What would you say to your sixteen-year-old self?

This is a question I get asked all the time, but it’s a question I love to ask others who have experienced life more than I have.

My answer is always centred on reminding sixteen-year-old Aisha that it’s okay not to have all the answers, to enjoy her process of life and not be ashamed of who she is regardless of where life takes her.

One might ask what that has to do with mentorship. It’s the bedrock on which my idea of mentorship is built. It’s a constant reminder to myself, and also to the girls I get the opportunity to interact with. I couldn’t say it to sixteen-year-old Aisha, but I can remind other sixteenyear-olds to believe in themselves and their worth.

We all yearn for someone to talk to who understands us and our inner yearnings. As children of God, Christ does that for us on a daily basis. However, we sometimes forget to be Christ in the flesh for the people who need it most.

I used to say, “If I’d had a consistent mentor in my youth, I probably would have turned out different.” And that statement isn’t far from the truth. However, the downside is that I wouldn’t be doing all the amazing things that my story has opened me up to do.

The love, passion, and heart I have for my girls at my organization, Power to Girls, cannot be replaced by anything. My story is different. I know girls who just want to hear someone tell them how What Would You Say to Your Sixteen-Year-Old Self? 153 beautiful and intelligent they are, because at some point in their lives someone shattered that with words or pain.

Mentorship can take many forms, spanning from one-on-one conversations to parental input. It can be something as simple as reminding the young man or woman in the elevator that they matter. It’s in the words we say, how we say them, and the little reminders we give to the people around us, especially our children. It’s about extending our light to others and igniting their light. Sometimes we can’t do more because we don’t know where to start, and sometimes we get occupied with our daily responsibilities.

If mentorship is something you would want to start doing, I have a question for you: what would you say to your sixteen-year-old self? Whatever it may be, say it to someone today. The key to any successful mentorship is recognizing that with empathy you are able to change the direction of someone’s life.

If you happen to be have been mentored before, don’t forget to extend that same light to others. Let your light shine and remember that there is always someone watching and waiting to be heard. Listen to your spirit and allow the Spirit to guide you into being a blessing in someone’s life today.

REFLECTION: What would you say to your sixteen-year-old self?


TAKEAWAY: Use what you said to encourage and mentor the next generation.


AISHA ADDO is the founder, mentor, and CEO of the Power To Girls Foundation. She is the recipient of the Young Black and Gifted Award for community service. / powertogirls.com