s suffering. If they can’t hurt you physically, they will try to hurt you psychologically, by pulling you down. And if they can’t pull you down directly, they try to affect how other people view you by ruining your reputation.
You can’t be around them without hearing some critical comments from them about someone. Often, they have bad things to say about everyone.
You can choose to look at such people’s behaviour as nothing. Don’t let mere words put you down. Especially, the opinions of people who don’t know what you are made of and what challenges you’ve had to overcome to get where you are.
Or, if you are the one who degrades or looks down on people to make you feel better about yourself, you need to work on your self-esteem and confidence. It’s such a low move to spread damaging information about other people, whether true or false. It reveals how poor your self-image is.
Instead of trying to lure other people to have the same negative opinions about people as you do, how about work on improving your self-perception instead?
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
As you’ll see in the following inspirational poem, “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, believing in yourself and having the will to get back up despite your history, is a requirement in life.
Maya Angelou had something to say about this. Perhaps her context was different but you can read the poem and see which parts make sense to you.
What stands out is “still I rise.”
Let them talk. Let them speculate. Let them slander and gossip about you. And even when they succeed to damage your reputation, darling, still RISE.
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Let them be upset by your success. The opinions or “hatefulness” other people may have against you are none of your business. Your obligation is toward your self: not to give up after failure; not to stay down but to rise; not to resign to life because of where you come from. Rather, refuse to be enslaved by perspectives that limit you. Still rise above what may be considered limitations.
If your past is tainted with failure and shame, don’t be a slave to it and stay down. Make it a mantra if you will, and say it to yourself daily, “still I rise.”
Still I Rise
BY MAYA ANGELOU
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994)
Lessons in “Still I Rise”
Never let people or a situation to bring you down for good. Life involves a lot of falling and rising. Every time the thought of quitting life bugs you, remember, you can still rise.
Check your mindset. Maintain positive self-perception because other people will not always have the same faith in you as you can have for yourself. They might insult your background, your failures, and how you look. Damn! They will even criticise your success.
Maya Angelou’s words in the poem “Still I Rise” are a good reminder that you don’t need to be enslaved to failing and staying at the bottom. Rise.
Life is for living. Keep living. Don’t give up.