The Great Imposter

with Shaunti Feldhahn | May 8, 2008

In a recent survey, it was found that nearly 85% of men go through the day not being sure what they are doing. On today's broadcast, author Shaunti Feldhahn tells Dennis Rainey how wives can affirm their husbands and restore their self-confidence.

In a recent survey, it was found that nearly 85% of men go through the day not being sure what they are doing. On today's broadcast, author Shaunti Feldhahn tells Dennis Rainey how wives can affirm their husbands and restore their self-confidence.

The Great Imposter

With Shaunti Feldhahn
|
May 08, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Shaunti: I constantly am telling women how absolutely critical it is for us to spend what we think is sort of an excess amount of time affirming the men in our lives, because we think that they're already so confident they don't need to be affirmed.  In fact, probably some of us think they need to be taken down a peg.  And, instead, we have to realize they need to be brought up.

[musical transition "I'll Stand By You"]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 8th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll talk about the powerful role a wife can play in her husband's life by affirming her man.

[musical transition "I'll Stand By You"]

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  You know what a "poser" is, don't you?

Dennis: A poser?

Bob: Yes, I mean, we never used that word when we were growing up.  I'm not even sure when it came into the vernacular, but you've heard the phrase, haven't you?

Dennis: Right.

Bob: You poser.

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: So, are you?  Are you a poser?

Dennis: Not really – pretty much what you see is what you get.

Bob: You poser – you are, too, a poser.

Dennis: Are you a poser?

Bob: Even there he's pretending – you're just pretending that you're not, but you're a poser.  You're trying to act like you're not a poser.

Dennis: I know what the truth is.

Bob:  Yeah, I know what the truth is, too, and you're a poser, okay?  All right, we've got that out on the table now.  I'm glad we got that straightened out.

Dennis: Wait a second, hold it, my wife is here.  She's lived with me for 32 years.

Bob: That's true, Barbara, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Barbara: Thank you, Bob.

Bob: He's a poser, isn't he?  She's not going to say.  She can't say that on national radio.

Dennis: Yes, she can.

Bob: Okay, is he a poser?

Barbara: No, I agree with him that what you see is what you get.

Bob: Yeah.

Barbara: I'm sorry – it's true.

Bob: Well, see, you've got her fooled.

Barbara: If he does, he's done a great job.

Dennis: There you have it – a great illustration ruined by an eyewitness – a 32-year eyewitness.

Bob: Well, you know who else is here with us – is Shaunti Feldhahn, who wrote the book "For Women Only," who interviewed men all across the country.  She never met you before today.  He's a poser, isn't he?  You know the truth, don't you?

Dennis: The question is, Shaunti, do you want to finish this interview?

Barbara: Exactly.

Barbara: And who are you going to believe?

Shaunti: I know better than to answer that question.

Bob: At some level – here's the point …

Dennis: … yes, what is the point?

Bob: The point is at some level all of us are posers.

Dennis: Now, you didn't ask me that.

Bob: At some level, all men …

Dennis: … I would say that I have my areas where I'm a poser, okay?

Bob: All right, and so do I

Dennis: That's fair.

Bob: And so do I and so do all men.  We may not, in general, be posers, but at some level we're hoping that nobody catches on to the fact that we're not as cool as we act like.

Dennis: I think you, as a listener, are going to be fascinated by the results of what Shaunti has come up with here.  All around what Bob's been talking about – about men faking it, or acting like they've got life wired together.  And she's written a book called "For Women Only."  It's really designed to help women better understand the mind of a man – specifically, your man, your husband.  If you're single, this is a real bonus because this can really help you understand the opposite sex in a big way, if you're a single woman. 

But Shaunti has listed seven areas where men – well, where men struggle, some of the real needs that men have, and this one is about the impostor, right?

Shaunti: Yup.

Bob: Was it a surprise to you when you – yup?

[laughter]

Dennis: What percent of men are impostors?

Shaunti: Well, actually, according to the survey, somewhere between about two-thirds of men and 85 percent of men go through their day essentially feeling like, "I am really not sure what I'm doing, and I hope nobody finds out."

Dennis: And you have a great illustration how you started your chapter, because you're a Trekkie.

Shaunti: I am a Trekkie.  I grew up watching "Star Trek," and one of the later ones, "Star Trek, the Next Generation," there is a great episode where this is perfectly illustrated, where the captain is in another one of these fixed that they always find themselves in on an alien planet, and he and one of his officers, who is a woman, can hear each other's thoughts.  And they're lost, and they're trying to get back to where they need to go, and he surveys the horizon with this sort of steely gaze and points in a given direction and says, "It's that way," and sets out.

She stops and looks at him with wide eyes and says, "You have no idea which way it is," because she can hear his thoughts.  She looks at him and says, "Do you do this all the time?"  And he kind of [clears throat] "Well, sometimes it's necessary for a captain to give the appearance of confidence," and, really, many men have said that's kind of the way they go through their day.

Bob and Dennis: Mm-hm.

Barbara: That was affirming.

[laughter]

Dennis: We've been found out.

Shaunti: That's true, huh?  Well, this is actually one of the reasons why I constantly am telling women how absolutely critical it is for us to spend what we think is sort of an excess amount of time affirming the men in our lives, because we think that they're already so confident they don't need to be affirmed.  In fact, probably, some of us think they need to be taken down a peg.  Instead, we have to realize it's not so much that they've got this inflated sense of self that needs to be brought down to ground level, it's that most of them, they're starting below ground level.  They need to be brought up.

Dennis: Well, when we get married, I mean, think about it – you've got a new job description with this woman who is turning to you, as Barbara is right now, looking at you like, "Okay" …

Bob: … "What do we do now, sweetheart?"

Barbara: What's next?

Dennis: "Where are we going?  Where's the horizon that we're marching off toward?"  So you kind of feel like the captain of the "Enterprise," you know, "Here's where we're going, sweetheart" – haven't the foggiest idea where we're going.

Now, if that's true about men, what's feeding that?  Is it just insecurity?

Shaunti: I think it's just the way that men are wired.  I mean, really, honestly, we think that men have an inflated ego, and, no, many men have told me no, the male ego, is one of the most fragile things on the planet.

Barbara: You know what it makes me think of as you were explaining that, I thought, you know, that sounds like Genesis 2, when God said to Adam, "It is not good for you to be alone," and He makes the statement that God created man with an aloneness need.  He created him to need a woman.

Shaunti: Well, you know, what it makes me think of is actually the curse, when God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He said to the man that the result of that is that you will toil by the sweat of your brow, and the ground will rise up against you – the thorns and thistles will rise up against you – and you're always going to feel like you're just not getting ahead, you're just not good enough.  And so I think that there's an element of the curse there, too.

Bob: Barbara, let me ask you a question.  You're married to a guy who is a fairly confident individual, wouldn't you agree?

Barbara: I would agree.

Bob: All right, so if he is a fairly confident individual, but he's also a poser, we've already determined that …

[laughter]

Barbara: … at some level.

Bob: Does his apparent self-confidence mean that he does not need your affirmation, your encouragement, your support?

Dennis: No.  I can answer that for her.

Bob: I'm asking you – I've heard you say many times about your wife that in spite of whatever pretense of self-confidence you have, it's her belief in you that has fueled you as a man.

Barbara: Well, that's what I was just going to say in answer to your question – that Dennis has said to me many, many times, what I think about him and his message he just gave or his performance at work or whatever, what I think about it matters more to him than what anybody else thinks about it.  So when he would give a talk to a large audience of 1,000 people, he doesn't really care that much about what all the people who come up afterwards say to him.  He wants to know, after the two of us are alone, "What did you really think?"

Bob: And do you make him come get the affirmation from you, or do you initiate it?  Do you step forward and say, "You know, I need to be affirming my husband, I need to be aggressively" – even though he doesn't seem like he needs it, because he seems like he's self-confident, but he still needs me, and I need to be purposeful in giving him that kind of affirmation?

Barbara: Yes, I know he needs it, and so I give it to him.  I probably don't do it flawlessly, and I know I don't necessarily do it every single time, but I'm conscious that that is true in his life.  He's said it to me enough times that it's more important to him what I think than anybody else thinks.  So I'm very willing to give him feedback, and I do.

Dennis: It's not that I don't really care what the people …

Barbara: … yes, you do care, and I don't want to communicate that you don't care, because you do.

Dennis: I really do care that people have been ministered to or are encouraged or felt some direction because of my leadership, but I know I'll get the unvarnished truth, and it's not going to be, "Oh, that was great."

Barbara: Yes, because I don't always tell you that it was great.  I'm not critical.

Dennis: That's what brings the credibility to her affirmation and, Shaunti, that's what you're really coaching wives to do with their husbands, is to replenish this insecurity by building up their husband with words of affirmation.

Shaunti: Absolutely.  One of the things that people often ask is, if we only have a short period of time, what's the one most important thing that I can do or that I can change, now that I understand some of the stuff about my husband, and I always say the same thing – "Create an environment of affirmation for him."  Because he needs to be affirmed in so many different ways to counter the messages of the world and, you know, one guy said that if I feel like my wife affirms me, I feel like I can go out there again and conquer the world the next day.  If I don't feel affirmed then I really don't.

Bob: You know, tied to this whole subject of affirmation is something else that is core, bone deep in a man, and that is the need, the responsibility we feel, to provide well and to provide appropriately, adequately for our wives, for our families.  I remember when Mary Ann and I were dating, she graduated a year ahead of me, and she was out in the marketplace, and she had a job, and as far as she was concerned, it was time to go ahead and get this marriage moving, you know?  And we'd talked about marriage, and we were looking toward that day, but, frankly, I could not even think about marrying her until I knew that I would be able to provide for her, and she's going, "I'm making enough money, I can pay for the apartment.  Let's just get married."  I'm going, "I can't do that yet."  I had to get out and get a job and feel confident that I would be able to care for her.

Shaunti: Would you believe I've heard that exact story now from dozens and dozens of men, and I've heard from women who are, like, "What's his problem?  What's he waiting for?"  And I always point them back to that same thing, because one of the things that I ask the men is that, you know, it's really no surprise, obviously, that men want to be a provider.  You know, we kind of know that, but what we don't recognize is it's not a matter of wanting to; it's this enormous burden and this feeling of compulsion that goes so deep into the heart of a man that even if the woman in their life made more than enough money to provide for their lifestyle, it would make no difference at all to the feeling of burden that they feel to provide. 

Most men go through their day with this constantly on the front of their minds, which is yet another reason why we women really need to appreciate the sense of responsibility that they have to go out and conquer the workplace rather than, "Honey, why are you working so late again?  Don't you care about me and the kids?  Can't you just tell the office no?  Don't you love me?"  And the husband is thinking by going out and providing, he is saying, "I love you."  And we're criticizing him for it.  This leads to an enormous amount of confusion in the minds of our men.

Bob: Well, there's also the husband who comes home, and he's spending time in the evening, and his wife goes, "I hate this carpet.  Man, I wish we could get new carpet." 

Shaunti: And the guy is, like, stabbed through the heart.

Bob: And you know what?  The wife is not saying to her husband, "I'm not going to be happy until you get me new carpet."  She's just saying, "I wish we had new carpet.  I wish we could afford new carpet." 

Shaunti: Just making an observation.

Bob: But for a man to know that somehow he can't meet a longing that his wife has, boy, I know, for me – and I'm grateful – Mary Ann has never – there has never been any sense of pressure of "Why can't we have this," or "I wish we could have that," or "You don't make enough."  There has never been any of that.

Shaunti: But it comes from inside of you.

Bob: Sure, it does.

Shaunti: Regardless.

Dennis: Were you going to say something – because you want new carpet?

[laughter]

Barbara: We need a new carpet.

Shaunti: You know, another area that this comes out in, believe it or not, and this is going to sound a little funny, but I've now heard this from so many men, I'm just going to go ahead and say it is that a lot of guys have told me that because of the sense of this feeling of responsibility to provide, you know, wanting to make sure there's enough money around to provide for the bills, they get kind of this gut-twisting feeling when they see their wife walking in the door with shopping bags. 

And, like, "Oh, she doesn't understand the burden that I feel.  She doesn't understand the financial needs we have," you know, and, for us, as a wife, it may simply be that, well, I know how much money we have, and the kids needed a new pair of shoes, and to us it's not a big deal, but that represents something huge to the men.  We really need to be a lot more understanding of this.

Dennis: Yes, and the solution is not just to rush out and get a job to relieve the pressure and think that you're somehow taking the burden off of your husband, because you've already made the point that even if you did go to work, and even if you provided all of the income for the family, that really wouldn't meet the core need in your husband's life to be able to sustain your family, right?

Shaunti: That's absolutely true.  According to the survey, overwhelming numbers.

Bob: Now, we have to admit here there are some women who are listening, and they're going, "They're not talking about my husband.  He does not feel any obligation to be a provider.  In fact, any money he gets is lost before he gets home," whether it's gambling or he's spending it on alcohol or he's buying drugs with it, or he's just not motivated.  "I keep saying, 'Why don't you go talk to your boss about a different job?'  And he goes, 'Oh, this job's fine.'"  There are guys for whom provision – they'll sleep in a tent, and they'll be fine with that.  We're talking about what is generally in the heart of a man, but there are exceptions to all of these things, aren't there?

Shaunti: Well, there are, and I say at the beginning of the book that these are generalizations, but here's the thing – honestly, Bob, is that sometimes even those cases, where the wife just thinks, "Well, he's just a deadbeat."  No, in most of those cases, it's not that this guy is inherently one of the few lazy men on the planet.  Is there something else going on in his heart?  And, honestly, we talked about it in a previous segment – sometimes it's just that the guy is not feeling affirmed by his wife in many different ways, including sexually, and he has this feeling of depression in the rest of his life, and he's just really kind of lethargic and unmotivated.

Dennis: And if a man isn't providing for his family, that's going to spiral …

Shaunti: … make it even worse …

Dennis: … spiral him even deeper.  In fact, we get letters here at FamilyLife Today, and e-mails, from men and women, where the husband is out of work and has been out of work for some time.  And if he doesn't get a job, if he doesn't begin to provide for his wife at some level, the self-respect diminishes, goes through the tank, and it spirals so much downward, it doesn't give the wife anything to be able to affirm him about.

Shaunti: That is one of the – honestly, the problems that I have seen and heard now from so many different guys, is that – and, again, we've talked about this before is you've got to start from somewhere, ladies.  You've got to recognize that sometimes your man is going to need for you to take an enormous amount of perseverance and taking steps of showing him that you will demonstrate trust, you'll demonstrate respect, you'll affirm him in bed and do this with a persistence that will show this man, "You know, I really am something.  This woman really does appreciate me.  I really can be good," and it starts to lift him up again to be the man that God created him to be."  This is not the time for you to step in and be sort of a "Well, you're doing no good, I'm going to have to take over," because that's the last thing he needs.  He needs you to build him up.

Dennis: Yes, and it's because our words and our attitudes have a tremendous power in our spouse's life, especially a woman in the life of her husband.

Bob: And, Barbara, the power goes both ways – a woman can tear down but, as Shaunti was just saying, a woman has tremendous power to take a man who feels discouraged, defeated, downtrodden, worthless, and to breathe life into him and to make him all that God intends for him to be.  We've heard that old expression that behind every successful man, behind every great man, there's a great woman.  That's really true, isn't it?

Barbara: It's very true.  In fact, that's always been one of my favorite quotes.  I've shared it many, many times at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences, because I think it's true.  And wives need to believe that we have that kind of power with our husbands – to affirm his masculinity, and when we understand that we have that power, and we have that privilege to build him up as a man, then it makes sense to be the one to encourage him, and it's a great privilege to be the woman in his life building him up.

Bob: Your husband is a pretty great man, isn't he?

Barbara: I think so.

Bob: So what does that make you, right?

Barbara: I don't know about that, but …

Dennis: … a greater woman, I promise you.

Shaunti: You know, it's interesting, the way that I ended the book was with an absolutely astounding quote from a man that I've now read to many men and have seen them tear up and get rather emotional, because they feel the same way.  And this one guy said, "It's so true that behind every great man is a great woman.  There are a lot of men out there who are mediocre simply because their wives will not support them and bring them to greatness, and there are a lot of mediocre men who are destined to become great men, who are becoming great men, because their wives love and support them – my wife expects great things from me, even though I'm a pretty ordinary guy, really.  She looks at me like I'm a genius in my field.  She respects me in public and affirms me in private.  I love her, and, like all men, I want to live up to her expectations."

Dennis: That little piece from your book, Shaunti, I can really identify with that man.  I personally feel very ordinary.  I feel like I have an extraordinary God who called me and gave me an assignment, but He also gave me a wife in that assignment who came alongside me.  And I do remember, early in our marriage, of really drinking deeply from her words when she would build me up, and she would say, "I believe in you."  And I kind of felt like, you know, here is this hillbilly hick from a little town in Southwest Missouri who has got a wife who relentlessly believes, trusts, and communicates that on an ongoing basis, and it's fun to be able to brag on you here on national radio, sweetheart.

Barbara: Thanks.

Bob: Did you have Shaunti's book back then – back when you guys first got married?

Barbara:  I didn't.

Bob: You just somehow knew …

Barbara: Well, there were a few other books floating around in those days that are not in print anymore that I read.  In fact, I have one that was given to us as a wedding gift that was published in the late '60s, and there were not very many books out in those days, but I have that thing underlined and marked, and it's faded and worn, because I really used that book in the early years of our marriage.

Bob: I have a suspicion there are going to be a lot of wives …

Barbara: … I hope there are a lot of wives …

Bob: … who will get ahold of the book, "For Women Only," and will underline it and dog-ear it, and it will be faded

Barbara:  I hope so, too.

Bob: And they will take advantage of the wisdom that is found in this book.  We've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and if you click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," that will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about how you can order this book.

Again, It's called "For Women Only," and you can order it online if you'd like.  There is also information about Dr. Robert Lewis's new book, which is called "The New Eve," and Shaunti wrote the foreword for that book.  If you're interested in getting a copy of both of these books, we'll be happy to send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week with Shaunti Feldhahn.

Again, all the information is available on our website at FamilyLife.com, or you can call us 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY and someone on our team can make the arrangements necessary to have whichever resources you need sent to you.

It's been encouraging over the last few weeks to hear from many of our FamilyLife Today listeners who have contact us either online or by phone to make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife.  This month we have an opportunity to take advantage of the largest matching gift opportunity we have ever had here at FamilyLife.  Every dollar we receive as a donation from listeners during this month is being matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by a special group of listeners who have said they want to encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to help support the ministry of FamilyLife to keep us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.

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So we hope to hear from you.  Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, and you can donate online, if you'd like, or call to make a donation at 1-800-FLTODAY.

Now, tomorrow, we're going to talk about men and romance and, again, what we have to say tomorrow about your romantic husband may surprise you.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 

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