A few months after I started my blog several years ago, I found myself feeling completely overwhelmed. Organization skills are not exactly my number one quality. I was having a hard time answering emails. I was getting up early and working late. I couldn’t manage to send out invoices, and I had no idea where I was with my accounting – it was pretty much hell.
Even so, I never once thought it was time to ask for help.
One day, I received a Facebook message from someone named Tim, an American living in Paris, who liked my work and offered to “help me”. I thought he was nice, but never thought for one second it would be a good idea to have some help. Not for a second.
Things went on like that until the day I arrived at my therapist’s office in tears. I told her everything that was happening to me and that I wasn’t able to manage everything in my life anymore. Her response was very simple:
“Why don’t you get someone to help you?”
I told her it was impossible! I was independent, I worked freelance! I lived in a tiny studio and probably didn’t have enough money to pay for an assistant anyhow, and besides, my job was kind of strange and it was hard to say where the blog was going, so no, definitely not!!!
“Well I think you should consider it. And if it doesn’t work, you can always stop!”
A few days later, I met Tim, and he became my assistant. It may sound like a very natural step to some people – but not for someone like me who has a very complex relationship with ambition, personal success… And has to constantly push herself out of her comfort zone in order to have a broader perspective, it really was a life changing moment.
Even so, Tim arrived, and he adapted to my life, my tiny studio and general disorganization, and he helped me free up the head space I needed to concentrate on my creative work, which made me better, helped me get more jobs, and made it possible for me to pay him without any trouble. So long story short, my life went back to being completely livable.
All the doubts I’d had about “getting help” totally evaporated.
It was one of the most important aha moments of my career, and you’d think after that I would have stuck to that principle without needing twenty-five therapy sessions and twelve self-help books on personal success. But it’s been difficult for me every step of the way.
A few months ago, I got pretty close to burnout (I don’t like using that word, but my current theory is that we’re all slightly burnt out because our brains don’t have time to take a break anymore. Since we have our phones on us constantly, we never get bored, our imagination doesn’t wander anymore, we’re constantly stimulated, and it wears us out without us even realizing it…anyway) – writing my book while also continuing my other activities wore me out, and after that I had my book tour, plus the studio was growing, plus all my traveling, plus a wedding to plan. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Ever since the studio expanded, I don’t really have a personal assistant anymore. My team helps me stay organized and they are infinitely patient with me, but they’re busy with tasks more important than helping me plan my schedule, plan trips, and coordinate with Chris’ schedule, etc. As a result, every time I ask for help with something more personal, an overwhelming feeling of guilt comes over me, which only adds to my stress, which have become pretty much chronic.
That feeling of guilt is something I’ve carried with me for ages. I’ll probably never completely get rid of it. I don’t come from a background where people have “assistants”. For me, it’s a major luxury, which means it’s something you can do without. It’s also my French side saying, “who does she think she is?” that’s totally ingrained in me.
I’ll always have that outlook, that simplicity in me. It has a lot of value to keep things simple, but many times in my life, it’s also been a weight that kept me from making progress. But every time I manage to move beyond that way of thinking, it’s like a glass ceiling disappears and I’m finally able to breathe. And expand my horizons, and go further.
The good thing is, now I recognize it and accept it, even though sometimes it takes a mini-burnout for me to realize it. It helps me to see that telling myself “It’s impossible to…have an assistant / write a best seller / say no to this or that” is only a matter of perspective. And you don’t have to put yourself in the position of a victim to ask for help. Sometimes, quite simply, there are people who are just a lot better than we are at certain tasks. And sometimes our talents are put to better use when we don’t insist on doing everything at once. Looking like a hero had its limits, trust me.
So I’m trying to reassure the fearful (what if you fail?) part of myself and get the martyr (I’m so busy, I can’t do it anymore!) in me to shut up. I’m trying to see beyond the limitations (you’re never going to pull that off!) I’ve been given.
And if I ask myself: “Who does she think she is?” I try to answer: “A pretty good person, who’s trying to do her best.”
What about you? Have you ever had to face your own limitations? How did you handle it?
Oh…and while we’re on the subject, I’m looking for an assistant or personal assistant. More info here!
Translated by Andrea Perdue