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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Growing up in the public eye: What happens when the whole world already thinks that they know you?

Who hasn't dreamt of fame and fortune, of growing up in the public eye? From a young age, many of us absorbed fairytale images of what it might be like to be a prince or princess. This week, Yahoo News asked me to take a look at the reality behind the fairytale. What it might be like for a child to grow up in the public eye. And how parents can do their best to protect them from the weight of expectation.

Don't be fooled into thinking that this doesn't apply to those of us who aren't living in a fairytale palace. Although we might not have the media following our every step, there is a theme here that applies to us all. How the expectations of other people have an impact on our sense of who we are, our self-esteem. Click here for the original article.

What impact can being in the public eye have on the brain development of a small child?

As our brains develop, we form our sense of identity and self-worth in response to our interactions with others. Looking back, we often remember the messages we received from caregivers, family, and friends. These messages help us to understand how to elicit praise, attention, and affection. Common themes might be

  • ‘don’t speak until you are spoken to’

  • 'don’t make a fuss’

  • ‘keep a stiff upper lip’

  • ‘be a good girl’

  • ‘boys don’t cry’

Imagine then, that you’re growing up under a media spotlight. The stakes become much higher. If you get something wrong, you’re not just risking disapproval or punishment. You’re risking the family reputation. This can lead to frustration, resentment, or anger. These feelings might manifest themselves in different ways. At one end of the spectrum, we might become rebellious. At the other end of the spectrum, we might become ‘people pleasers’, and lose our sense of our own needs.

What role do you play in your family? How does this impact on how you see yourself?

Think about the role that you played in your family growing up. Were you the naughty one, the clever one, the rebellious one, the clown, the quiet one, the ‘middle child’. Have you lived up to this expectation, or have you left it behind you? Now imagine that this reputation extends past your immediate family, into the eyes of the whole nation.

Growing up in the public eye could leave us feeling trapped in an image or stereotype that we have no control over. We might feel that we need to live up to this image, to gain approval or affection from others. It doesn’t offer us space to learn and grow and develop. If our reputation precedes us, then every friendship or relationship begins with one person having preconceived ideas about the other.

Protecting the rights of children in the public eye

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. This might sound like total overkill, when we're thinking about growing up in the public eye. But it offers helpful reminders of how children should be treated. It encourages us to think about their right to privacy, their right to express their views, and their right to be protected from exploitation. These are ethical considerations that should be considered when we consider how we treat all children.

Top tips for parenting - how to protect children when they are growing up in the public eye

  • Boundaries. Making sure that there are clear boundaries between public and private life, so that the children know what is expected of them in different environments.

  • Role modelling behaviour. Our children learn more from what we do ourselves, than from what we tell them to do. So, it's essential for children to notice how their own parents manage the boundary between public and private life.

  • Opportunities to have family time and play and ‘be children’.

  • Limit access to social media. Most of us would benefit from spending less time online. But this is even more important for children who are growing up in the public eye. They are likely to be faced with a multitude of photos, articles and opinions about their appearance and behaviour.

  • Be clear to children about measures that are taken to protect them. This might include rules around photography and public appearances. If they have a good understanding of how their parents protected them, then they are perhaps less likely to look back with resentment or anger.

Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at your upbringing and relationships with those around you. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.

Click here to view the original article in Yahoo News.

what happens when the whole world already thinks that they know you

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