11 Quotes About Strength To Keep You Going

We all face moments of hardship and difficulty where we have to dig deep to carry on. In those moments, it is important to remember that we have an inner strength or fortitude that can help us when the going gets rough. The following quotes from civil right leaders, writers, and poets remind us of what we are capable of, even when we feel like we aren’t. As the writer Samuel Beckett famously once wrote, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”


Every struggle is a victory. One more effort and I reach the luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the uplands of my desire.

—Hellen Keller, The Story of My Life, 1902


Hellen Keller is a famous example of fortitude in the face of adversity. She overcame physical disability and the prejudices of society against disabled people to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree and accomplish many other milestones. In her autobiography The Story of My Life, she describes her hard work as a way to reach the “uplands of [her] desire.” Upland literally means “land elevated above other land,” but metaphorically it is used to refer to “a peaceful and pleasant place.”


Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Joanna Macy, “Go to the Limits of Your Longing,” 1905


Rilke was a modernist Austrian-German poet who wrote challenging poems about faith, transcendence, and solitude. In this quote from his moody poem “Go to the Limits of Your Longing,” Rilke hammers home the point that no feeling—good or bad—is permanent. For this reason, you should embrace beauty. Not beauty just in the sense of things that are nice to look at, but in the deeper sense of “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.”


Keep moving, for it may well be that the greatest song has not yet been sung, the greatest book has not been written, the highest mountain has not been climbed. This is your challenge! Reach out and grab it … If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.

—Martin Luther King, Jr., speech at Spelman College Museum, April 1960


Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was no stranger to staying strong in the face of adversity. In a speech at Spelman College, an HBCU women’s school in Atlanta, King encouraged his community to “keep moving,” despite the challenges they faced on all sides. To illustrate his point, he describes the many different ways one can move forward: flying, running, walking, crawling. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you work to move forward and don’t give up.


[W]hat makes you different or weird, that’s your strength.

—Meryl Streep, interview in Indianapolis Monthly, April 17, 2014


In an interview during a visit to accept an honorary degree at Indiana University, actor Meryl Streep discussed how her unconventional looks are a benefit rather than a detriment to her career. Streep is one of the most celebrated and successful actors of our time, so it’s hard to argue with her conclusions there. In her advice to young actors (although all of us could benefit from this mindset), she encourages them to embrace what makes them weird, a word that here means “strange; odd; bizarre.”


Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.

—Elizabeth Edwards, interview with NPR, 2009


The late Elizabeth Edwards lost her fight against cancer in 2010, but she is remembered for her bravery and strength in the face of this challenge. She spent the last years of her life reflecting on and writing about resilience, “the ability of a person to adjust to or recover readily from illness, adversity, major life changes, etc.” The word resilience ultimately comes from the Latin resilīre, meaning “to spring back.”


The human capacity for burden is like bamboo—far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.

—Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper, 2004


Like Elizabeth Edwards, in this quote, writer Jodi Picoult touches on the theme of resilience as a form of inner strength. She describes our ability to take on challenges as a sign of how flexible we are. Flexible here means “susceptible of modification or adaptation,” but it also refers to the literal flexibility of bamboo in this metaphor. Like bamboo, people may bend, but they won’t break.


[I]n my weak spirit there is a new strength, and this strength is the ability to sacrifice a great thing in order to obtain a greater one.

—Khalil Gibran, The Broken Wings, 1912


Writer Khalil Gibran is known for the spiritual quality of his work. He often wrote moral or religious parables such as The Broken Wings. In this quote, Gibran discusses how even when you feel weak or limited, you can find strength in sacrifice, “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” He reminds us that the ability to give something up in order to gain something better is itself a form of power.


The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

—Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, April 2, 1931


Civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi is known for his work in promoting non-violent action to liberate India from British rule. In this quote, he identifies what he sees as a feature of strength, the ability to forgive. For some, forgiveness or “disposition or willingness to forgive” is not only a sign of mental fortitude but a way to let go of emotions that can become harmful if they are held for too long, like rage.


Limitation makes for power: the strength of the genie comes of his being confined in a bottle.

—Richard Wilbur, “The Genie in the Bottle,” Mid-Century American Poets, 1950


Like Gibran and Gandhi, poet Richard Wilbur identifies a source of inner strength that may seem counterintuitive at first. He states that limitation, meaning “restriction” or “inability or handicap,” can be a source of power. If, like the genie, one can learn to concentrate and exercise our abilities within our limitations, we can accomplish great things.


When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.

—Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oldtown Folks, 1869

turn of the tide

The writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was no stranger to opposition for her views. In her bildungsroman Oldtown Folks, Stowe gives a 19th-century version of the aphorism “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” She uses the metaphor of the turn of the tide, an expression that means “a reversal of fortune” to express this idea.


There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.

—Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, 1813


Jane Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice has been beloved for centuries for her pluck, wit, and forthrightness. In this quote, Elizabeth (“Lizzy”) comments on how her force of character is a source of strength. She describes it as stubbornness, but this trait might be more accurately described as fortitude. Either way, she is correct to describe the ability to stand strong in the face of adversity as courage, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear.”

As these quotes have shown, we can all find inner strength in the face of adversity, whether in its traditional forms of courage and resilience, or in unlikely modes like through forgiveness and and sacrifice. We hope these words act as a pick-me-up to help you keep going in difficult times.

Good morning! Well, these quotes will ensure you start the day off right at least.

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