There was an author interview in the Sunday NY Times titled Finding Satisfaction in Second Best. The author interviewed Debora Spar, who is the author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection. Ms. Spar is also the president of Barnard College. The interview was both informative and interesting, but upon reflection, it was the title of the interview that I could not let go of. By all accounts, Ms. Spar is an incredibly accomplished woman – she has written a book, raised children and become president of one of the top educational institutions in the country – sounds pretty amazing to me. Certainly not someone that needs to find satisfaction in second best!
So what is it with women and perfection? Why are we always being compared to a perfect ideal and more importantly, why would we even try to hold ourselves to something that does not exist? A Buddhist teacher I know once told me that a nautilis shell is the closest thing in nature to perfection that exists, but really nothing in nature is “perfect” and yet all of creation still manages to be pretty astounding in all of its “imperfection.” The natural world we live in is hardly second best.
In the interview Ms. Spar reflects on a moment where she was home from work and heading out to a PTA meeting when her 8 year old son asked why she was leaving again. Her response was that she wanted to be a responsible member of his school community. His response was that he just wanted her to be home; so she stayed and never went to another PTA meeting, and by all accounts, Ms. Spar and her family are doing well. Is that second best or just making a choice given the limited resource of time that constrains us all?
My husband has a very challenging job and two sons still in school. He makes it to practices and school meetings when he can, and when he cannot, I have not seen him lose any sleep over it. He is also fine with leaving chores undone or picking up takeout for us when work or other demands require it. In his mind, it is all about choices and once a choice has been made, there is no guilt and fretting. There is no trying to achieve an ideal just for the sake of it. And really, the boys are doing just great so far. So maybe the thing we really need to let go of is this label of perfection – how is it second best to be someone that is president of a university, author and mother to great children? And how great are you with what you have been able to accomplish in your life? What if the only thing keeping from you seeing it is the labels we put on ourselves and the guilt we carry around from not attaining some ideal that does not exist?
And speaking of achieving some pretty amazing goals, I would ask each and every one of you to help us with our fundraisers in your city to help us support the underserved girls in your community that are working to achieve their college dreams. As you all know, we support the six schools across Texas founded by the Foundation for the Education of Young Women – 80% of the students at the schools qualify for school lunch, and many are homeless. And in spite of the odds, these schools are graduating these students from high school and getting them into 4 year colleges. TXWSW supports its members in their career development. Now we are asking you to support underserved girls in your community – please help us change the outcomes for these girls and the families they will have. So buy a ticket, donate a prize, and bring your friends and family to come help us support this amazing cause!
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