Courtesy my eternal love for poetry and mysticism, I recently came across a poem written in Pashto (an eastern Iranian language of the Indo-European family) somewhere around 400 years ago where the poet motivates people to lose. And that, for some reason, dug deeper into my heart than I expected. I had to close the book, relax, and think about how losing is actually more important than winning.
Defeat discomforts people. Be it a sports event, corporate ladder, challenge, argument, or a fight. The same thing is with rejection where people automatically associate rejection in love, job, or sale as a direct attack on their ego. But, that’s a topic for some other day. Today, we’re discussing human psychology about losing.
Why is it that we always focus on winning everything and take losing as an insult? Someone has to lose to make the other win. right? Then why losing is associated with shame? Why are we embarrassed to let people know that we failed in achieving what we actually worked hard for? Why is it assumed that the one who lost is inferior?
Roots of the association of losing with inferiority:
Back in the time, when early men had to fight and hunt for every meal they ever eat, it was associated with the pride in being able to earn their bread. It later turned into the fight for survival when humans started fighting each other to authenticate their dominance and the winner gets to behead the losing one. This custom evolved with the evolution of humankind while keeping the structure the same.
When the man started ruling, there used to be kings and their never satisfying gluttony for expanding their empire. People would assume that the winning king was the one with power and has the capacity to rule the world. They would dethrone and/or force the losing king to give his lost kingdom to the winning king. Rulers would (subconsciously) train people to treat this king miserably and look down upon him. They were brainwashed into believing that losing is something to be ashamed of.
Fast forward many years, people still have the same perspective in their mind about losing at something. Society bashes people for not winning. But, do they ever think that losing is (or can be) better than winning? It’s something that shapes us.
Why do we need to lose?
- Losing doesn’t make you a loser: Losing does not necessarily mean that you aren’t capable of doing something. You lose more often when you’re trying something out of your comfort zone. For instance, you will lose hundreds of times in public speaking events if you’ve been a shy person your whole life. Your app won’t run a thousand times if you’ve never done coding before. But, is it truly losing? You’re learning something every time you lose, and then comes the day when you have tried all the possible ways of losing, so the only option left for you is to win.
- At times, losing rewards more than winning: Going by the cliche, you never lose, you learn. This holds immense truth in it. You only lose when you refuse to learn from it. In some cases, (think of a race) winning has a limited reward like a medal or a trophy while losing can teach you something priceless i.e., a lesson for a lifetime. It opens the door to an ocean of learning right before you. It’s up to you, how deep you’re willing to dive in, to quench your thirst for learning.
- The more you lose, the more you’ll cherish the victory: Seen that half black-half white Chinese symbol called Yin-Yang? Well, it’s more than just a symbol. It shows how the contrary composes the world and how things hold no value without its opposite. You can’t feel happy if you’ve never been sad, there won’t be any height if there’s no depth, no concept of cold without hot, no joy of liberation without being caged, no light without dark, no comfort without distress, and the list goes on. So tell me, my friend, how will you ever cherish your victory if you have never tasted defeat? Losing not only teaches you the right way to win but also makes you embrace your victory more as it’s hard-earned.
- Losing makes you wiser, modest, and empathetic: Victory after victory fills a person with the ego of being invincible. It takes them away from humanity and empathy. They forget that we’re all humans and a human is merely a visitor. History has it that emperors like Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timur, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin lost their touch from humanity after having victories coming their way. But what’s the point of winning if all you’re winning is some material thing? The Earth is littered with the ruins of empires that believed they were eternal. Losing awakens empathy in you. You understand people more because you know firsthand the number of effort it takes to achieve what one aims for. This realization comes with wisdom and modesty which definitely is more valuable than mortal things you achieve by winning i.e., to never let you forget your roots.
- It improves your critical thinking and decision making by knowing when to lose to win: There are things beyond losing or winning like the love of your near and dears. It’s better to win the person than to win the argument. However, it’s easier said than done. If you’re in a habit of winning every fight, you won’t ever realize when to let the other person win. Only experience will teach you this. And once you rise above the desire of winning everything, you’ll be able to make better decisions and think critically. Losing eventually lets you see the bigger picture of life.
I have portrayed a brighter side of losing from every aspect. However, you won’t gain anything if you’re losing with the selfishness of winning just for the sake of it. Lose to learn and you won’t lose a single thing in your life.