Losing to zero – am I still lovable?
Lessons on losing from my kids.
We are playing a board game.
My husband, 2 kids, Japanese homestay student and I.
It is the students turn. My husband and I encourage her to take the most obvious move. The strategic move. The move that sends our 8 year old daughter back to the beginning.
She is hesitant. She is well-mannered. The last thing she wants to do is upset the family. Especially not this highly emotional 8 year old member. But she agrees and then, the tantrum begins. Howling, screaming, foot stamping and escaping into the bedroom complete with door slams.
It is high drama.
Although the game is not over.
There is still a chance for Miss 8 to win.
But she is stuck in a story of woe. A tale of fairness gone wrong. A victim of ruthless strategy and lack of feelings.
Dreams in tatters.
The homestay student is feeling pretty bad too.
It takes a lot of coaxing to get her back out of her room. Back into the fun…….. Only for her to lose the game in the end.
A few nights later, we are playing games again (we are brave).
This time it is a memory game. The one where you turn all the cards face down and you try to find pairs.
Miss 8 is on fire. Helped along by the subject matter of the cards – Disney princesses – she is pulling in pair after pair.
This time it is my 10 year olds turn to lose.
Every time he remembers a pair, someone beats him to it. Every-time he thinks he has one, the pair somehow eludes him. He ends the game the only player with zero cards.
It is his turn to get upset.
“Don’t worry honey”, we say to him. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
To which he responds ” I am not upset because I lost……I am upset because I lost to zero”
Yep, this is losing on steroids. This is the PHD version of the losing lesson. He must have been ready for it.
And it made me think.
Firstly, how important that as parents we torture ourselves (just joking -it’s so much fun!!) and continue to play these games with our kids. Playing games is one way that we can teach them how to lose and still love themselves. Those moments when they are upset, are the moments, however fleeting, where they are doubting their lovability.
Part of them is asking the question
“Am I still enough?”
“Am I still worthy of love?”
“Am I good enough even if I lose?”
And it is our job as parents to remind them that yes they are. Even when they lose. Even when they lose to ZERO.
And secondly, this made me think that as adults we are still learning this lesson. Granted we are much better at losing in board games, but what about in love, life and business.
How do we feel
when a relationship fails?
when a venture loses us our savings?
when hard work turns to nothing?
when we get no traction on social media?
when we get “hard to hear” feedback?
We feel really bloody shitty.
Because we start to doubt ourselves. We doubt our worth, our lovability, our enough-ness. Nothing has changed except the nature of the game.
We feel so crappy because we are stuck in the story. We are looking at ourselves from the perspective of our heads and how “good” we look in the world.
We say to ourselves – well it would have been alright if I had just lost… but here I am losing to zero that is just a step too far.
So, I reckon we need to say to ourselves what we would say to a 10 year old boy who has just lost a game of memory TO ZERO.
And that is……………….
Well what is it? What would you say?
I would/ did say something like….
You did really well actually. You played, you learned some stuff, we had fun together. You kept trying right up to the end. You did have a bit of bad luck but there was not much that you could do about that.
You never know, you may do much better next time. Shall we play again?
And you know what, we played again and he blitzed us all.
So how about it…. How about playing again. How about getting back up out there and giving it your best shot. How about trusting that you are lovable and being proud of yourself for being in the arena at all.
Shall we play again?
I would love to hear from you in the comments, have you lost, are you losing? Are you game enough to play again?
Thanks again to my kiddies for another evolutionary lesson,
Hi, I'm Nicole Mathieson, a relationship and body image coach, couple therapist and author.
My relationships blog helps couples learn practical ways to cultivate a deeper understanding of one another, find safety and connection in relationships, navigate difficult conversations and repair after conflict.