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Learning to Win or Lose with Grace: A Lesson in Resilience


By Deb Landry

Win like a winner or win like a loser. And the same goes for losing, lose like a loser or lose like a winner. The choice is yours and it sets you on the course to always be a winner, no matter the outcome. Learn to accept what you can’t change and fight for what is right.

One-character trait we can easily teach our children is to learn to lose with grace and humility. Basically, lose or win like a winner.


A winner’s confidence is not contingent upon victory but on how you handle yourself before, during and after the competition. Taking a loss like a champ will help with this and having humility will bring you closer to a more settling post competition and outlook on life.

Winning or losing gracefully is an honorable and respectable way to portray yourself. Here’s the test, if you lose do you pout, retaliate, gossip or complain? How about not taking responsibility to how you performed? These are all signs of a sore loser, but it teaches you to win in the same manner. I’m not saying discussing outcomes, giving your honest opinions shouldn’t happen but there’s a difference between that and losing like a loser. Losing with grace and poise humbles you to seeing what you can benefit from the experience. And of course, if your opponent is rubbing their victory in your face, your dignified loss will only make them look like a “loser”. Most important don’t blame someone else for your loss. Even if you did your best, someone else could have out-scored or out-performed you on that given day.


It’s ok to be upset and disappointed if you were set on winning. You can be sad, disappointed and happy for someone else at the same time but wallowing in your misery is counterproductive especially when you use this time to discredit the organization or other people.


Graciously congratulate the winner, do it through the tears, but don’t throw a scene and stomp out like a poor sport, accuse or immerse in self-pity. Think about something positive, in the situation of a competition, maybe think, wow I didn’t win but I got to attend, meet new friends, got to represent yourself, team, state, etc.


Finding your balance. Self-pity can become emotionally crippling and contribute to even more failure. There are times when we need self-pity, when it serves its purpose. But there are other times — many times — when it is self-indulgent, unproductive, and entirely unnecessary. Keeping disappointment in check helps keep self-pity in check as well. Too much “self” anything can be unrealistic.


At a recent national competition, I encountered and interacted with over 600 people. How people perceive the processes and react prior to and post competition is amazing, exciting and indifferent for me. It actually drains my energy listening to everyone’s stories, complaints, compliments, concerns, excitement and how everything plays out, I just find human interaction fascinating. And I need at least a week to readjust and absorb my experiences, and I am not competing or personally involved.


Really, things are never as bad as they seem.

Here’s some expert advice I found to help keep your emotions in check. Never give up, exploring your emotions is an ongoing process.

Become aware of your emotions.

Think about what you just experienced, and try to understand how you are currently responding to it. If you are angry, ask yourself why you are angry. If you are disappointed, ask yourself what you hoped to achieve. Before you accept or control your emotions, you must first understand them.

Think about how you would have felt if you had not been defeated or won your title or game. Compare the two states, and consider what remains the same between the two outcomes.

Consider writing your thoughts down. Speak to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings. You probably know how you best process emotions – so do what you need to do to come to terms with the situation. If it is your child, explaining these emotions before competitions will help them identify their after feelings.

Validate yourself.

Tell yourself that there is no way to "feel wrong". No emotion is inherently good or bad. They simply are, and it's healthy to embrace and accept them.

Acknowledge the fact that whatever you are feeling is entirely acceptable.

Bear in mind that while it is important to embrace emotions, it is not healthy to follow certain feelings (such as anger or lashing out).

Keep perspective.

You may not have been able to prevent your defeat, but you can control your reaction towards it. Take a deep breath, and try to be as levelheaded as possible. Remind yourself that what has happened has happened, and that you cannot change it. This attitude will allow you to be flexible and adaptable; and you may find yourself better at handling negativity and loss in future situations.

Remember that life goes on; one defeat may not be important in the larger scheme of things. One way to understand this is to remember another time you were defeated or disappointed and the way you feel about it now.

Don't take yourself too seriously.

A situation can always be worse. Consider whether there is a silver lining that you haven't yet seen. Try to find the humor in what has happened, and keep a smile on your face, even though it may be hard for you to crack a natural smile. You may find that the situation is funnier, smaller, or more absurd once you take a step back from your personal investment.

Let go of defeat.

When you fail, your emotions can distort your perspective. Do not linger on what happened, and do not let your defeat continue to defeat you. You might feel yourself welling up with anger, frustration, or indignation: feelings that, in this case, will only feed themselves. Learn to recognize these non-accepting emotions, catch hold of them, and cast them aside.

You can move on by letting go, or you can move on by seeking retribution. Letting go will release you from your defeat, while the quest for retribution will only tie you to the defeat.Let go of self-judgment. Accept that failure is merely a part of life. People have and will always deal with defeat – it is a matter of perspective.

Lose with grace.

Show respect to whomever or whatever has defeated you. Shake hands with your opponent, and congratulate them on a job well done. Whether you lost a fight, a debate, or a competition, try not to resort to pettiness. You won't be able to reverse the results by complaining about them, or by acting bitter toward the winner. Be as polite and gracious as possible.

Thank them for their time and congratulate them on their skills and their win. If you are a gracious loser, the victor will likely feel uncomfortable boasting about their win in front of you. This changes the situation from a winner-loser game to a moment between two people who respect each other and have just finished an enjoyable pastime.

Don't let judgment get to you.

If others will judge you for being defeated, let them do so. You know who you are, and you don't need to justify yourself to someone else who doesn't know your heart, talents or the hard work you put into the competition. Be your own strong person. Losing with class turns your loss into a much bigger victory than any win would.

Others have a responsibility to encourage everyone to participate. If they forget their role, you must not forget yours. Be excited about pursuing your interests.

Do not lay blame.

If you blame another person, group, or set of circumstances for your defeat, you will keep yourself from accepting what happened.

If you blame yourself, you will make yourself miserable, and you'll miss out on the chance to grow from the experience.

Try to take the situation exactly as it is: what happened, happened, and no amount of blaming will reverse that.

Focus on admiring how well your opponent played rather than your own defeat.

Praise them for a particularly clever or effective move. This has the added benefit of letting you take effective strategies from them and figure out flaws in their strategy.

Admit that you were wrong or defeated.

If you lost a debate or an argument, you can improve your image by admitting that you were wrong or defeated. Consider apologizing, acknowledging your mistake, or explaining how you were wrong; after all, it's more shameful and immature to cling to what's wrong than admitting someone else is right.

Consider that we all make mistakes and are wrong at many points in our lives. It's part of our development, and a large part of what helps us mature.You will lose credibility if you handle the situation in a petty and immature way. If you respond positively, onlookers and your opponent will see that you can accept when you're wrong.

· Moving forward, not everyone should get a trophy.

Try to learn from what happened.

If you can take loss as a learning experience rather than an abject failure, then you can transcend what happened and move on with your life, even improve greatly. You may have been defeated but if you finish tall, reflect, learn, and move on with a smile on your face, you haven't been defeated. You've grown, and you've been taught a lesson. If you carry yourself in the same way any other time you are defeated, you'll find it easier and easier every time and you may come to realize that you've won in a different way: by improving yourself, and by learning.

Try to take it as a premise that failure has a role in your journey. Ask yourself about the purpose of this failure; what you can learn from it; and why it happened.Think about why you failed or lost, and whether you could have done anything different. Ask yourself whether you unconsciously forced yourself to fail because you are unsure of the goal you're trying to reach.

Improve

Think back on what happened, and look for lessons. Analyze the situation objectively. Figure out what you can realistically do to stop this from happening again and make it actionable. Focus on the future.

The more you focus on your next win, the better you may feel about your last defeat. Not all winners have won their first match. If you don't accept defeat gracefully, you will act rashly. People may notice if you don't handle your loss in a mature way.

Keep playing the game.

No matter what led to your defeat, make sure that you don't let it stop you from doing what you love. Most people come up against failure at one point or another, including (and perhaps especially) winners. You'll never improve if you don't keep trying, you may regret it later if you quit based on this one defeat.

Most people fail their way to success. Thomas Edison failed many times before inventing the light bulb, but he was able to persevere forward, accept reality, it’s inevitable. If you think winners have never lose or become poor winners, do some research there are amazing stories out there. One of my favorite most impressionable stories in modern time is the life story of Oprah Winfrey. She persevered and had many uncontrolled experiences, yet she never gave up. Never stop working towards your goals. It will make you strong, confident and give you the maturity needed to be resilient.


Think about it, would you not eat the ice cream if you didn't get the cherry on the top? Enjoy the ice cream and appreciate the cherry (if you get it).

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