How To Lose Well

I’ve just come back from the King Power stadium where my team Leicester City lost 1-2 to Southampton United.

By the end, the atmosphere was brutal, with thousands of fans shouting at our players, and calling for the manager to resign.

Any football fan will tell you this is a common experience. In today’s professional game, in the Premier League, margins are razor thin, luck can be cruel, outcomes savage. Careers can turn on the spin and bounce of a ball, referees can make perplexing decisions, the action moves at lightning speed. And that’s all played out in front of 32,000 baying fans, screaming, singing, swearing.

In the moment, even just as a fan, it’s hard not to feel the intense pressure.

Goodness knows what it’s like for the players, and even worse, what the managers are going through. Their professional and personal reputations are exposed under floodlights, there’s a ruthless kind of binary dynamic at play. Win, and you’re a hero, you’re the best, you’re unbeatable. Lose, and you’re the villain, you’re the problem, you’re finished.

I must admit to being rather ashamed of what goes on around me, in the crowd, on match days. The bad language, the cursing, the cries of hopelessness and aggression, they’re all pretty stupid. Grown adults who function perfectly reasonably, who behave politely at home and at work, seem to lapse into wanton disregard for the normal rules of behaviour. It’s odd.

Losing is of course part of our lives.

In fact, you could say, it’s generally how most thIngs play out. We rarely come out on top, we never win the lottery, and we’re so rarely lucky in love. Learning to deal with a setback, missing out on a goal, or even a severe reversal of fortune, is a key part of our maturing as individuals. Ironically, the better we can become at accepting loss as part of the normal scheme of life, the better our circumstances will become.

When I lost my hands, my feet and my face to sepsis, I was obviously devastated.

I was numb for a long time – so shocked and so sad inside, it felt like I had lost my humanity. My face was so scary, I got the strangest looks, and that made me feel like I was not worthy to still be alive. I was 38 years old but when I was alone in my hospital room I used to cry like a baby for what I had become.

But then I realised, just what I had left. A loving relationship with Nic, my wife, a two-and-a-half year old daughter, and a new born son. Also, there was a fascinating world still around me, with amazing things happening, fantastic books to read, films to see, music, art. All this was enough to inspire me.

Realising this was a form of liberation.

Even though I felt suddenly constrained by my disability, even though I had lost so much, it felt like there were still good things to lead me on.

They’re still with me, still filling me with positivity every day. And that’s why I didn’t mind when Leicester City lost the match today. Actually, I had a great day out with my son – and we saw some amazing football.

FIVE WAYS YOU CAN MANAGE YOUR FEELINGS THROUGH LOSS

  1. Make your own list of the key 5 things that will always sustain you.
  2. Try not to vocalise your anger when you lose – write it down instead.
  3. Play the long game – you may have lost this time, but there will be better days.
  4. Share your feelings about your loss with a close friend, you’ll feel supported.
  5. Accept when something is lost and can’t be retrieved as part of life’s journey.