America For Beginners

Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants

On Winners and Losers

I really don’t like the word “loser”. It sounds very condescending and judgmental.  Whenever I hear someone calling another person a loser, I automatically feel like taking that “loser’s” side.  What makes it worse for me is that we often label someone a loser based on the things he/she hasn’t done rather than their actions. Following this logic, aren’t we all losers? Don’t we all have something that we wish we have accomplished?

Winners, on the other hand, take it all. They are glorified and looked up to, as if they have some secret knowledge. We strive to belong to the winners club and fear the club of the less successful.

Now what is that success that everyone is talking about? I’ve always thought that success is a very relative concept. However, what I see in today’s America is a very narrow definition of success and a very categorical judgement of losers. It’s black and white: you either made it or failed; either made your parents proud or disappointed them.

Let’s look deeper into the words that we use. Generally, by winners we mean people who gained something, or the way Merriam- Webster Dictionary defines it:

one that is successful especially through praiseworthy ability and hard work

A loser,  meanwhile,  is defined as:

a person who is incompetent or unable to succeed

So, all you need to be a winner is an ability and hard work. Call me skeptical, but that’s not how it works in real life. There are so many other factors that influence the outcome, e.g., family income, health, society, economy, etc. Most importantly, we never acknowledge LUCK as a factor. Curiously enough, the Russian word for “loser” is literally “ill-lucker”. Don’t you think many losers would have turned out to be winners, given a little bit of good luck, and vice versa?

Then we put a lot of pressure on ourselves by dismissing luck as a constituent of our success or failure. It’s really hard to live if you believe that everything you have is a direct consequence of your abilities. It’s not. We still have to work hard and be our better selves, but I do believe that we will be a better society, once we stop labeling people losers or worshipping winners. Otherwise all of us will lose.


4 comments on “On Winners and Losers

  1. casmige
    October 11, 2012

    Lovely Perspective,

    Excellent well-balanced composition & flow-of-thought wonderfully outlined & presented.

    This type of Writing is very encouraging towards being, thinking, & doing the right & more important “little” things in life.

    Along the lines of a favourite quote of myne:

    “I long to accomplish a great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Helen Keller



  2. America For Beginners
    October 11, 2012

    Thank you! Great quote btw

  3. George Simons
    October 11, 2012

    Brilliant insight (as usual!), Anna. there is a profound cultural background to this habit in the USA. This is reflected in the discourse about “It’s up to you”, “Take charge,” and the zero-sum nature of the game of capitalism and its relationship to individual religious salvation. It’s it is rooted in a deep insecurity and incapacity to perform according to overly demanding standards to be self-made. and is also part of a dichotomous, either/or mentality.

    Hence the need to label oneself a “winner” for the sake of self-esteem and self-confidence, and to avoid any sense of fatalism. It functions in short an identity for people who have largely rejected identities and declared that each and every person is unique, and therefore must set him or herself off from the rest in order to legitimize his or her existence.

    This kind of thinking is also the reason why social services are so negligent for the needy (read “losers”)In the USA. Of course one can volunteer to help others, but it is simply a matter of goodwill, not responsibility.

  4. drgeraldstein
    December 12, 2012

    You have certainly hit the target as far as the standard judgment of people in the USA. But there is a Rilke quote that I rather like on the subject, one that honors both success and failure: “The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.”

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This entry was posted on October 10, 2012 by in Intercultural Communication, Why Do Americans...? and tagged , , , .

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