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I recently read that a girl’s self-esteem peaks at nine years old, and from then on it’s all downhill. Many adult women struggle for most of their lives to get back to the internal place of peace and self-acceptance they felt at nine.

Guess what?  I have a nine year old daughter.

Her name is Audrey, and she’s amazing.  But don’t take it from me.  I want you to hear it from her.  Because she is nine, and her self-esteem is rock solid, I asked her to make a list of the top ten things that make her feel good about herself.  I put the exercise in context—Audrey and I discuss the disturbing way our culture treats girls and women (though she hasn’t been exposed to most of the damaging stuff out there, I know it is only a matter of time before I can’t control her content consumption, so we talk about it now)—and I suggested that if at any point in the future cultural messages start to get her down, she and I could refer to this list.

Upon hearing my idea, Audrey said, “I always feel the exact same about myself.”

“Oh yeah?  How’s that?”  I asked.

“Good,” she replied.

Without further ado, here is Audrey’s list:

Top Ten Things That Make Audrey Feel Good About Herself

  1. I like my hair.
  2. I can read really fast.
  3. I have a talent for finding four-leaf clovers.
  4. I can draw really well.
  5. My eyes are hazel.
  6. I never get dizzy.
  7. I’m really smart.
  8. I can do a somersault underwater.
  9. I have a really good singing voice.
  10. I can swim really well.

When Audrey first started to make this list, I had an instinct to editorialize—I wanted her list to be both lofty and unassailable from the outside (more emphasis on books, less on clovers and hair).  But then I realized that this list is exactly the kind of list we all need—she should like her hair and the fact that she can find four-leaf clovers like a champ.  Those things are awesome!

The list is simple, unvarnished, unconscious.  It came out quickly—I don’t think it took Audrey more than a minute to write it.  It’s just her own perception of herself at this particular moment, and it isn’t something she scrutinizes or doubts.  It, like her whole being, simply is.  And that is beautiful.

Maybe if we each made a list like this when we needed it—if we turned off the TV, laid down the magazine, told the inner critic we aren’t buying it today—we’d find that there’s some nine-year-old girl power in there, just waiting to go draw, read, swim, find clovers all day, and never get dizzy.  Or whatever else our nine-year-old selves could dream up.

If we made this list on a regular basis—and we allowed it to include the simple, the unconscious, and the unvarnished—we just might find that we are more than the sum of our parts.

We might remember that we, in fact, are awesome.  Simply by being ourselves, we are worthy of our own esteem—wholly, deeply, and unquestionably worthy.

We always have been.

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