An anxious mum recently reached out for some advice: ‘My daughter, aged 10, wants to be a pop star when she grows up, but she is a really bad singer – she just can’t sing in tune! Earlier this year she asked me if she could try for Britain’s Got Talent. I said no, but she went on and on about it until I gave in, just to keep her quiet. I honestly thought there was no chance she’d get through, but I’ve just found out she’s gone and got an audition! Should I take her to it, knowing that she’ll be disappointed? I hate the thought of lying to her, but maybe it’s best to protect her and not even tell her about the audition. What do I do? Help!’
While I have a huge amount of sympathy for this mum and every bit of me would want to protect the fragile sensitivities of a 10-year old, we do our children no favours if we fail to help them develop a realistic view of themselves and of life (and the honest truth is that this mum should probably have dissuaded her daughter from entering in the first place).
The belief that ‘I have to be extraordinary’ is a major driver of anxiety and one of the main factors affecting children’s wellbeing. Having been sold the lie that they can be and do anything, is it any wonder that so many young people report feeling depressed and anxious when no one presses the golden buzzer for them? When life itself delivers the verdict that they aren’t quite so extraordinary after all?
Our children are growing up in a culture of entitlement where talent shows, TikTok videos and Instagram reels turn the ordinary into the extraordinary every day of the week. Singing, dancing, cooking, baking and even falling in love have become a national competition, a spectator sport with winners and losers. So perhaps it’s no surprise that children feel under pressure to do something special and stand out from the crowd, not just in relation to schoolwork or sports, but in every area of life. The irony, of course, is that the very nature of being extraordinary means it’s not possible for everyone.
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