From our very first day in the world, we’re caught in an endless cycle of competition. Competition is firmly imprinted in human psychology and there is no escape from it. From cycling races to playing tag to, prestigious competitions and life in general- we’re always competing, sometimes against our very selves. And as in every competition sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. And every victory or defeat teaches us something and leaves behind a message. But what do we learn more from? Do our triumphs leave a heavier impact in our lives than our failures or is it the other way round?

‘Fall down seven times, get up eight’

Losing can make us far more determined to achieve something. Losing once makes us resolute on not failing again and it teaches us to concede and to never surrender in the face of a challenge. If we fail despite putting in the effort, we understand and analyze our mistakes. And we never make them again. I have always loved creating artworks and it set in me the expectation that I would always be able to win. Then I lost a competition. I cannot forget the disappointment I felt. It reminded that just because I was good at something, it did not mean that there weren’t people better than me. That day I resolved to keep practising and improving my skill.

Why did this happen? Because failing once motivates us to not fail again.

On the other hand, failure can demotivate us. I remember the first time I played cricket. I lost miserably and ever since I have the mindset set deep in me that I have no talent for the game. I have not engaged in another game of cricket ever since. What could have become a game that I could enjoy with my friends, became a game I was ashamed to play. This shows that failure can create a permanent impression of incompetence. It can destroy self- esteem.

But as all things in life go, there are two sides to this coin as well.

The same goes in winning. Winning can make us confident. And we all have a craving for victory. Actually, it’s not a mere craving it becomes a necessity. From our very childhood winning, by whatever means, evokes a feeling of pride while losing evokes a feeling shame. Winning makes us happy. It gives us a sense of dominance, and displays our strength and skills, and kindles a sensation of strength and is essential to our self-esteem. We need to believe that we can, and will, do great things. The reason I love speaking and debates now is that once in 3rd grade, I won a competition that made me feel like I could do anything. Validation is important and it can go a long way in creating confidence.

On the other hand, winning also breeds overconfidence. If we win in our first go, or if victory comes easily to us, we become presumptuous and egoistic. This pride comes in our way of working harder. And as the popular saying goes, pride comes before a fall.

There is no black and white. There is grey between.

Our lessons from victory and defeat rely on us. It is contingent on how we take in our stride. Both are prerequisites for success. They are equally great teachers but their teachings depend on how willing we are to learn…

-Adyesha Singhdeo