We all have days when we need a gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminder that we are independent, smart, formidable people, with the power to make choices about who we are, what we do, and where we’re going. If you’re feeling less “Wonder Woman” and more “blah” today, this list of empowering quotes might be just the ticket for getting you back to your strong, independent, kick-ass self.
“Empowerment” can mean different things in different situations. Sometimes it means taking charge and flexing your muscles (literally or figuratively), but it can also mean that you have the power to say “No” or the courage to change course when it’s the right thing to do — even when other people don’t agree with you. To be empowered is to have agency in your own life, to be master of your own fate.
The phrase “female empowerment” is thrown around so much that it can begin to lose meaning, becoming a general gesture toward being “pro-women.” But it means something more than that: To empower women is to work to ensure that women have authority over their lives — over their finances, their bodies, their education. It means making sure that they can live in the way that they choose, without punishment or stigma. Making that happen — for yourself and for others — is a challenging, complicated thing, especially because it’s so easy to lose a sense of power through subtle shaming and cultural bias. But looking for inspiration among these amazing women might be a place to start:
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will….
From Jane Eyre.
We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave – to embrace the strength within themselves and realise their full potential.
We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.
From Mansfield Park
I'm tough, ambitious and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.
From an interview in People, March 1985.
The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
From You Learn By Living .
Maxine Hong Kingston
In a time of destruction, create something.
From The Fifth Book of Peace .
Louisa May Alcott
I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.
From Little Women .
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
From interview in Girl About Town, October 1986.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
From A Return to Love .
We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming — well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.
From The Hundred Secret Senses .
I am a woman with thoughts and questions and sh*t to say. I say if I'm beautiful. I say if I'm strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak and share and f*ck and love and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it.
From her speech at the Gloria Awards and Gala, 2014.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me.
I was not worried at all — it had not even occurred to me to be worried, because a man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.
From We Should All Be Feminists .
Wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.
From Song of Solomon .
Don't let the bastards grind you down.
From The Handmaid’s Tale
... And this wartime propaganda poster for Westinghouse Electric.
We Can Do It!
From poster produced by J. Howard Miller, 1942.