27 Must-Read Life Lessons from Some of Today's Most Powerful Women

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Heather K Adams734
Content + Copy Writer
April 19, 2024 at 2:30AM UTC
Life is... well, life is life. It happens, it goes on, it is what it is. But how exactly are we supposed to navigate the thing? The fact is, we each learn to live as best we can, with a lot of trial and error, some success and a fair amount of "holy crap, never again" moments, along the way.
At a certain point, a little wisdom kicks in, and we remember what we've learned, use it to move forward. Haven't we all had that coffee date epiphany, where you realize this Tinder guy seems a lot like that way-too-dramatic sophomore you dated in college? So you dip as soon as you finish your latte thinking, Whew! Bullet dodged. That's a life lesson kicking in, right there.
Yet wise as we can (sometimes) feel, it never hurts to have a few more lessons in our back pocket, some wisdom gathered from women who've been where we are, and who have gone where we're going. Below is just such a gathering, quotes from smart, successful ladies about the powerful life lessons they've learned on everything from self-acceptance to being a boss, and beyond.

What is a life lesson?

Pleasant or painful, situations come our way that are so meaningful, they can influence or outright change both the way we see the world and the way we live our lives, forever. If we're lucky, we'll have more positive than negative life lessons, ones that teach us how to be strong, powerful and resilient. If we're not so lucky... well, we all run the risk of becoming bitter, jaded or just discouraged when life hits us a little too hard, too often. That's when we need to seek guidance, from friends, mentors and even, ahem, the internet.

Lessons learned

On being yourself

Anyone who was ever teased for being the "weird" one as a child knows how difficult it can be to accept and embrace who you are, especially if you're anywhere off-center from the norm. But these women know a thing or two about being different, and about rising up. Not in spite of who they are. Because of it.
1. Be yourself, because no one else can.
"A girl should be two things: who and what she wants." - Coco Chanel
2. Weird is good. Weird is wonderful.
"Don't you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can't be exactly who you are." - Lady Gaga
3. Do you (not that woman over there).
"Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else." - Judy Garland
4. Don't hide.
"Never dull your shine for somebody else." - Tyra Banks
5. Go forth.
"Find out who you are and do it on purpose." - Dolly Parton

On girlhood, and womanhood

Growing into a woman is all about recognizing the power and authority you already have. Empowering yourself, taking agency over where you go and how you get there, is what it's all about. Just ask these strong, badass ladies below.
6. Girls can be/do ___ .
"The question isn't who's going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." - Ayn Rand
7. Speak up.
"It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent." - Madeleine Albright
8. Yes you can.
"You had the power all along, my dear." - Glinda the Good Witch (Hey, being fictional doesn't mean she's wrong, ladies.)
9. Keep haters to the right, so you can pass them on the left.
"If I stop to kick every barking dog, I am not going to get where I'm going." - Jackie Joyner Kersee
10. Don't believe in "can't."
"It is amazing what a woman can do, if only she ignores what men tell her she can't." - Carol K. Carr

On self worth

Value and worth are not things earned, but things you already have just by being alive. The trick is learning to see and love yourself, and not let being "just a girl" ever hold you back. These women know all about finding their own worth, and they're not afraid to help you do the same.
11. Love yourself just for getting here.
"I love the person I've become because I fought to become her." - Kaci Diane
12. Know you already have worth.
"... never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world... " - Hillary Clinton
13. Your brain is beautiful.
"Girls should never be afraid to be smart." - Emma Watson
14. Your worth is not determined by your looks.
"You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone... Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'" - Erin MacKean
15. You don't need permission, or a reason, to be empowered.
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanore Roosevelt

On love and sex

Getting the love you want begins with giving yourself the love you need. Women and men alike can take a lifetime to figure this out. You can also spend a lifetime trying to get your head right in the bedroom, as well. Or, if you're smart, you'll pay attention to what the women below have already learned, and give yourself a leg up when it comes to love.
16. The right partner will embrace who you are.
"Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in." - Chimamanda Ngoche Adichie 
17. Lean in to pleasure.
"No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor." - Betty Friedan
18. Don't settle.
"I'm less tolerant of foolishness now; I know that it's important I not tie myself up with the wrong person, because then I will miss the right person coming along." - Ginnifer Goodwin
19. Let love, simply, be.
"The secret... is finding the right person. You know they're right if you love to be with them all the time." - Julia Child
20. Learn how to be a better partner. To yourself.
"Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry." - Gloria Steinem

On working

Part of building a life you can be satisfied with having lived is finding the career that fulfills you. The women below have a lot to say about what they learned along the way to theirs. Like, trying is doing, and failing is winning, and not fearing a good healthy risk is how you get ahead.
21. Take risks.
"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." - Katherine Hepburn
22. Take control of your path.
"The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it." - Roseanne Barr
23. Be bold enough to go after what really matters to you.
"A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don't get what they want." - Madonna
24. But in the time, do the work, leave no room for doubt.
"I never dreamed about success. I worked for it." - Estee Lauder
25. Dream big, work hard.
"Dreams are lovely but... it's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change." - Shonda Rhimes

On life

A few final words of ultimate wisdom, to be brought out in hard times for consolation, and in good times for continued inspiration. These life lessons are pearls of wisdom gathered by two women who did and spoke and lived exactly as they intended.
26. You are the one who decides what becomes of you.
"Above all, be the heroine of your own life, not the victim." - Nora Ephron
27. Keep going, keep going, keep going.
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou

Final thought

We could all use a little inspiration, most days, especially when life is maybe delivering a particularly difficult lesson. It helps to know that each of the women quoted above has been there, dealt with that, and lived to tell the tale. Do what they did: let each life lesson make you stronger, better and keep you moving, on.

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