Competition: Why Losing Hurts So Bad

By James.B


I wrote the speech and then edited it, justifying and crafting every single word. Then I memorized it, hammering every inflection, timing every dramatic pause. As a high schooler I wasn't in athletics. Maybe it was the aspect of losing. Maybe it was because we couldn't afford shoes not available in the thrift store. Maybe it was because slow of foot. Instead, I poured myself into non-athletic pursuits. I even lettered in Speech. And this speech was a big one, the qualifier for state. It came off perfectly - my voice lilting and my composure perfectly erect for a flawless presentation. But it was only good enough for second place.  It still stings, I have to admit.  Perpetual runner-up As far as major disappointments go, Golfer Phil Mickelson has had his share, although this is not the worst. He's finished runner-up at the U.S. Open on five occasions. He's had near misses at Pinehurst and Shinnecock and Bethpage and Pebble Beach. And Carmelo Anthony, a great basketball talent, has never moved out of the first round of the playoffs. Have you ever lived in the shadow of someone else?   A brother who won the trophies, a sister who always go A's, a coworker who gets the projects - and the praise. Even Olympians, who train and work for years for one single moment stand in silent defeat as a silver or bronze is hung around their necks. Often, they will fade to obscurity over a millisecond. Of all the losers, you are the best

"Research consistently shows that Olympic athletes are happier when they win a bronze medal, than when they win a silver medal. These findings were described as resulting from comparisons the medalists made. The silver medalist compares themselves. to the gold medal winner. But, the bronze medal winner compares him or herself to those people who did not win a medal."

Jerry Seinfeld has a great piece on finishing in second place. 

It's really jealousy

Competition is healthy, as it keeps us producing and advancing. The race to the moon, or to build a faster chip, or to launch a product helps society create. But there is a path of least resistance that is unhealthy, crass, ugly, and ... jealous of those who win.

History is full of knaves and fools who were inspired by nothing more than victory and vanquishing of the competition.

So where do I fall? Healthy competitor, sour loser, or jealous failure?


What He said: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).


used by permission: Red Letter Believers

bronze medal, Carmelo Anthony, competition, gold medal, Jerry Seinfeld, losing, silver medal,