Why does a defeat hurt so much?

The Feel of a Defeat

I was feeling a little detached while writing about a defeat the last couple of days. Maybe because I am in a safe environment of learning – a place where we realize that the ultimate goal is to learn something. But there is something more when it comes to a competition , there is an urge to win and be competitive and all those stuff. And there is also something called the nerves which make a tremendous difference when the stuff gets more real.

defeat, emotions of defeat, what happens when you lose, outcomes of defeat, defeated thoughts
Defeat/Victory – Why does it feel so bad

I was representing my school in the badminton team today as I played a game against hec Paris – the semifinals. It was a pretty straight forward game. I had never felt so comfortable and confident and it was amazing to see the opponent scampering on the court. The scoreboard said 20-16 which meant I needed only one point to win. From there I could hear my mates cheer and I wanted to win so bad. Everything seemed to change and I let the nerves get better of me and the opponent won.

I do not know whether I accept defeat easy or not. I do know that it is impossible to not take a defeat personally esp when you feel strongly for it. Its been a day now and I still feel like someone punched me in the stomach. You may say that it is just a game and I need to move on. Funnily enough my conscious brain notices that. But the proud self still feels awful. As I try to answer the question why, I have array of thoughts on my mind.

1) The loss itself

Defeat feels terrible. It makes you question whether you are actually bad. It makes you question whether you had enough practice or expertise or what not. As always things start with denial don’t they? The real lessons come a lot later ๐Ÿ˜€

2) Going below your own standards

Although I would like to say that the better game won, I realise that it was more than that. I felt awful because I lost a game which I had clearly proven I could win. Something I knew I was good at. I didn’t lose because of some external circumstances, I lost because I could not control my nerves and that for me is a major digression from my standards because I have always defined myself as one of the most patient people around.

3) The people you let down

The moment I lost, all I could think of was the number of people I made feel bad. I mean I felt that I owed an apology to all those wonderful guys who cheered for us and were so supportive. I personally felt that I owed them a victory. Although everyone came up and said it was a wonderful game, it was a bit of a shame letting people down.

4) The purpose of the post

You might think that I’m taking a loss too seriously. But I feel there is a stronger message here. Especially about failure and how large an impact it can have. There are multiple reasons why things go bad, we ought to feel bad about them and move on. I happily quoted rocky balboa a few days ago and superficially said it is not how many times you win but how many times you get up. I think we all up – defeat or victory is a very powerful thing. It can teach us a lot if we are willing to listen. All I wanted to say was that a defeat hurts , but it is an awesome feeling feeling to know that you can take control and find a message which means the most to you.

For me the message is, it is incredibly tough to control your nerves but it is amazing to gain that control because it shifts the entire scale of a game.

Thoughts and suggestions?

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4 Responses to "Why does a defeat hurt so much?"

  1. Whenever I read your post, I feel like we both are alike not just in thoughts but also in deeds. I experienced the same thing during my college days. It was a selection tournament. I lost the match in the similar fashion. I punched the opponent and was just one point away from victory whereas he was seven points away. Yet I lost, I gave away seven straight points. I was absolutely shattered at that point that I didn’t make into the team. But later I realized that only because of that loss, I entered into athletics team and shined. Its all about acceptance and moving on. We shouldn’t doubt out strengths.

    Thanks for bringing back my memories Vinay.

    1. Thank you Gowthama, this indeed is a huge compliment. Very happy to know that these posts are able to connect to your thoughts and experiences – always something I aspire for. I think the last part of your comment is a very beautiful one – the positive aspect of the defeat. Maybe it takes time for us to connect the dots and see how advantageous a defeat can be. Of course we cannot see that when it hurts. The moment we go beyond it, life seems so much different and better and that is an absolute fancy indeed ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I have been thinking about a related thing since last few days and then I read this post. I am thinking..when we do something with a purpose of learning (only), does it kill the competitive spirit. If I have trained myself to accept defeats garcefully, will I try honestly to win. I cant seem to find a fair justification here. What are your thoughts about this?

    1. It is a good paradoxical thought to have Deepali. I think the sport somehow brings out the competitive spirit in us, maybe like a natural gut feeling, it makes us push our boundaries and test ourselves constantly. So I would say, we should always play to win.

      Having said that, we should not leave the grace when we lose something. I think losing too brings out a beautiful aspect in us and it is extremely important to control how we feel about it and what we can learn and implement from it. I guess the purpose of learning comes after the contest maybe, but the purpose of winning pushes us in the short term.

      Maybe as an answer to this thought provoking question, in the short run, we should play for the win but in the long run, we should treat it as a path towards learning. Hope that makes sense. Would love to discuss more on your thoughts about this.


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