Being competitive is natural, we all feel good when we have won in some game or sport, since in these situations our reward system is rewarded with the fact that we feel like winners. But sometimes we will lose, and we must know how to face these situations with sportsmanship.

In this article we are going to review several tips on how to deal with defeat , starting from the idea that it is not the same to have lost as to feel lost. We’ll look at why defeats are hard to accept, as well as a series of recommendations on how to manage them.

Why is it hard to accept that we’ve lost?

Defeats represent circumstances that in most cases are somewhat difficult to digest. They are always associated with an unpleasant feeling or discomfort. To answer the question of how to deal with a defeat we must understand why it is so difficult for us to gain this acceptance of what is happening.

In human beings there is a psychological dynamic called the reward system. This system works from biological and innate aspects, and also from upbringing (i.e. learning), and it leads us to try to perform the actions that make us feel good, and to avoid those that make us feel bad. Therefore, winning means that we excel at something, which motivates us, while losing is the other side of the coin. Without these experiences of defeat, we would not care about learning or developing our skills .

Some people are more competitive than others because they have been brought up in such a way, but inevitably we all dislike losing. The idea of defeat is culturally associated with weakness and represents the uncomfortable fact of accepting that someone has been superior to us in a certain context.

Just as animals compete with each other to see who gets a certain prey or a certain piece of land, people do it for glory and personal gratification, concepts that are only understood by human beings.

Unlike animals, we can determine the causes of the defeats in a very abstract sense, learn from them to strengthen our capacities, and become better at certain aspects we needed to perfect. To reach that level of understanding it is necessary to know how to overcome defeats properly.

How do you deal with defeat?

In the next few lines we will see a list of tips on how to manage defeats properly, so that we can make the most of them . Let’s have a look at it.

Reformulate your idea of defeat

When we are competing, the possible scenarios that exist are diverse: we can win, we can lose, or in some cases, we could even get a draw. It is important that you become familiar with all these scenarios, and change your perception of them.

In case of defeat, it is not appropriate to see it as a total loss, and feel that we have lost our time and effort during the competition or during the preparation for it. Defeats only indicate that we can do better , and show us what we need to improve to do so.

Then, as you begin to see defeats as an opportunity to improve, you will notice how many things begin to make sense and you will understand more clearly the reasons why you have lost, which will allow you to increase your chances of success for the future.

2. Manage your emotions

Managing emotions is an indispensable process for dealing with defeat. The ideal is to have the capacity to recognize the negative emotions that arise when we have lost, frustration, impotence, anger, etc. This serves to limit the power they have in us .

Once you recognize emotions you must accept that they are a product of defeat and avoid being dominated by them. Understand that they are passing emotions and that the sooner you turn the page the sooner you can get down to work to see where you need to improve.

3. Leave defeat in the past

Once the analysis of the defeat has been made, it is time to turn the page and continue with the learning that it has left you . You will not gain anything positive if you keep the image of defeat in your mind for a long time, you will only get frustrated and generate anxiety about the possibility of losing again.

4. Acknowledges the effort made

Even if you have not won in the competition, it is important that you have the ability to recognize all the effort you made in preparing to compete, this should represent for you a victory on a personal level that nobody can take away from you.

Competition is the last stage of a process that begins when we prepare for it. All your previous preparation, the time you invested and the knowledge you acquired stays with you and no one but you can value that properly.

5. Learn to handle criticism

It is common for defeats to be accompanied by negative criticism, which can make the process of overcoming the fact of having asked even more complicated. People who take criticism as completely negative only self-sabotage and sink deeper into their own frustration.

We must understand that criticism is a side effect of not having won or even of simply having tried, and that not all criticism should be given importance. It is good to be selective about the people we surround ourselves with and especially about those who listen to criticism. In some cases these opinions help us to improve, and in others they only exist as unfounded criticisms, to hurt us .

6. Take responsibility

We must know how to recognize when we have been primarily responsible for the defeat. Assuming that making serious mistakes is normal and to be expected from anyone.

It is true that sometimes there are aspects that may be beyond our control, fortuitous situations that are typical of the context and that can be harmful to us. But when we have lost due to a specific failure on our part, we must be able to recognise this and accept responsibility for it. It is a question of orienting our locus of control towards the internal and avoiding redirecting all the responsibility of the defeat to other things.

Bibliographic references:

  • Maddi, S. R., & Kobasa, S. C. (1984). The hardy executive: Health under stress.Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin.
  • Oñate, M. (1989). The self-concept. Formation, measurement and implications in personality. Madrid. Narcea.