Helping Your Children Feel Better About Themselves: The Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian Problem

By General Education Advice

We have been helping the emotional development of young adults since our inception in the early 2000s.  Jean Card, our lead Student Mastery coach, has created an Academic Therapy framework that has helped our students in flourish both academically and emotionally.   My work – while ostensibly on all the concrete areas of college counseling, test prep, and grades – has always had the additional element of inspiring students.

It should be no surprise that over the course the last decade I’ve noticed the mental health decline of many young people.

“I’m nothing special.” This seems to be an increasing element of the unhappiness.

I reflected on why this was so and considered other societies during other time periods.  Most everyone – outside royalty and some aristocrats – was nothing special.  Most everyone was born into a certain station in life and stayed within their very small lane of mobility.


We have Jeff Bezos.  He’s a smart guy.  So are a lot of Connecticut’s best students.  Indeed, I know someone who graduated Princeton with Bezos and was in the same program.  They both started companies around the same time. Those who know my friendly acquaintance say he was the better student and more likable than Bezos. And, they were both equally driven.  One started Amazon.  The other started a company that’s done fine… compared to most every company on the planet… except perhaps Amazon!

I note because so many smart students I work with are placing on themselves crazy pressure to get insanely rich at a young age. “Bezos was not Superman.  He was just a smart guy with an idea…” True, but there were a confluence of factors, well beyond his talent, that led to his outsized success.

As for Oprah, the circumstances of her youth were beyond horrible.  And, she became… well…. Oprah.   I realize the positive message comes out as “she did it despite her horrible obstacles…” But there is a meta-message: “she did it despite her horrible circumstances, so why can’t you?”

And Kim Kardashian, she is attractive.  But every town in America has women (and men) who would score as highly on the attractiveness scale.   In this case, the number of students who want to be “influencers” has sky-rocketed.  I’m not even sure if that’s the right word.  There never really were influencers – outside of the famous – and now there are many wannabe influencers.

In our college counseling and in our regular educational counseling, we are doing our best to provide a sense of reality to our students.

We are not encouraging bursting their bubbles. But we are encouraging a healthy grounding in reality.