That Little Girl

Published under: Girls, Modern Generation Map

Who were you at 8 or 9? 

Feel­ing stuck in your life?  Are you look­ing to regain a sense of poten­cy and vibrancy?

You might find it use­ful to look back to who you were as a young girl. Back before the pres­sures of puber­ty, and then life in gen­er­al, may have steered you onto a dif­fer­ent course.  Per­haps that lit­tle girl knew exact­ly who she was — and what she want­ed to be when she grew up. 

In her book, The Girl With­in, Emi­ly Han­cock asks us to do just that — to redis­cov­er the gifts and dreams we had at 8 or 9.  She refers to this peri­od as “an inter­im space between fan­ta­sy and real­i­ty that fos­ters cre­ative self-own­er­ship.” Accord­ing to her research, re-dis­cov­er­ing the girl with­in — and rein­te­grat­ing that androg­y­nous lit­tle girl — appears to be the key to a wom­an’s identity.

I spent my child­hood just beyond the west­ern sub­urbs of Philadel­phia. A dreamy, intu­itive child, I loved music, ani­mals, and play­ing in the woods and fields that sur­round­ed my home.

I would enter­tain myself for hours in my tree fort. I loved imag­in­ing that I was a secret agent solv­ing mys­ter­ies. I also loved draw­ing mazes and writ­ing about my cats. Life was good. I felt con­nect­ed to my world.

But then, when I was 8, every­thing changed.

My moth­er, nine months preg­nant with my sis­ter, had a stroke. And, although this event was nev­er spo­ken about, I felt a grow­ing sense of uneasi­ness and uncer­tain­ty enter my life. With a father who worked far from home — and sis­ters and a broth­er to look after — I was forced to become an adult way too early.

In this new real­i­ty there was no place for that dreamy lit­tle girl. I had to be respon­si­ble. And so, I devot­ed the next 30 years of my life to build­ing struc­tures that I thought would make me feel safe and secure. I got a good edu­ca­tion and what seemed like the right jobs. But, all I end­ed up with was a dreamy girl trapped inside a hard­ened busi­ness wom­an’s body (with plen­ty of chi­ro­prac­tic bills to show for it).

Now I’m redis­cov­er­ing that lit­tle girl — and inte­grat­ing her ener­gy, vital­i­ty, and enthu­si­asm back into my life — safe in the knowl­edge that her gifts will actu­al­ly guide and pro­tect me on the rest of my journey.

Try look­ing back to those years — and see who you find. She might have some­thing very valu­able to teach you. 

Emi­ly Han­cock,“The Girl With­in,” New York, Bal­lan­tine Books, 1989.

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One Response to That Little Girl

  1. Laura says:

    Wow…through a series of odd­ly unre­lat­ed coin­ci­dences, I just stum­bled upon this web­site. EXACTLY what I need to read right here, right now.

    Luck­i­ly, I don’t believe in coincidences…

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