Losing isn’t the most welcome of things.
I’m not talking about the current trend of ‘failing upwards’: failures that eventually (inevitably) turn into bigger successes. I just mean losing full stop. The irrevocable kind of loss.
Public losing can be especially troublesome. Losing something or someone we really love can only be existential agony for everyone.
But those who have suffered a great loss can, at least after a time, usually attest of its positive aspects. Losing brings with it a sort of devil-may-care life philosophy; a universal ‘well, fuck it, the worst already happened. So what do I want to do?’
When we are actively afraid of losing, we’ll go to great lengths to insure ourselves against the possibilities for failure. But in those efforts, we risk losing something of greater value – ourselves. Loss can be a terrific agent of that quality that has, unfortunately, now become something of a modern platitude: authenticity.
Authenticity isn’t something we pat ourselves on the back with after we have spoken our minds. Nor is it a badge of honor. Authenticity – or living our truths – is a necessity for us to have a life that, if not always enjoyable, feels meaningful to us.
what doesn’t kill a person
If we can avoid the temptation towards recklessness, great losses serve our overall freedom well. We have lost and we have lived. What hasn’t killed us has made us stronger. The sense of strength helps the authenticity course perfectly. A life of authenticity carries with it many inconveniences, after all.
If we have managed to escape loss until now, inevitably we have no record of having had survived such a devastating blow. And it’s possible that this is pulling the strings on our decisions in a more powerful way than we realise.
Surviving something awful brings us in a face off with the death clock.
We generally ignore the death clock, on a day-to-day level. Unfortunately, it’s this ignorance which tends to mean we waste a lot of our lives under the impression that our dreams can ‘wait until tomorrow’. Anyone that has loved and lost understands that actually, dreams can’t wait.
Great losses have a habit of highlighting our responsibilities to ourselves, and lessening our concern for living according to what others expect.
Losing may in fact lead to a perverse new sort of confidence to tackle challenges. We already lost the most important thing afterall. What’s a few smaller obstacles in our way?
Our lives won’t be what they could be unless every choice we face is presented to the death clock; the great arbiter. Loss can, in a way, act as the guarantor of meaningfulness.
how to get the benefits of losing, without losing
It is probably a little much to try to lose deliberately. It also isn’t practical: ‘Dear, I’m leaving you because I need to find out what’s important to me, and I can’t know that whilst we’re still cohabiting.’
If you have yet to lose in a profound way in life, ask yourself what you’d hate to lose. Consider whether you are giving anything important up in trying not to lose it. A desire of your heart, for example. Something you’d love to try and do. The person you’d like to be.
how to get the most from losing
Some losses are due to controllable failings on our part. Maybe we ruined our relationships with our own behaviour: concealing concerns and seeking to have our inner conflicts relieved through inappropriate means. This is indeed a sorrowful situation.
The best thing we can do is acknowledge our mistakes to others, forgive and then free ourselves. We can take comfort in the knowledge that we, at least, won’t repeat our errors.
When we suffer loss due to no effort or omission, we have no option but to grieve and eventually, let it fuel a more purposeful life.
how to stop being so afraid of losing
Underneath our fear of losing is a secret fear that we are, in fact, pretty worthless outside of our various achievements. We might believe that our successes are ‘holding the fort up’, and with them gone, we’ll be exposed for the waste of human skins and bones that we are. The unworthiness trance is a powerful one, but one whose grip we must steadfastly loosen with growing attention and awareness.
We stop being so afraid of losing when we wake up to the truth that we are worthy, regardless of our achievements.
We may understand it intellectually, but without the experience of losing something big and life going on, we do not develop the knowing that this is the case. We must try to recognise that irrational fear in ourselves, and now allow it to prevent us from taking bold action.
Our families and other supporters can help to alleviate the fears. Families especially will still love us following losses and screw ups, and actually – they may not even be particularly sympathetic. Familial nepotism means that they don’t give a damn what you have or haven’t achieved – you’re still going to help with the washing up.
This is strangely, beautifully reassuring.