The Beauty of Defeat

Sometimes when things seem like they’re falling apart, they’re actually falling into place. Perspective is most easily lost when we find ourselves lamenting what is slipping away while losing sight of what is heading our way instead. There is no shortage of sentiment or rhetoric regarding the opportunities that dark clouds herald or the silver linings that decorate them, nor is there a shortage of popcorn wisdom that is handed out to pacify the broken hearted. That light at the end of the tunnel is not a train, it’s a sign of life. (I just made that one up!) And so the clichés can go on and on.

The reality of defeat is closer to the opportunities it unlocks rather than the impact it has when our egos take a beating. In that moment of devastation, it’s easy to see the world as a hostile place that has no room for you, but when the air returns to your lungs, and the skies clear, you suddenly see the gaps that you want to fill. The voids that are waiting for your unique contribution, failing which they will remain empty forever. But those voids, those gaps, only become visible again when you return to what you’re passionate about.

I don’t think there is a single soul alive that didn’t at some point believe they could change the world. How we choose to define that world and what we want to change about it is directly related to how much we believe in our ability to influence it. The greater that belief, the bigger our world. It’s sad though to see so many make others their world instead of embracing the world of others. You know, those people whose existence is defined by the admiration and affection of another? They’re the ones that taste true defeat, not because it is a romantic tragedy, but because they’ve defeated themselves long before defeat visited them. But even in that defeat there is beauty.

Beauty is not what we see around us, it’s what we hold within. It’s that internal peace that draws our attention to the beauties that abound, or else all we’ll see are representations of what we don’t deserve, or at least what we believe we don’t deserve. When we fail to accept ourselves, to respect the struggles we face or the resilience we’ve demonstrated, and more than these, when we fail to see the true potential of the value we can offer this world, we’ll be left feeling subdued and deprived. To fill that void of self-worth, we court the acceptance of others. We define ourselves by their validations and we convince ourselves that the way they see us is truly who we are. The moment all that is taken away, we’re left bare and vulnerable. In that moment of apparent defeat, we’re finally forced to see ourselves and others for the reality we’ve been denying for so long. In that is the sweetness of defeat.

Those moments that force us to recalibrate, re-evaluate, or simply to resurrect our fading convictions are the moments that define our appreciation for beauty, for peace, and most importantly, for balance. Without that defeat our inclination to take for granted that which fills the gaps in our lives increases. The goodwill of others is seen as rights, and their willing contribution is assumed to be them just doing their bit to justify their presence in your life. That’s the haughtiness of success.

Defeat is not truly defeat. It’s a moment of pause. It’s a reality check. It’s a forced review of what we incorrectly assumed, and what we took for granted. That’s when things fall into place. That’s when perspective is tempered with reality, and the alignment between purpose, conviction, and ability are strongest. All it needs is a healthy embrace of who you are, and who you’re not. Unfortunately, in such a distracted world, we tend to know more about others than we know about ourselves, which makes it inevitable that we’re more likely to feel denied than we are to feel blessed. Perhaps that is the root of the violence and aggression we see in the world. Too many demanding significance and over compensating for it with wealth and power, while still feeling incomplete.

Those voids. Focus on those voids, and the rest will fall into place as a matter of natural consequence. Alas, that requires trust. And so begins another vicious cycle of self-deprecation.

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