I read a lot of non-fiction and often suggest books to my wife, who is not so keen on non-fiction books. The motivational and self-help shelves have blown up over the past years with books specific to women, which is fantastic. There are many powerful books out there but they lack the specifics of the individual struggles men and women face which are often very different from each other. It takes books like “Girl Wash Your Face” to speak directly to the specific struggles that men and women do not share.
The title of the book intrigued me, but that was about it at first. It would have been easy to write it off completely because it’s obviously a book written for women. My first thought was that hopefully, this is a book that will finally combat the “Hot Mess” movement as I assumed Girl, Wash Your Face meant, Girl, get out of those yoga pants and do something with your life. Not a fair statement for sure, but I am getting really tired of the “Hot Mess” mentality. Guys, we have our own version of this, so ladies, please know that I am not picking on you specifically. Life is tough, but we have to show up every day or what’s the point?
My wife completed the book and I didn’t really think much about it after that. Then, the author, Rachel Hollis, was interviewed on a podcast that I listen to, “The School of Greatness.” The interview was fantastic. She had some really interesting things to say and some amazing insights that really got me thinking. Though the book obviously was not written for men, I felt that I would get a lot out of reading it not only for myself but to better help me understand my wife.
You see guys, I didn’t grow up with much of an understanding of females. I only had brothers, I spent most of my time working on things or racing them, and the women that were in my life didn’t really teach me much more than to make sure I had good manners and to open the door for them. I didn’t know much about women at all until I got married and started living with one.
The last 10 years of marriage has been a big learning curve for me. Though I am a pretty insightful person and I feel like I pay attention pretty well, I believe that I could’ve done a lot more to prepare to be a husband to my wife than I did. This was not a new realization of mine. I noticed quite some time ago that men and women process and deal with things much differently. I have read some books on the topic of our differences but books like that don’t often give you much practical information to walk away with. I also recognize that women are not so simple that they can be boiled down and explained thoroughly in a single book, nor are us men.
After having listened to that interview I decided that I needed to read this book for myself. What was so powerful about this book that sent it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? What kind of knowledge and insight does this woman have that seemed to shoot her directly to guru status in what seemed like no time at all? So I purchased the audiobook in an attempt to better understand my wife and the struggles of her womanhood.
Now this book was definitely written to and for women. There were some chapters that I could easily have written off as non-relatable, but I am a husband to a woman who is the mother of my children and listening to Rachel share about her struggles and challenges in this world as a woman and a mother definitely helped me better understand my wife. I also recognize that as a man, it is really easy for me to discount the struggles women have in this world. They have real struggles that men don’t have to deal with and could never relate to regardless of how hard we try to understand.
Rachel started by telling her story, which was I glued to. Her husband and I share a few traits, to say the least. I know that I have treated a few women in my life the way Rachel’s now-husband did her when they were dating. I broke up with my now wife just like Rachel’s husband did with the plan to move away from our hometown. Glad that didn’t end up happening.
I carried a lot of brokenness into my marriage. I hope to get more into that in future posts, but for now, let’s just say that I share Rachel’s appreciation for therapy.
There are a lot of lies we believe. It’s not just women, men believe plenty of lies as well. Rachel’s book was a breaking down of many lies a lot of women believe. I really connected with that. I am closing in on 40 and I am realizing more and more the lies I have believed. I also recognize many lies that the world tells us that I have believed. This is why I decided to write this post. I am going to borrow some of Rachel’s lies and explain how I, as a man, have believed a few of them, so let’s get started.
Something Else Will Make Me Happy
Men have been chasing after things in search of happiness for ages. We get the job, but we want more. We get the family, but we don’t seem fulfilled. We buy the things, but that doesn’t help either. It’s easy to look at what’s in front of us and allow ourselves to believe that they are the things that are keeping us from being happy.
I have watched people uproot their entire lives in search of finding happiness. This might mean leaving a spouse or moving their family across the country in search of something. I have watched friends go into debt over the things they thought would bring them happiness. If we believe the marketing, we can easily be swayed.
The problem is that happiness is not found in things, or someone else. It all starts within. If you can’t be happy without, you won’t be happy with. You once were happy. You were happy when you got the job. You were happy on your wedding day. You were happy the day your children were born. What happened?
You believed the lie that other things would bring you happiness. When they didn’t, you felt cheated. The world told you to get something else, so you did over and over again and now you’re overwhelmed.
“Life is not supposed to overwhelm you at all times. Life isn’t meant to be merely survived—it’s meant to be lived.” That’s a direct quote from the book and to me, it means that the things that overwhelm me need to go. I have been working on doing just this for the past few months. Guys, if we are in a constant state of overwhelm, how can we focus on living our lives? If we can’t focus on living, how can we enjoy it? We first have to admit that we are overwhelmed. I want to give you permission to admit that. The world says that it’s not ok as a man to admit something like that, but that is a lie, my friends. Men get overwhelmed too and it’s time the world learns to stop making us feel bad for it. We are all set off by different things, we all have different levels of tolerance.
What overwhelms me might be a walk in the park for you. That is what makes us different. I used to photograph a lot of weddings. People used to ask me if that stressed me out or if I ever got overwhelmed. Photographing a wedding knowing that I am responsible for capturing this couples once in a lifetime and non-repeatable moments is not overwhelming to me at all. But I can easily get overwhelmed with my kids. Handling a high-strung MOB (Mother of the Bride) is easy, handling three kids when they are tired and hungry can be overwhelming at times.
It’s ok to feel overwhelmed at times. As Rachel states, “moments when you feel like you’re drowning are supposed to be brief. They should not be the whole of your existence!” We have to take control of our own lives and for lack of a better phrase “man up” to our responsibilities. There are too many voices in the world today telling us that it’s someone else’s responsibility and that we should look out for ourselves. Bro, I am here to tell you that as men we are here to take care of ourselves and we are here to take care of those who God entrusted us with. Don’t get mad at me for saying that in 2018. Rachel is right in that women need to be their own heroes. If they rely on us to be that for them, they will be disappointed. We will fail them and they will fail us. We have to champion ourselves so that we can champion those around us.
We have to choose to be happy. Our circumstances and our things will not do that for us. We have to make that choice every day and when that doesn’t seem like enough, we have to make that choice every moment. I highlighted this statement from the book and have read it at least a dozen times over the last month: “When you’re engaged and involved and choosing to enjoy your own life, it doesn’t matter where you are, or frankly, what negative things get hurled at you. You’ll still find happiness because it’s not about where you are but who you are.” It’s about who I am? Do I even know who I am? Bro, that got deep.
We can more easily choose happiness each day when we stop comparing ourselves to other men. We do that just as much as women do even though we make it sound like women do it more. We look at the guy with the better job, the one who is more in shape, the guy whose wife looks better in a bikini postpartum than she did before getting pregnant. It’s damaging, not only to us but to our spouse as well. They are unrealistic expectations. No job, car, house, or spouse will bring you happiness if you can’t be happy with yourself.
I Am Not Good Enough
I am going to go out on a limb and say that every man ever has told himself this. I do this thing where I try something new and if I am not immediately awesome at it or can’t see myself becoming awesome at it pretty easily I stop doing it. For years I told myself that I just don’t have time to practice and since I don’t like to suck at things I will simply limit myself to doing things that I can be good at with little effort. I know how that sounds, but so many of us are that way.
I was the oldest of three boys, which meant that at some point I was expected to just figure it out, and I didn’t always make the right choices. I always wanted more than I had and even though I didn’t have a problem working for it, sometimes I decided to take it instead. I got into trouble often as a youth and was often told that I was “not good.” School also did not seem to be my thing. There were years that I did well, but for the most part, I would have rather been working than sitting on my butt at school. Good grades and/or excelling at sports seemed to be the only thing that parents were interested in and I was not very good at either.
I have always been a risk taker, which was obviously bad when not exercised correctly. Running your own business is risky and scary. I have not had a regular paycheck since I was 21. If I want to get paid, I have to find the work, do the work, and make sure I get paid for the work. There have been times where work was harder to find. It is easy for me to feel like I am not good enough when a client decides to go in a different direction. I often get told that it must be nice to work for myself because I can set my own hours. I laugh on the inside. If it was only that simple.
We all feel like we have something to live up to that is beyond our capabilities. We either chase it or we sit on the sidelines and watch everybody else. Regardless, both believe they are not good enough and allow that mindset to limit them.
In the book, Rachel explained how she knew she was under too much stress from trying to live up to a standard that was not realistic. She could see it on her face, literally. For me, it started with an ulcer in my early 20’s. That ulcer would come back in my early 30’s and I am still dealing with digestive issues today. Damage has been done and I have to pay attention to what I consume, or I will feel like garbage. I wish I could say that the acid reflux is all it took to get my attention, but it wasn’t. Perhaps I will share more about that one day. What damage are you doing to yourself by trying to live up to something you don’t even believe in?
We have to find enjoyment in what we are doing. It is easy to end up chasing the wrong carrot in life because we were told that was the goal. I had a family that constantly beat into me that I would not make it in life if I did not go to college. I couldn’t afford college and was not about to go into debt over it so I spent many years believing that I was not good enough because I didn’t have a piece of paper on the wall.
Stop believing the lie that you don’t have what it takes to get that promotion, start your own business, lose the weight, or whatever it might be. Whether you decide to sit on the bench or you chase after something until your stomach bleeds, you have to decide if it is worth it and you have to decide that you are worth more than “it.” Your health is one of the only things you have complete control over. You might have to start over to find out what brings you happiness and contentment because you were chasing after what someone else wanted for you for so long. You might have to prioritize some things over others because you have to start living for yourself so that you have the strength and health to lead those around you.
I’m Not A Good Enough Dad
Being a Dad is hard. It’s not as hard as being a husband, but it’s right up there. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t receive a handbook with each of my children. I was not prepared for everything that would come after we came home with our first child.
I was ready to hold and comfort my first baby boy, but he didn’t want me, he wanted his Mommy. I would try to play with him, but he would get upset until he saw his Mommy. This seemed to go on for almost two years until finally he and I started connecting. I was jealous of the closeness my wife got to have with our babies. At times I would keep myself busy with other things since it didn’t seem like my kids needed me. It’s easy to get emotional over things like that, but they are babies. Babies are not doing anything on purpose, they are just being babies. It may seem like you don’t have a connection to your newborn, but you do. It just takes more time to surface than it does with their Mother.
As my kids have started to grow up, I have felt like I wasn’t succeeding as a Dad. I am not good at disciplining my children. I don’t know how to do it well or in an effective way. I don’t always respond to their outbursts well. At times I have a short temper with them. I often feel like I am hurting them more than I am helping them, but that is mostly my internal self-talk. It would be much easier to just be their friend and let them raise themselves.
Then there are those Dads that seem to have it all together. Their kids are amazing in public, play all the sports, seem to do things without arguing, get along with their siblings, and even seem to respect their parents. Is that all smoke and mirrors, or am I failing somewhere?
Men don’t stand around talking about parenting, they talk about common interests. It’s easy to assume that other Dads have it all together but we would never know that because we don’t talk about it. I have allowed myself to believe that I am not good enough. It is easier for guys to disconnect from their families than it is for women because of the motherly connection they feel responsible for. Rachel mentioned in her book that she considered flying the coop in a moment of struggle. I think us guys have our moments as well. It’s also much easier and more acceptable for a guy to separate himself from his family in today’s culture. Some even do it without ever leaving the house.
For me, I have found a few guys who have gone before me to ask questions and vent to. It’s equal parts relieving and frustrating when they smile and explain that what I am experiencing is not unique. What I need more of is guys with kids of similar ages, yes this might mean that I have to talk to some of my wife’s girlfriends husbands. Trust me guys, we need to do life together on a deeper level than whatever sports ball is on tv. I have kept myself at a distance from a lot of other Dads for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that I have a hard time connecting with other guys. This has been a problem for as long as I can remember. If we continue to try to be Dads on our own, we will always feel like we are not good enough. If we listen to that voice enough, we will put distance between us and our kids when what they really need is for us to draw near to them.
I Can’t Tell The Truth, I Need a Drink, I’m Not A Hero
This post is getting super long, I get it. If you are still reading, you deserve an award.
In all honesty, I want to rewrite Rachel’s book for us men. We need it. We live in a world where it seems like we are getting attacked and blamed for everything. Some of us deserve it. We have not been the best leaders or the most truthful. We have taken advantage and not been responsible. Guys, we have been lazy and now that women are standing up for themselves it is easy to feel like we are the ones being attacked. It’s easy to feel like a victim and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to read Rachel’s book.
I was not a truth teller. I mean, I was pretty honest most of the time. Some of my friends might tell you that I actually don’t know how to keep my opinion to myself. That might be true, but I had a lot of secrets that required lies to keep in place. Things I did when I was young and decisions I made brought me shame and I allowed that shame to drive my decisions. I did not deal with my emotions in a very healthy way. I have allowed my struggles to tear me apart and others have been hurt because of them.
I have also gotten in the habit of needing a drink to unwind. I have never been addicted to a substance, but it became a habit and if we were out of wine or I didn’t have any tonic water for my gin, I would feel a little uneasy. I never needed a drink, but I found myself desiring one especially after a stressful evening with the kids.
The truth is that I have never been very honest about what I am going through. I always felt like I was the only one going through it. My struggles were unique and since everybody else’s lives looked perfect, I could not afford to let my truth out. I still struggle with it, but I am working on it. My counselor has helped a lot with that. As I mentioned before, I am an all or nothing kind of guy, so at times I feel like putting it all out there but I am trying to be patient and prepare myself for opportunities that my experience could be helpful in. I am also being careful to make sure that I have healed enough to help others. There are too many people in this world who woke up one day from a major struggle and felt they were ready to teach the world how to heal. I don’t want to be one of those people.
Being a man in this world is not as easy as it used to be. I’m not talking about jobs and equal pay. I believe that anyone who works hard for something deserves to be compensated equally for it. That means that the person needs to work hard. I don’t care what your race or gender is, you don’t deserve something just because you are something other than a white male. You deserve it because you made the choice to work hard for it. Equal opportunity should not have to be a policy, it should be assumed because it’s the right thing to do. The fact that society seemed to hand those things out to white males much easier than anyone else is wrong. I have never assumed I deserve anything for being a man. I grew up with my Grandmother who was a successful businesswoman, as my example. She built a successful Real Estate business during a time where that was dominated by men. To top that off, she was barely five feet tall. After my parents divorced my Mother went back to school and achieved her goal of becoming a teacher. I never knew that women couldn’t achieve something because my environment told me different.
If you watch any tv at all, you know that the Dad is usually the joke, and guys, we have allowed ourselves to become a joke. We are irrational, simple-minded, and easy to entertain. We get angry at things we don’t understand and as long as we can enjoy a football game from our living room in peace, we are happy. We are allowing ourselves to be minimized and emasculated. We are being taught that masculinity is barbaric. We are being misled. We need to regain our masculinity, not to rise as the dominant gender, but to utilize and appreciate our strengths to use them for good and to build others up.
There is beauty in femininity and masculinity but we need to learn to respect each for their uniquenesses. We also need to take the time to understand our differences. Society today is so quick to say that the other side is wrong. We read an article and immediately alienate a whole group of people instead of taking the time to understand why they might think that way. Instead of technology bringing us together, it is further separating us. Have a difference of opinion with someone? Prepare for unrealistic conflict over something that doesn’t really matter that much.
Our society is in a transitional place. We have come into so much information over the past thirty years and we don’t know what to do with it all. Rather than appreciating the little things that make us different we are using them to separate us further. Instead of learning to live together in one society we find people who have our exact beliefs and silo ourselves from everyone else around us.
Guys, we have always been called to be leaders and I don’t see many men leading these days. Women are stepping up and doing everything us men have become too lazy to do. To put it simply, they are more driven than us. Women are fully capable as leaders and should have every right to lead in any capacity as a man is able, but that doesn’t mean we should also give them the job of leading us. We all need to be a leader in our own lives. I see too many men whose wives have to step up and lead in ways they shouldn’t have to. Many men traded their birth mother for a wife who they expect to treat them as their Mom did. That is not fair to women in a relationship.
I am not the best leader and I am definitely not my wife’s hero. I have slacked off at times because I know that she won’t let the house go sideways. I have not always shown up for her as a husband should. I have allowed myself to feel minimized because of the way society portrays men and fathers these days, but lately, I have felt a tugging at my heart and I am starting to finally realize what it is. It’s starting with honesty and openness about the real struggles of being a guy in today’s society. Not out of a response to some sort of movement or to defend myself, but to be vulnerable and open in an attempt to break down the silos that I have put around everything in my life in an attempt to be comfortable. The comfort I built around me doesn’t feel good anymore.
This post took on a life of its own. I hope that it came across as a call to action for men to step up and take control of their lives again. I hope that it encouraged you as much as it empowered me writing it. Writing helps my thoughts make sense to me. I highly recommend you try writing about the things you feel strongly about. It really helps you understand what you really believe when you have to write it out.
If you have a wife and struggle to understand her, I highly suggest reading “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Keep in mind that your spouse is unique and different than Rachel. What was real about the book was all of the insecurities she shared. We all have insecurities but ours as men are different than what women deal with. It is important that we understand them so we can be better husbands to our wives.
I don’t want to become complacent. I want to continue to grow and better understand myself and those around me. I want to show up as best I can for my wife and kids because they deserve that, not because they need a man to rule over them, but because they were given a man to support and encourage them.
Check out Rachel’s book on Amazon: https://jer.fyi/rachelsbook
Listen to it as an Audiobook like I did, Rachel narrated it herself. Get your first audiobook free from Audible: https://jer.fyi/freeaudiobook
What are your thoughts? Are there some lies you tell yourself? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments below this blog or on my Facebook page. Please share this post with a friend if you found it helpful!
Update: I just heard from a friend that Rachel’s husband Dave is writing the “guys” version of her book next year so I will be looking forward to reading that when it comes out.