Changing the Perception of Losing

Posted: May 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

There isn’t a single adult in today’s society that will deny with 100% certainty that people don’t have an entitlement complex.  Note that I am not just suggesting that the younger generations have this problem, for it’s more systemic than that.

Nobody likes to fail.  Nobody likes to lose.  Us, as parents and productive members of society know how much it hurts to not make the cut, to feel as though we aren’t good enough.  But… our reaction to this feeling is what has fostered a stigma to losing which is causing us to be fearful of rejection, which is being projected onto future generations.

We’ve long passed the point where children’s sports in schools aren’t having scores kept.  We’ve long passed the point where we’re not failing kids in school, even when they don’t demonstrate the curriculum-dictated skills which indicate that they possess the ability to be accepted to the next level of study.  To compound the issue, we’re starting to really go full retard and some jurisdictions are even looking at abolishing grades altogether. And just to make your head hurt a little more, there is growing traction in regions to encourage changing the curriculum so that the spelling of words is almost entirely phonetic to make it easier on the kids. This isn’t an idea borne out of logic and thinking that “but Wednesday isn’t said that way at all.” This is all about “it’s hard for the kids.”

I think that there may be a legitimate debate to be had about making spelling more phonetically based, but I won’t hear of it for a few reasons. First: I appreciate language and between the internet and texting, language is already dying at a rate that I am uncomfortable with. Second: it’s outside the context of this post.

The overarching theme here is that parents don’t want their kids to feel as though they failed at anything, whether it’s something important like a science fair or as trivial as the annual no-touch activity day at school. Parents don’t want to see their little angels come home from school sad or crying that they weren’t treated like the precious diamonds they are made to feel like at home.

This is a problem. Not that the children are sad. That part is normal. The problem is that parents can’t handle seeing their children sad or hurt. And many of them don’t want to explain, or themselves don’t even know, that there is nothing wrong with losing.

Let’s spell that out again. There is nothing wrong with losing.

There is a fear of losing. It’s incredibly pervasive in our culture. Winners are heralded, put on podiums, and treated as deities (sidenote: the word deities is remarkably close to the non-word dieties, which I originally wrote and I found quite humourous given our media’s focus on being thin). The sensory overload that we endure every day reinforces the values of winning and being the best, but the problem is that nothing is telling us how to get there. The lack of context leads to the simplistic conclusion of “I’ll just wake up one day, and be the fucking best.”

Every single person at the top of the game in their respective profession got there by failing. With failure comes learning, and nobody learned anything from only experiencing success. By depriving people of failing, we’re depriving them of an opportunity to improve. Yes, our 7 year old children may not be able to understand right now, but when they are 10 and 11, they will remember all the times that they failed, they’ll think “you know.. that sucked and made me sad” and that will push them harder. Yes, there will be times where that same kid decides “that made me sad before, maybe I won’t try again” and that is ok too, because not everyone is cut out for everything, and that is OK.
What incentive does a child have to improve when they get the reward regardless of how they perform?

We need to change how losing is perceived in our culture. We need to shift from “I’m the loser” to “I’m good, but this time there was just someone who was better. I am going to be that person next time.” This applies to sports, education, jobs, relationships, and everything else where one or more people or teams are competing. This is a valuable lesson to teach ourselves and our children. And yes… we need to remind ourselves that there is nothing wrong with losing, because it doesn’t degrade our own performance, it simply means that there is another level that we haven’t found yet. We need to pass that message onto our kids. If you didn’t win the medal or the first prize, it’s not that you did badly or that you’re a failure, it’s that everyone did their best, and someone else’s best was better this time.

Not keeping score in sports is pointless. It’s a strokeshow for the parents, because I guarantee you that each and every kid on the field knows the score, or at least knows who is winning and who is losing. Not keeping score simply makes it easier for parents to deal with any potential aftermath by having the “nobody was keeping score, you’re my winner” talk as they go out for ice cream after being killed 12-1 in a hockey game where the only goal for their team was when the other goalie had to go pee and left his net.

By teaching children the value in adversity, it builds them up to be better prepared for adult life. There are no participation ribbons in the working world. There are no “sorry you didn’t get the promotion, here’s a raise anyways” talks with your boss.

Life doesn’t include a consolation prize, and with the way that we’re raising our future generations, they’re coming into adulthood with an inability to cope with not getting what they feel that they should. This is going to lead to a world of extremely (more) dangerous, sociopathic people. Our politicians and corporate figureheads are bad now.. imagine what it’s going to be like in 10-30 years.

Permit me to exaggerate a little bit.. we’re going to have millions of illiterate Justin Bieber/Kim Jong Un hybrids running around at the rate we’re going. Let’s let that sink in for a moment…

It’s late, and knowing me, I will edit this a dozen or so times in the next few days. But.. it’s late and nothing more productive is going to come of this session. I’ll publish this and review it later. Proofreading is for chumps anyways.

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