Still I Rise (Maya Angelou)

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread 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 back yard.

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
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

I love the defiance, determination, confidence and self respect in this poem. Ultimately representing the struggles of African Americans, and women in particular, it is as powerful as it is poignant.

The reason why I decided to share it here is because it offers a lesson which anybody can benefit from. The poet, Maya Angelou, is declaring that no matter what life throws at her, or what other people may attempt, she will overcome and rise above it. There is no hesitation or self-doubt, but just a strong confidence and determination to always get up when life knocks her down.

Therein lies the lesson and the message. This poem is a call to action, for people to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get back to work whenever life knocks them down.

Whether through circumstances beyond our control or the machinations of others, we will all face setbacks at some point. There are two ways in which people respond to these situations; some will label the experience as a learning curve and draw what lessons they can from it before picking themselves up and getting back to work, wiser for the experience. Others, on the other hand, will be beset with self-doubt and the temptation to give up. Rather than focus on the experience and what could be learned, attention is turned inwards and all thought revolves around how the individual was affected.

The poem calls for us to follow the poet’s example and be more like the first group, as detailed as above. When faced with difficulties in life, no matter what they are, we should approach them with the same levels of determination and confidence to get back up. After all, our response to setbacks is all in the mind. With a positive mindset, an individual will look at what they can learn from the experience and have the self belief that they can recover.

So, the next time you hit a roadblock on your path towards your ultimate goals, will you give up or will you rise?

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