How do you find strength within yourself?

Aurelie for IGNITE1

Life is tough and honestly doesn’t get any easier as you grow older. It gets better, and brighter things come but the workload, heartache, and struggle comes along with it. I don’t say this to discourage anyone. I say this to be honest. Despite the bent backs and overworked spirits, I see so many individuals around me that exhibit strength inside this. Whether this is standing up for what they believe in or pushing themselves to get out of bed every day, I admire these several people and more. You don’t have to save the world or carry a car to be strong. Sometimes being strong is just taking a shower when depressed or letting go of a negative person.

The individuals I photographed are diverse, all with their own backgrounds, history, and struggles. They have their internal demons and sometimes the negative pressure of the outside world, but each of them have inspired me.

The first person I photographed is my friend and sorority twin, Aurelie. I have watched her grow into a powerful woman, loving her life and curves a little more each day. Being a plus size woman of color, she’s definitely faced her trials. But instead of letting it slow her down, she’s used it to fuel herself even more. Her confidence shines through her smile, fashion, and attitude. She doesn’t have time for negative energy and stays honest with the people around her, something I aspire to do.

Second, I photographed one of my first friends at college, Joseph. I’ve watched him go through countless evolutions as a person. He’s made plenty of mistakes but has learned all the way through college. I know if I ever face a problem of any kind, he will take the time to talk me through my own thoughts. Joe puts an incredible amount of time into truly getting to know other people and honestly cares about their wellbeing. It amazes me to see someone constantly caring for so many people at one time while also holding himself to a high standard.

Last but certainly not least, I spent time photographing my friend and former roommate, Caity. Caity and I have a lot in common, dealing with mental illness. So many days I know it’s hard for me to get out of bed, and it is the same for her. I’ve watched her hurt, but I’ve never seen her give up on what she loves. She’s amazing at painting and even better at constantly caring about the ones she loves. She is also one of the main people who taught me self-care is so important and not selfish at all.

I asked them:

“How do you find strength within yourself?”


“I find strength within myself by channeling the anger, sadness, and trauma into action and passion so I can help others find their own strength.”


“I find my quiet place and pray. Meditate.”


“That’s sort of an odd question. I don’t know if I “find” strength as it is always there. I don’t think the hard part is having strength or even knowing where inside you it comes from; I think it’s those times you have to tap into it more than usual. As for how I get myself to do that, it’s a lot of convincing and motivating myself that it will be worth it.”


Story by Elizabeth Stafford