Nothing ruins fun faster than a sore loser. Not only is it unfun for the other people playing, but it also affects the sore loser in ways they may not realize.
They may stop getting invites to social events or not be included in competitive activities because others just don’t want to deal with their negativity. It’s far easier for people to avoid a problem than confront it, so that’s what they tend to do.
Learning to accept defeat gracefully is a great goal for anyone, particularly if they have a hard time losing.
The good news is that you can learn to overcome your sore loser ways with time, effort, and practice. Here’s how.
1. Identify why you are reacting badly.
Being a sore loser isn’t usually just about the loss. People want to win. It’s normal, fair, and reasonable to be upset about a loss when you competed and practiced hard.
However, many people tie their wins and losses to their measure of self-worth and validation. So, when they lose, it’s not just that they lost a game or missed out on a promotion. They instead interpret it as some kind of commentary on who they are as a person. That they must not be good enough or valid enough because they couldn’t win.
This kind of thing is often tied into things like growing up with abusive parents that forced their child to earn their love. As a result, the child learns they need to win or succeed to earn love and positive attention from their parents and get punished when they don’t.
Or perhaps you grew up in a very competitive environment with regards to your siblings. If everything was a competition and you faced ridicule because you lost more often than not, it may still hurt to lose now, in your adult life.
Ask yourself, “Where are these negative feelings coming from?” Is it just because you lost? Or is it because the loss is touching something else that is causing you to have an extremely negative reaction?
2. Don’t allow yourself to shut down.
A loss often doesn’t just drop in at the end. You may realize that you’re not doing so well before you get to the finish line.
Sore losers tend to start shutting down and getting angry when they see the slide starting to develop. They may pull in on themselves, dwell in their anger, and act passive-aggressively in the competition.
Keep an eye out for this behavior in yourself. Don’t let yourself start checking out and withdrawing once you see things aren’t going your way.
Instead, lean into the experience and look for positive ways to appreciate the competition unfolding in front of you. Compliment the other player on the way they are playing the game.
3. Don’t use your anger destructively.
Anger is a fair and reasonable emotion to experience when you’ve lost. What isn’t reasonable or fair is using that anger destructively against others. You don’t have to let your anger dictate your actions. Get up and take a little walk to blow off some steam. Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts, then rejoin the group.
You don’t want to vent your anger out at other people or physically lash out. No one wants to play with the person who flips the table, starts yelling, or endlessly complains when they lose. You’ll quickly find yourself ostracized and uninvited from competitions that way.
4. Allow the winner their moment.
Sore losers often feel the need to justify why they lost. They may say things like:
“You didn’t win. I lost because I played badly.”
“You just got lucky that you won.”
Avoid doing this. Instead, enthusiastically congratulate the winner on their success. It doesn’t particularly matter if the person really did get lucky or if you played badly. All that matters is that the outcome is now set.
You’ll need to allow the winner to have their moment without making snarky comments or looking for all of the reasons why you deserved to win.
5. Focus on the journey rather than the destination.
By focusing on the journey rather than the destination, you can find happiness and pleasure in just playing the game. Of course, that applies to more than just literal games. It’s also a good metaphor for life and the work we all have to put in to get to where we want to be, even when things don’t go how we planned.
We spend so much time invested in the outcome that it’s easy to miss all of the good things that can be a part of the journey. This is helpful because we can’t know what the outcome will be. You may do everything completely right, play at your absolute highest ability, and still lose. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
That loss stings less when you can look back on the journey and see it as worthwhile. Look for the positive parts of the journey. Maybe you played really well, made good decisions, or got to have a really fun and worthwhile experience. These are all better things to focus on than the loss.
6. Reframe losses as positive chances to learn and improve.
The great thing about losing is that it can often teach you more than winning. You tried to win something, it didn’t work out, so now it’s time to figure out why it didn’t work out.
What lessons can you take from the loss? Is there a new strategy you can employ? Is there a way that you can pivot and turn this loss into something else that may be fulfilling?
You can lessen the sting of losing by looking at your losses and failures as learning opportunities.
7. Be kind to yourself.
Do you tear yourself down when you lose? Do you tell yourself you’re worthless? Undeserving? A failure?
Why do you do that? Are they actually your words? Or are you hearing the words of someone in your past who was less than kind to you?
Practicing kindness to oneself can temper your losses. You’re a human being. You’re allowed to not be perfect at everything. You’re allowed to lose, regardless of what other people have said to you, or what you tell yourself.
Be kinder and gentler with yourself. Avoid attaching your sense of self-worth and validation to the outcome of whatever game you are playing.
8. Cultivate more positivity in your life.
The ugly anger and raw emotions that a sore loser experiences rarely exist in a vacuum. Chances are pretty good that other areas of your life are negatively contributing to your mood and attitude.
A person who is stressed out because things aren’t going well in their life may be more prone to an angry outburst when they lose because it’s just another thing that didn’t go right! “Why can’t I do anything right!? Why do I screw everything up!?”
You may find that improving the other areas of your life reduces losing anger and negative feelings. A good diet and sleep do wonders for a person’s mental health, though not everyone has the luxury of living a happy, positive life. The closer you can get to it, the more it can help you.
9. Practice winning gracefully.
Sore losers often tend to be sore winners. Sore winners are just as bad, if not worse. Consider how you react and act when you win. Are you winning with grace? Or do you feel smug and superior to the people you competed against?
One way to counteract this type of thinking is to look for the positives in how the other people competed. Look for strategies they used, smart risks they took, and anything else that stands out as exceptional and interesting to you. Then, genuinely compliment their play and ask them about their decision-making processes.
This will help you defuse more of the anger and edge to the competitiveness so you can better enjoy the game regardless of the outcome.
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