What would you rather have people think about you: that you’re smart, or that you’re kind?
Now, the obvious “right” answer is kind. I think we all know that. When people are on their death bed, they don’t normally regret not having finished that second Master’s degree so much as they regret the time they didn’t spend with loved ones. But with these kinds of questions, there isn’t really a right or wrong answer–it’s more about our personal perspectives, hang ups, hopes for the future.
My honest, knee-jerk reaction was “smart.” Does that scare you a little? I’m not a sociopath, I swear. I don’t mean that I want to be revered for my genius, just respected for my hard work. Let me explain…
As a woman, I get patted on the head a lot. (Figuratively, of course.) There is a lot of talking that goes on to keep a woman in her place. Women even do it to each other! There are the mommy wars where women argue over parenting choices, tearing each other apart for breast-feeding vs. bottle, or daycare vs. stay-at-home.
There is even pressure for women to get married, if they’re single, or the have kids if they don’t have any yet. Women are shamed for being too fat, shamed for being too thin, encouraged to have a “nip and tuck” to look as young as humanly possible. She isn’t blond enough. She isn’t pale enough. Heaven forbid she age. The message to women is “change who you are.” Pressure, pressure, pressure.
Be pretty. Be young. Be sweet. Be funny. Be entertaining. Be sexually attractive to every male within your vicinity–that is success!
Well, you know what? I want to be smart! Kind? of course! But in our media-driven society, that is taken for granted in a “good woman.” Kindness, sweetness, generosity… but smart isn’t in the list that is assumed for women. Smart isn’t considered necessary to a woman’s survival. Somehow “sexy” made that list, though…
It’s like that question of whether you’d want to be loved or respected. I land on the side of respected. Again, of course I want to be loved by the people closest to me, but to be respected by those who know of me would point to a life well lived. And I’m too pragmatic to go chasing after the love of strangers. If I needed universal love pointed at me in order to be happy… well, I’d never be happy. So I’ll take respect.
So when “people” at large think of me, I’d like to be considered smart. Of course, I want to a kind person. I want to be loving. I want to be a good cook, for that matter. At the end of the day, I think kindness matters more than power, but the lure of having my work acknowledged and respected… to have men look at me and instead of rating my attractiveness, to think, “Oh! That’s Mrs. Johns. She’s incredibly good at what she does.”
At the cost of kindness? Never. But I still want smart.
What about you? Smart or kind? Loved or respected?