How Can I Ask for Help When It Makes Me Feel Like a Failure?

We live on a planet that is trying to juggle the wants and needs of 8 billion people. It’s not easy, and that means that things can not always go our way. Sometimes there will be setbacks, obstacles and stumbling blocks on the path of life. We can either see these temporary setbacks as the opportunities for growth that they are, or we can let them define us failures.

In this podcast episode, I talk about this false notion of failure, I explore why it is that we feel like failures, and I share how we can reframe failure so we can embrace it, learn from it, and so we can ask for help when needed with confidence and a winning mindset.

***If you prefer reading to listening, here’s the transcript of this podcast***

The question is: How do I ask for help when it makes me feel like a failure?

There are three components to this question:

1. The first one is what do we mean by the word failure?

2. The second component is who am I? Who is the I that is the failure? Where is this entity?

3. The third component is: how do we reframe this notion of failure so that it doesn’t generate feelings of insecurity, inferiority, and ultimately, fear of not being good enough, fear of disappointing people, and fear of perhaps being homeless and hungry on the street.

By reframing failure as something not to be feared, something that doesn’t evoke negative feelings within us, we empower ourselves to ask for help and communicate our needs clearly, lovingly, and thoughtfully. When we ask for help while feeling like a failure, it often comes from a place of desperation and fear. Rejection can then amplify those feelings of failure. Therefore, it’s crucial to redefine failure so that we possess the confidence and courage to communicate our ideas to those who can assist us. When we exude confidence rather than insecurity or fear, people are more likely to invest in us and lend a helping hand.

Then, if we are seemingly scared, terrified, and unsure of ourselves, because if someone is going to help us, they actually want us to succeed. So it is more likely that successful people help those they believe will be successful. They don’t want to waste their time.

When we reframe failure from a personal failing into a minor setback that is easily conquerable, if we just get a little bit of help from someone, that’s going to elicit a much more positive response than someone who’s frantic and saying, “You gotta help me, I’ll die without you.” You know, it’s that desperation signals to a person that this individual is in chaos mode, unstable, and irrational, and is probably going to squander the help that is given.

Later on, I’ll discuss how we can reframe failure, approaching others not with selfish needs but with a focus on mutual opportunity.

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What is Our Perception of Failure?

First, let’s delve into our perceptions of failure as we commonly understand it. Picture a failure in your mind. What does that person look like? Not ourselves, but somebody else. Maybe you’re envisioning a homeless person or perhaps an alcoholic or a gambling addict.

When we think of these people, we often envision someone who has wasted opportunities, given up, or thrown their life away. These extreme examples are what tend to come to mind when we think of failures in life. However, in each of these scenarios, there are individuals who have turned their lives around from such positions.

For instance, Tyler Perry, now the owner of the largest movie studio in the world, was once homeless. Every day, there are alcoholics and gambling addicts who decide to abandon their vices and embark on a path towards healing, willing to make the noble journey of starting over and rebuilding. The strength to begin anew and rebuild is inherent within every single one of us. Regardless of our past, if we’re breathing, we possess the ability to start afresh, and it’s never too late. I’ve known individuals who have had to start new careers at 80 and have achieved incredible success.

The human spirit is the most resilient spirit on the planet of any species. Most species, when they are born, are almost fully self-sufficient. For instance, a horse, within minutes of being born, can get up, walk, and run. This is true of most species, where a newborn is almost a fully developed animal. Except for humans.

Humans, because we rapidly developed very large brains and very large heads, had to adapt to a very high mortality rate for new mothers in the birthing process. So, whereas humans would have been born maybe 10, 11, or 12 months after conception, the baby needed to be born before it was fully developed so that its brain could grow outside of the womb. This would create an easier and safer birth for the mother. So, evolution adapted, and humans were born completely reliant. Our brains were not fully formed, and we couldn’t walk for a very long time after birth. We had a very long period of development after birth.

Now, this shift in evolution enabled humans to be the most adaptive species on the planet. That is why human beings have spread out to every single corner of the world and live in every single type of environment. This is very rare for any species.

This adaptiveness has created all the diversity in human culture and the ways we live and interact with each other. Unlike a horse, which is born with all the knowledge it needs to survive, human beings are molded; we need to acquire that knowledge.

So, in the same way that we learn a language and later acquire skills and careers, it’s this adaptability that sets humans apart from other species.

We have the ability to try things, test them out, and explore. If something fails, we try again in a different way. We constantly adapt and evolve, always improving our technology and expanding into the universe. However, it’s evident in the collective human consciousness that the human species is also the greatest failure of any species in humanity. You don’t have to look far in history to see the mistakes humans have made as a species—from every war to every crazy dictator to polluting our planet for profit, humans are a mess of failures.

But we also persevere, and that’s the most important part. It’s a positive thing when we learn from the failure of the first rocket ship, fix it, and make it better. We try a test launch again, and this time it works. Perhaps certain components on the rocket ship didn’t function, so we fix those too, embracing failure as a means to move forward.

As individuals, we all carry that same consciousness within us. Each of us contributes to the collective, possessing that creative spark and drive to make the world a better place for future generations. Whether it’s through creating art, engaging in community service, spreading joy and happiness to our friends and loved ones, or simply doing a job that adds value to someone’s life, we all have our purposes in life.

Whenever obstacles arise, whenever setbacks occur, we label it as failure. We may even label ourselves as failures. However, this is merely a self-imposed label. Most of us won’t be forced to wear a sign around our neck that says “failure.” Therefore, this feeling of failure is entirely self-created.

Even if other people tell you that you’re a failure, insult you, or call you the worst imaginable things, ultimately, they still cannot make you feel like a failure, because all feelings come from within. They are tied to our thoughts and how we perceive the world. If we change our perception, we change our emotional and mental response. We no longer perceive others as authorities on who we are; instead, we recognize that we are the ultimate authority.

When we change our perception of who we are and the meaning of failure, we change how we view ourselves. That emotional and mental response to setbacks can become fueling instead of draining.

Who is the Failure?

But before we delve into how to reframe failure, let’s first consider who is the failure? Where does the person with the label “failure” exist? Most of the time, we think that our brain is our essence, who we really are. We might believe that if I’m a failure, it’s because of this darn piece of gray matter in my head, that must be the problem. But who among us made our brains?

We didn’t make our brain. We didn’t fail at creating our brain; the universe created our brain. So why would we take responsibility for something we had no role in? We had no responsibility for how well or how big we made our brain.

Who here was born with all the experience they would need to never make a mistake? None of us.

We don’t have the experience; we have no responsibility for the effectiveness of our brain.

So where does responsibility lie in failure? The closer we look, we realize there actually is no entity that is a failure. Within any of us, there is no neuron within our brain responsible for these choices. Just as the entire brain works cohesively to make choices and for thoughts to appear, so too does the entire universe work together to guide choices and decisions. No choice and no decision happen in a vacuum; they occur because of countless experiences, countless data points that all come into our brain, mostly through the subconscious.

From that subconscious, where we have a vast understanding of a situation, individual thoughts bubble to the surface. We can feel that kind of subconscious understanding as the intuition that guides our thoughts. So, not only are our decisions and choices made by this cohesive network of brain neurons, but they are also influenced by hormones, hunger, and all the other drives in a human body that affect a brain’s moods, thoughts, and choices.

Moreover, the entire universe is influencing us all the time. All of that influence is another thing we have no control over. So, when we truly understand that we are a byproduct of our circumstances and these bodies—both of which we had no responsibility for—we completely become free from failure.

There is no “I,” no separate, distinct entity that is me or you; there is only the universe, constantly changing in form. Stars explode into dust throughout the universe, and that dust becomes planets and people.

The Law of Nature

Just as there are the laws of physics, this entire universe is governed by the laws of nature. Each one of us is only acting within our nature, with the best information we have at the moment. To think we are so powerful that we can be perfect people and perfect human beings without ever making mistakes, without ever failing, is really the height of delusion. It is an assumption that creates all of our suffering. We are not so powerful as to be all-knowing and to be able to predict the future and know how every action is going to work out.

That’s actually a good thing. Because that enables us to, instead of fearing failure, resist failure, and hating failure, and hating ourselves when we fail, we can embrace failure. We can love failure. We can be so grateful that the universe showed us sooner rather than later that what we were doing was not the right course of action for ourselves. The sooner we get to failure, the sooner we can course-correct. This brings me to how we can reframe failure.

How to Reframe Failures?

We can ask for help without feeling like an even bigger failure. If we want to be successful, we must look at what the most successful people on Earth have done. When we do that, we see an attitude of embracing failure.

When we are too scared to fail, oftentimes, we become too scared to start.

Whether it is Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, or any number of brilliant, iconic individuals, they all faced immense, innumerable obstacles. They all tried to do something that had never been done before, and everyone thought they were crazy. Whether it was losing games or dealing with angry investors, these people, whom society worships, failed so much and so many more times than they succeeded. But it only took one more success for them to be winners.

If you had gone up to Michael Jordan or Steve Jobs on a bad day, such as when Michael Jordan lost a big game or when Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, you might have looked at those people and thought, “Wow, they are real failures. They didn’t have what it takes.”

But history tells a different story. Steve Jobs went on to start another computer company and founded a little animation studio called Pixar. Later, days away from bankruptcy, he was brought back into Apple and saved the company with the almost immediate announcement of the iMac.

Similarly, if you saw Michael Jordan quit basketball and become a failed baseball player, and you stopped there, you might have said, “Wow, this guy’s a failure.” But if instead, you waited and watched him get back up and return to basketball, winning another championship, then you’d say, “This man is a winner.”

What we have to remember is two things:

1. Neither one of these people did it alone; they both had a huge amount of support from their close circles, family, and friends.

2. Additionally, failure is only giving up. As long as we keep getting back up and putting those shoes on in the morning, as long as we get to work, there is no such thing as failure—only achieving. You may not have achieved everything you wanted right away, but you are in that process. As soon as you wake up, put on those shoes, and make that decision, you’ve won the day.

When you ask someone for help, you are not a failure in that moment, because failures don’t ask for help.

You are a winner because you are taking steps toward achieving. Be proud to ask for help. If you do not ask people for help, those who are more brash, arrogant, and cocky, and perhaps less contemplative, thoughtful, and wise, will take what you were afraid to ask for.

It’s okay that thoughts of being a failure pop into your mind. Every successful person says they feel like frauds. What’s not okay? If you want to be a successful person and not feel like a failure, it’s believing those thoughts. Instead of believing those thoughts as your highest self telling you wisdom from up high, recognize that these are thoughts conditioned by all the naysayers you’ve met throughout your life. These are thoughts from the media and its idea of success and its timeline for success.

As you witness those thoughts with that greater understanding of where they’re coming from, then there’s no believing it; we can recognize them for what they are. That irrational fear—we don’t have to put any energy into that thought. We can watch it come and go. We don’t attach and latch onto it; we don’t fight it, resist it, ignore it, or hate it. We let it be and get back to work. Let it be, get back to our life. This happened, accept it, move on.

Be brave. Take those big chances. Reach out to big people. Ask for help when you need it. Embrace all of the “no’s,” all of the rejections, all of the people who say your ideas are not for them or they’re not interested. Be grateful that they are out of the way, and you are marching forward and moving on to those people who care about you, who love mentoring and nourishing young minds, or even old minds. There is so much generosity, kindness, love, and support in this world.

You’ve just got to break through those “no’s” and those negative feelings so that you can get to the “yeses.”

You can get to those people who are the perfect professional or personal relationships that will lead you toward a life of not personal and financial success, but where you can grow and evolve mutually spiritually. It’s not about the success you have on paper in your life, but you can look back and be proud that you lived a joyful life filled with peace and love from yourself and others.

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