Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy to Lose?

I was doing a little reading today, and I came across this very strange, extremely foreign idea.  I don't know if this one really sits well with me, but you can judge for yourself.  Here's the idea - people should be happy about failure.  People should appreciate losing.  The reason for this, as the idea goes, is that through failure and loss, we actually improve our ability to do the things at which we failed.  The idea is that we learn through attempting and failing but still persisting.

I guess the idea is good, but here's the thing.  I actually really really like to win, and I really rally really hate hate hate to lose.  In fact, friends have told me that I can be a little embarrassing during games because I get kind of worked up and overly competitive. I am a sore loser, and no one has ever complimented my sportsmanship.

To give you an idea of my competitive side, I'll tell you a little story.  Last summer I started swimming laps at the pool.  I swam competitively throughout my childhood and teenage years, so swimming laps still came pretty easily.  Anyway, I was swimming and feeling good because I was passing up everyone else in the pool. Then I started bragging about how I, even though I was fat and out of shape, was still the fastest swimmer at the Aqua Center. I was all worked up and loudly boasting until it was pointed out that no other person in the pool was under the age of 75. So, I shot my signature "you are such an idiot" look at moron who had uttered that statement, and explained that age doesn't mean anything - competitive swimming is all about skill, and it is timeless.  But then, secretly, I looked back at the lap pool, and noticed tat is was, in fact, full of little old ladies  slowly making their way across the pool while holding on to those floatie pool noodle things.  (But I still kicked all their butts with my freestyle).

Another example is a family night I recently attended with my teenage son.  The activity of the evening was a parents versus kids jeopardy game.  Apparently, most of the adults running this program, as well as the other parents, were kind of rooting for letting the kids win - thus improving their self esteem.  I didn't get that right away, though - and I was getting more and more agitated by the other parents and by the facilitators of the game - because I wanted to win.  I was becoming loud and confrontational because I felt the game was rigged, and that unfairness was keeping my team from ultimate victory.  Finally, my mother, who was also attending family night, politely told me to shut up.  I then sat and pouted until, inevitably, the kids team won.  Even though I now understand that the kids winning was the original plan, I still don't think it was fair, and I still think that I, in a fair game, definitely would have won.  Maybe I should demand a rematch.

Losing just doesn't sit well with me - the desire to win kind of takes over my sense of composure and lowers my inhibitions.  On the same note, I do not like doing things that I am not good at.  I like the feeling of being competent and knowledgeable (and I secretly enjoy being better at things than those around me).

But - when I think about it, this competitiveness and desire to feel highly skilled - has in some ways held me back.  For instance, I never learned to play chess because my brother and father were very good at it, and I didn't like losing all the time - so I simply refused to play.  I don't like to do any exercise that I'm not good at because I don't like doing things I'm not good at, so I avoid most forms of exercise.  I hate to admit that I don't know about a particular subject - so I would rather act disinterested than act ignorant.  Most of all, I hate to be wrong - especially when it comes to my annoying husband - and have been known to insist I am right even when all evidence indicates the opposite to be true. (Like the time I had argued that the weather was just fine for the zoo - and even as we drove through a torrential storm with high speed winds and hail the size of golf balls, I still demanded we keep going.  Then, when everyone was all wet and cold and miserable, walking along with their heads hanging down, and water sloshing out of their shoes, I kept saying how much fun it was to be there, together, as a family, on this freezing, stormy, gloomy day).

So, maybe there is something to this whole being happy with failure thing.  I suppose, if I really think about it honestly, the only way to get good at something is to keep doing it even when you're not good at it.  Like, when my first son was born, I was not good at changing diapers.  In the beginning I managed to get poop everywhere, including the baby's feet - and I was peed on more times than you could imagine - needless to say, there was a lot of laundry to be done.  But, I kept changing diapers, and, eventually, I got very good at it. By son number four I was a pro - I bet I could win any diaper changing contest for sure!!! (I'll have to find out if there are diaper changing contests and borrow somebodies baby - THE GLORY WILL BE MINE!!!)

I guess I could test this idea out and see if it improves my outlook and my life.  I'll just decide on one activity that I know nothing about, but would like very much to be good at.  I will do this thing, and even when it is difficult, and even when I fail, I will persist - we'll see if I can improve over time, and find out how it feels to fail, but to learn in the failing.  I should probably start with something small, though, to avoid too much frustration in the beginning.

There is one thing I have always wanted, but have always been to embarrassed to admit to my interest: Fire Eating - that shouldn't be too hard for my initial experiment.  Now, where did I put those matches?

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