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'Find the Humor': 14 Betty White Quotes on Life

A mischievous smile, a bawdy joke, and a cheerful outlook — actress and comedian Betty White navigated a near 80-year career with these simple elements. Famous for her portrayal of widow Rose Nylund on the 1980s sitcom Golden Girls, White was an industry pioneer long before that role. In 1951, when the Emmy Awards first recognized women, White was among the first group of nominees for Best Actress. She also both produced and starred in the 1950s sitcom Life With Elizabeth, a rarity for women at the time. These early leaps set the stage for her eventual six Emmy Awards, Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and well-earned nickname, the “First Lady of Television.”

But White’s legacy isn’t limited to her achievements. In recent decades, she built on her early chops as a comedian, becoming the oldest host of Saturday Night Live, and she was also a passionate advocate for animal rights. All the while, her firecracker personality made her beloved in the public eye. She spoke frankly and often about everything from desire (she famously harbored a crush on Robert Redford) to aging gracefully (“I’m still hot!” she insists in a 2012 music video for the Lifeline Program). Gratitude and lightheartedness were at the core of her life outlook, right up until her passing on December 31, 2021, three weeks shy of her 100th birthday. In her final interview, she said she was “born a cockeyed optimist,” and “that never changed." Below, you’ll find some of White’s best advice on staying curious, persevering, and always remembering to laugh.


ON AGING

You don't fall off the planet once you pass a given age. You don't lose any of your sense of humor. You don't lose any of your zest for life.

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Don’t try to be young. Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff.

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Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself: I think that keeps you feeling young.

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You know people who are already saying, “I’m going to be 30 — oh, what am I going to do?” Well, use that decade! Use them all!

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ON SUCCESS

Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.

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I think everybody needs a passion. Whether it’s one passion or a hundred, that’s what keeps life interesting.

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You don't luck into integrity. You work at it.

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Buckle down and work positively as much as you can. Just think, “All right, there’s nothing I can do about that right now. But I can do my best in my little circle.” So if you do that, maybe you’ll do your best.

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ON FRIENDSHIP

Friendship takes time and energy if it’s going to work. You can luck into something great, but it doesn’t last if you don’t give it proper appreciation. Friendship can be so comfortable, but nurture it — don’t take it for granted.

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I just make it my business to get along with people so I can have fun. It's that simple.

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ON POSITIVITY

Laughter keeps everyone feeling wonderful.

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It’s your outlook on life that counts. If you… don’t take yourself too seriously, pretty soon you can find the humor in our everyday lives. And sometimes it can be a lifesaver.

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We do have a tendency to complain rather than celebrating who we are… It's better to appreciate what's happening.

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There’s no formula. Keep busy with your work and your life. Replay the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.

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Photo credit: Keith Corrigan/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Paola Bennet
Paola Bennet is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She writes a fortnightly newsletter that treasures the mundane, called Small Histories. Find her on Instagram @paolafbennet.
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