My mother was a bad loser. I remember her pushing me backwards into a bed of nettles when I beat her once at tennis. I was eleven. She could not bear to lose and stormed off, racket in hand, leaving me floundering and stinging.
Like Trump, my mother couldn’t bear to lose. She had to prove her worth, to be Top Dog, to be the best. She would be utterly ruthless in her quest for first place. Everything and everyone would be sacrificed for it.
It’s a truism, but life is full of disappointments. We can’t have what we want all the time, neither can we win everything we compete in. Learning to lose, graciously, is a keystone in learning to be a healthy, well-balanced adult.
Of course, it can hurt to lose. No-one wants to feel rejected, or less than. Few of us relish coming last or failing. These experiences, whether in the egg and spoon race at school, in first love or even in a presidential election, can leave us feeling humiliated, even wounded.
Rejection, losing, failing can leave a nasty taste – but only if we think it is an unfair, illegitimate race. Mostly, we can feel hugely embarrassed when we don’t come top or are not first past the post. Taking revenge or sulking is not only unseemly, but it says more about us than our worthy opponents.
We learn how to lose at home, primarily, and then at school. If we are ridiculed, even bullied, when we lose, it can be excruciating. If we have scathing siblings or punitive parents, it can be doubly upsetting, not to have any empathy when we are down.
However, learning to lose is vitally important to getting through life. None of us are perfect, or infallible. Few of us can win all the time. Even if you are a natural athlete, a techy whizz or a Queen’s Gambit genius, there will have been times when you have struggled.
This is necessary. We all need the experience of not being first, not coming top, to keep our feet on the ground. Winning, of course, can be great, but it is not the only thing which is valuable in life. Especially if we have to lie, cheat and abuse our way to the top.
Learning that we have inherent value, as humans, is far more important. Understanding that you are lovable, desirable, OK, despite not being the best, is essential for balance in life. And loving yourself, regardless of any dips in success, is a challenge we all face, especially when we are up against it, as we are now.
So, learn to accept you will not always win, or be number one or be the best or be chosen. Congratulate your successful opponent with grace and good will. Lick your wounds in private and work through what happened with yourself and trusted friends.
Sadly, people like my mother and Trump eventually become objects of ridicule through their childish obsession with being number one. They blame and lash out at others, rather than accepting that life has its ups and downs, and that we are all responsible for ourselves.
Whether you are a winner or loser, it’s important to remember that you are fallibly human – and all the better for it.