Audrey Hepburn is one of the world’s most important, notable and beloved actresses, encompassing the history of Hollywood to remain a recognized screen goddess for her incredible talent, her exceptional beauty, and the fact that she retreated from film to become a full-time mother and humanitarian for UNICEF. So, what advice can Audrey offer to the world? It will be twenty-one years this January since she sadly passed on, and so it feels only appropriate that we revisit the lessons and inspirational quotes that she was accredited with saying, and find some of the best that we can apply to our lives to make a positive transformation.
1. “I tried always to do better. Saw always a little further. I tried to stretch myself.”
Despite my all-encompassing love for Audrey Hepburn, one of her lesser-known inspirational quotes is all about her impressive work ethic and the way she maintained a work-life balance. Audrey worked hard to get where she wanted to go—years of dance classes, years of rejection—and she kept going because she wanted it. That doesn’t mean she was ruthless enough to put the concerns of herself above the concerns of other people—she just kept her head down and worked hard. That’s not to say everything she did turned to gold—I’ll be the first to admit that some of her films were real flops and that as a singer, she was hardly top of the pile, but she never stopped trying and always sought to get out of her comfort zone, to grow as an actress and as a human being. That’s something pretty inspirational.
2. “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”
Audrey always had a sense of indefatigable optimism and a belief in herself. In her life, she had been through years and years of suffering, terror, and ill health: as a child she was subjected to the threat of the Nazis’ occupation of her native Belgium and of her war-time home in Arnhem, the Netherlands. She suffered from malnutrition, jaundice and other ailments, but she kept looking forward towards the future. No matter what circumstances and situations she found herself in at times, she kept on believing in the impossible and the seemingly unreachable. She was able to work hard and keep on dreaming and looking forward. In that way, we should all always keep moving forward, accepting what we can and looking to change things, if possible.
3. “The most important thing is to enjoy your life. To be happy. It’s all that matters.”
Audrey had a tumultuous personal life—a rumored relationship with the married William Holden, marriages to two different men (Mel Ferrer, an actor, and Andrea Dotti, a psychiatrist) and plenty of public interest that must have made her life extremely difficult to live. Despite all this, Audrey managed to keep her life as private as possible and according to friends and family was blissfully happy. During her final relationship with Rob Wolders, which many consider to be her best and truest love, she left the Hollywood spotlight to become a humanitarian and mother full-time, and was extremely joyful in this. Audrey pointed out that life is short and thus is important in its brevity—we have such little time overall, we have to spend it being happy and making others happy at the same time. Time to embrace the joy!
4. “You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.”
Audrey Hepburn was a fully fledged optimist and believer in the goodness of people and so often practiced what she preached—that talking about people isn’t good karma and isn’t something we should be doing. Talking badly about people—mean gossip, harsh backstabbing, whatever—just results in the person being fairly or unfairly insulted and everyone around you considering you a person who can be cruel, although they may not admit it. In Pamela Keogh’s book, What Would Audrey Do?, the stories of Audrey are related by celebrity friends, past and present, and all of them state that no one had a bad word to say about her because she never had a bad word to say about anyone else. That’s not to say she didn’t get angry or upset or felt mean in private, but she used restraint, tact and compassion around those in her life. The lesson here is that while smack-talking is all the rage, maybe speaking words of compassion and kindness should be a virtue we should try to practice.
5. “The best thing to hold on to in life is each other.”
This is probably the truest and most inspirational quote that Audrey Hepburn has ever had attributed to her: the simple and powerful idea that the best thing in life is to make and maintain powerful and loving human connections. Audrey certainly made her own mark in these respects during her own lifetime. She was adored by millions, won scores of fans and friends everywhere she went, did good and raised awareness for the disadvantaged around the world, and was a mother and wife. We can’t all go around changing the world with massive acts, but the way we connect with human beings on a simple, instinctual level, is worth exploring and working on. We could all always be more kind and considering and forgiving, and so holding on to those connections and friendships and relationships is a positive facet of the human experience that is inspirational in itself. Audrey Hepburn suggested that the ties that bind are the important ones, and that’s a rather important lesson we should all take to heart.
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