97: How To Be A Good Loser


How can losing be a practice of justice? How can putting down the drive to win fuel liberation? And what are things we might all be better off for working to lose on purpose? We tackle all of that and more in today’s episode.  



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Speaker 1: How to make love. Now, is that from recipe or from scratch?

Speaker 2: This is How to Make Love.

Speaker 3: Wow.

Speaker 4: Oh, gosh.

Speaker 5: Oh.

Speaker 6: Oh my God.

Speaker 7: A little to the left, and faster.

Speaker 2: A show that tests the edges of what love is.

Speaker 8: Worthiness.

Speaker 9: Empathy.

Speaker 10: Beauty.

Speaker 11: Sex positive.

Speaker 2: The borders it can cross.

Speaker 12: How we do integrity in all of our relationships.

Speaker 2: And its hidden costs and shadows.

Speaker 4: In a world where we other other people, where we build walls, we can tear down walls.

Speaker 2: Fuck finding it or falling into it. Our future depends on making it.

laura: Hey friends, good to see you. Welcome back to another conversation about how we grow our muscles to make love, to make justice, to make liberation in the world. I am super glad you're here and for a punchy topic no less. Today we're talking about how to lose, how not to win, and how being a better loser and a worse winner can be a really important practice of justice and liberation and love. So we'll go over what the hell I'm talking about with this notion of being a good loser and we'll talk about how and why it connects to justice and we'll talk about examples of important things to get good at losing and I'll give you some practices and challenges and questions at the end.
First, though, you probably hear that I sound a little bit different than I do on some of the podcasts, and that's because I'm traveling and I didn't bring my giant beeps and boops and bops and microphones and all sorts of things, and so you've got me on my AirPods. Bear with me, it's going to sound slightly less sexy than it normally does and I hope we'll be okay.
All right, so you've been trained by life and society to believe that losing is a bad thing. You've been taught to fear loss or to brace for it. You've also been trained to desire to win. Even if you're not competitive in nature, our society is competitive in nature and our society is extractive in nature, and our society relies on rules and systems that require some to be up because they exploit and expect some to be down. So even if you could give two about winning things, you've inherited a set of unconscious beliefs and even more important and insidious, unconscious habits by being baked under the influence of our culture. And it takes a lot of work to make those beliefs conscious and those habits more conscious and then try to unwork them.
So for example, you likely compare yourself to others regularly. You likely critique or correct others pretty regularly. You likely look for places in your life where you want to feel like the best at something or have wanted to be better than others at something or to have more of something than others have. You've likely invested in the idea of ownership being a thing to aspire to. You likely fear loss, you likely avoid loss. And when you experience loss, you probably look for other outlets to distract you from the emotions or grief of that loss. You also likely believe that the loss is a thing that needs to be fixed or replaced or dealt with somehow.
And none of those things are bad. None of these things are inherently unjust or bad. Are some of these things really natural and just plain up human? Probably, sure. And do some of these things connect to oppression and oppressive habits and behaviors? Yep, also that. Because we can't ever extract a habit or a behavior from white supremacy or from the oppressive society that we live in. So we're all going to hold some complexity and discomfort and tension for the next 10 or 12 minutes while we take a trip into why and how we can and should be better losers.
Okay, let's talk loss. What do I mean when I say be a better loser, be a good loser? Well, a couple of things, and again, they're going to be in a little bit of tension. It's all going to be okay. First, loss is a part of life, the experience of it and the emotion of it. And since everything is transient and everything is always changing and everything is temporary, being a human means we will feel and experience loss. It is super natural. It's not a bad thing, it's just a human experience thing. Things, people, identities, memories, thoughts, experiences, abilities, they're all going to come and go. But what happens for most of us is that we aren't taught how to experience loss or grief directly and how to metabolize those experiences and those emotions.
So when we take that, that inability or that kind of weakened capacity to deal with loss and grief, and then we pair that and plug it into a society that's obsessed with superiority and conquest with a society that needs to win at all costs, some wonky things start to happen, things like we brace for loss and we go out of our way to avoid it as far out of the way as refusing to live parts of our life because we fear losing them.
And as far as unconsciously trying to control others and relationships because we fear losing them, trying to control optics of how we're perceived because we fear being perceived differently. We also escape into other things and we sometimes lose ourself to other stuff, to coping mechanisms, to avoid feeling the emotion of loss. We can expend a ton of energy, resources, money, time, trying to avoid loss. And all of this takes us out of being present for the life that we are living right this moment, whatever's happening right now in our life. And I want you to imagine just how much more freed up you would be in your life or how much freer you yourself might be to move around in the world if you could look at loss differently and trust yourself to feel the feelings and emerge just fine on the other side, how many resources could you take back?
How much time? How much energy? How much anxiety and stress might be alleviated? So a part, one part of this episode's main point is loss is normal and you will be more free in all the ways as you learn the skills to meet it, to touch it directly, and to gently work your way through the emotions of grief and loss until they dissipate. That's one point I want to make and it should sound familiar. We've addressed it before in other podcasts, but the other main point in this episode is this, we don't just need to be okay with loss, we need to be better losers. We will be better human beings and better practitioners of justice for ourselves and for the collective as we become better losers. And I want you to consider the things that so often stand in the way of justice, of liberation.
They include, but they're certainly not limited to, beliefs, rules, ways of being, and thoughts. If you think about microaggressions for example, they're made up of these things, beliefs, rules, ways of being, thoughts, but systems are also made up of these things. The systems that stand in the way of racial equity or class equity or any kind of equity fundamentally are all made up of thousands of hidden and unhidden rules, beliefs, ways of being, and thoughts. And those things get cooked with power to make complicated, explicit systems of injustice. But before the system, before it gets baked with power and authority and access and lack of access and history and oppression, before the system gets made, there are still thoughts, beliefs, rules, ways of being. These things rules, ways of being, beliefs, they exist systemically, societally, culturally, but they also exist personally, interpersonally and familially, but that doesn't make them not harmful.
So here are the things I'd love you to get better at losing as a practice of liberation for yourself and as a practice of liberation for our collective. I'd love you to get good at losing rightness. The need to be right, the craving of certainty. We talked a lot about this topic in a recent podcast, but my need to be right makes me do bananas things. It can make me justify treating others in kind of bananas ways. My need to be right prevents listening, it prevents reconciliation, it prevents apology, it prevents repair, it prevents intimacy and connection. And when taken to an extreme, it can prevent shared humanity.
The issue with rightness isn't rightness itself, it's that rightness functions as a wall between people at best and as a severing of shared humanity and commonly, a mechanism of dehumanization. You don't actually need to be right. It's not a real need, but you've been taught and trained by our society that it is. You can learn to give it up and I promise you, you will be so much more free when you exist in the world beyond rightness and wrongness and others will be more free around you.
What else do I want you to be better at losing? I want you to be better at losing the need to win, the need to be superior. Again, these aren't real needs. They aren't like water and food. You've been conditioned to believe that you need to be better than others. And especially if you are a person of color, I am not saying that there haven't been times when you did for survival need to be three times as good as the white people around you, and I am saying that an oppressive paradigm made that so. I'm not saying there won't be consequences of stepping outside of that paradigm for any of us. In fact, there will be, and the consequences are of course going to be more severe the more marginalized identity markers you hold. But I am also offering that there is more freedom beyond a paradigm of superiority. Beyond acquisition, beyond enoughness.
Systems and survival aside, the more you personally divest from the perceived need and craving that you feel to be better than or more than or smarter than or faster than or harder working than or woke than or righter than tougher than or more independent than or more liberated than others, the more space you will have in your body and your life, the more free others will feel around you and the less likely you will be to use others or project stuff onto them in order to feel more right or woke or smart or fast or tough or independent or whatever. The more your team will have room to be themselves, the more your organization will be able to be honest and to heal and to repair and to trust. And the more free you can be to be who you are, how you are without needing others to be less so that you can feel more.
Let's not stop here. I want you to get good at losing rightness and certainty and the belief that you need to win and the desire to be better and superior. But I also want you to get good at losing little things, discreet things like individual thoughts. Like pick a thought that causes you suffering and lose it on purpose. I want you to learn to lose beliefs that you've held your entire life. I want you to be better at losing ways of being like urgency. Not because thoughts or beliefs or ways of being are bad, but because of how some of those thoughts, beliefs, rules and ways of being function.
When a thought functions as a stance of superiority or inferiority, it holds hands with forces of oppression. When beliefs or rules or ways of being functioned to create distance and separation between you and other humans, I want you to imagine what it would be like to lose those things. Remember, it's not that a belief or a way of being is inherently bad, it's how it functions. And in our society, more often than not, shit functions even if unconsciously as a prong of oppression, things function to exploit and acquire and possess, separate, negate, demean, distance, weaponize, block, undermine, conquer, so on. That's how most stuff in our society functions. And none of that is neutral, especially when it exists in a culture that has learned those rules and those thoughts and those ways of beings as tricks to exploit other human beings.
So it might look like a benevolent thought, the thought I'm right or the thought she shouldn't be like that. And maybe in a world and a context not steeped in control and exploitation, maybe those could be benevolent thoughts, but we don't live in that world. And the thought I'm right, typically functions as a mechanism of control and control is the heartbeat of oppression. And I believe as wild as it might sound and as difficult it as it is, that we are all more free, that we are all more safe the less we invest in control. Controlling thoughts, controlling ways of being, controlling rules, controlling beliefs even when they're massed by virtue and maybe especially when they're massed by virtue.
So I want you to dare to feel loss. I want you to actively practice losing certain things that you have historically believed are needs or that you just haven't questioned and interrogated recently. But how do you do that? How do you lose a thought or a way of being? Well, my friends, you know me well enough by now to know that the answer is you practice it. But let's break that down. There are a lot of ways to lose things. You can lose one thing by replacing it with another, for example. You could say, replace the thought, I'm right with a thought, there are many truths you could replace the way of being of urgency with a way of being of radical presence. So each time the thought or the old way of being pops up, you acknowledge it and then you actively practice a different thought or way of being.
Another way of losing thoughts and beliefs or rules or ways of being or identities or mindsets or anything really is to learn to question them. Here are some questions that I find really important to ask whether of your thoughts or your actions or your beliefs or so on. You can ask, what purpose do you serve here, thought or action or belief? What purpose do you serve here? You can also ask, what is the core need trying to be met? Often we have a benevolent core need that's gotten a little twisted by our oppressive society. A need to feel safe can easily turn into the desire to control. The core need of wanting to be validated can quickly turn into an urge to be right or a mechanism of force. But before you judge what's happening, just learn to interrogate what's happening by asking, what is the purpose of this thing? How is it functioning and what need am I trying to meet here?
The last thought I'm going to leave you with friends is a gentle nudge and provocation. Learn to ask yourself, what am I actually going to lose? When you fear the loss of the thing, when you're bracing for grief or loss, learn to pause and ask, what am I really losing? I'm not saying there's not going to be an answer. I'm not saying there won't be real loss. Again, loss is natural. There will of course be the loss of people and things and relationships that can't be replaced, but the belief that things we lose should be replaced is one of the things that gets us into trouble. When we pause to ask, what will I really lose? Sometimes what we see is that we're not losing much, and sometimes we see that we're losing a ton, but either way, we can then ask, what are my needs in this moment? How do I gently tend to them?
And that question pulls us back into courage, and it pulls us back into presence and it pulls us back into rootedness, and it helps us discern between what is a system playing out, what is a habit playing out versus what is our core essence when we stand the ground of liberation? I learned to ask myself, other than my thoughts about this situation, am I okay right now? As a way of being gentle with loss, as a way of bringing myself back to presence, as a way of reminding myself that I am both capable of and invested in becoming a really good loser of the things, dispositions, thoughts, beliefs, and ways of being that tend to or historically in my life have functioned to kind of create a disconnect between me and my sense of shared humanity or other people around me, and also as a way of soothing at times a broken heart that's feeling the natural impact of grief and loss. So you might try that on. Other than my thoughts about this situation, other than my thoughts in this moment, am I okay right now?
All right, my friends, until next time. I hope you think a ton about what it is you have to lose, and I hope you practice losing things on purpose. And I hope you remind yourself that loss is natural and not to be feared, but also that some things, some thoughts, some beliefs actually are unnatural, meaning they got cooked up by oppression and those things and those beliefs and those habits and those ways of being often stand between you and your sense of shared humanity. Those things, my friends, I hope you practice losing and that you get really, really, really fucking good at it on behalf of freedom, yours and inaudible bye for now.