it's okay to ask for help

It’s Okay to Ask for Help (and Even Pay For It)

I can’t tell you how many times I talk to writers about joining Nonfiction Bootcamp, my coaching and editing program for women writing nonfiction books, and they tell me things like:

  • Well, I just need to do a little bit more work before I am ready.
  • Well, I should be able to finish on my own.
  • Well, other writers do this all the time without help.
  • Well, I just need to be more disciplined and then I should be able to get it done.
  • Well, I need to make some progress first, to be sure I’m really serious about this.

Finishing their book manuscripts seems like something they should be able to do on their own, without help. But they are talking to me because they haven’t finished, sooo…you can see where I am going with this.

Listen: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: There is NO SHAME in needing help.

And it doesn’t matter what the help is for, either. It can be help with getting your manuscript done, like I’m talking about here. But it can be any other kind of help you might need too, like a ride to the airport, or some company at your doctor’s appointment, or doing your taxes.

Hey—I know it’s not easy to ask for help. It’s hard for me to ask for help. I mean REALLY hard. I’m sure this is true for a lot of women, but I’m an Enneagram 8. If you don’t know much about the Enneagram types, or the type 8 in particular, let me just tell you that 8s are tough cookies. We feel pressure to be strong for everyone else, and we always put on a good face even when, inside, we are freaking the fuck out.

For 8s, asking for help means we are weak. It means we are letting others down. It means that we can’t, in fact, do it all.

And it makes me feel like there is something wrong with me if I can’t do all the things I “should” be able to do on my own.

But here’s the thing: for someone like me—with a chronic illness—doing it all (even trying to do it all) only makes me sick. Like, need-to-lie-down-after-taking-a-shower sick. (I’m using the term “sick” here to refer not to the flu, or vomiting, or a fever, but to a state in which one functions below normal capacity, in which one cannot perform seemingly benign tasks like making the bed, taking a shower, going for a leisurely walk around the block, etc. without difficulty.)

A big part of what causes the sickness is not even the execution of these tasks, but rather the stress of having so much to do and the pressure caused by having so much to do.

So I have been practicing asking for help—even, yes, (gasp) paying for it (more on that in a minute)—and I think it’s time that we normalize outsourcing when it makes sense.

Let’s dig into that for a minute. How often do you outsource in your life? Maybe if you have a business you’ve hired help as the business started to grow, so it’s made sense to delegate for, let’s say, accounting, or even marketing.

Great. That feels justified, pretty normal, and maybe even a little easy.

But what about your personal life?

Have you ever considered a laundry service? A house cleaning service? A meal prep service or subscription?

You may be thinking, how can anyone afford such luxuries?

And, you’re right, these would be additional expenses in your budget if you haven’t already planned for them. Also let me say, the purpose of this email is not to convince you to start sending your laundry out or to hire a housekeeper.

But let me tell you a personal example.

I have an assistant who comes to my house sometimes as frequently as once a week to help me with things like, yes, laundry, and organizing my pills, and dropping off a package I need to return at UPS. She came with me to a conference (AWP) for the first time last week and that was a huge deal. Here’s why.

Not only did my assistant drive my team and me to drop us off and pick us up from the convention center every day, but she also made coffee runs, and lunch runs, and made our dinner reservations every night. She ran to the store when we needed supplies. She managed all the logistics for the rental car, the VRBO, the items we ordered from three different vendors for the conference booth, and the venue for a reading I hosted.


Now let me say I am more than capable of doing all of that. In fact, I have done it all pretty much on my own for the past 10 years that I have been attending this conference—which only makes it HARDER to justify the help.

But! (And this is a HUGE but.)

Managing those logistics is not my superpower.

No, my superpower is making space for stories and bringing people together around those stories.

Someone said to me recently that I am a fierce advocate. That resonated with me immediately. And, guess what, I cannot advocate fiercely if I am mired in logistics.

So it may seem like a luxury or a privilege to hire the kind of help I am talking about—and don’t get me wrong, in some ways it is—there are times when I am stretched financially to pay my assistant’s monthly invoice (this will be one of those months, ‘cause it ain’t cheap to have her travel with me).

But hear me when I say: it is because of my assistant’s help that I am able to be my best self. That I am able to advocate fiercely. I have never felt this more acutely than I did last week—I felt a lightness and a freedom to focus completely on connecting with writers and their stories.

And that is always worth it.

Tell me: what kind of help would allow you to be your best self? Share a comment below to let me know.

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