A Tough Pill to Swallow: Not Everyone’s a Winner
Everyone wishes to be a winner. Our dreams often revolve around us being winners on a pedestal. But the truth is that the real world is not full of winners.
Although this has not become yet a major issue in dancesport, trophies are not what they used to be. If awards, trophies or diplomas are handed out like candy, a true formal recognition of hard-workers isn’t available anymore. In sports, beginners might not start with having self-confidence so participation awards are being handed to comfort them. This can send a very dangerous message to young people who can fool themselves into believing that they actually deserved the recognition and that they are way better than they really are. What does giving a trophy to everyone mean? It means “lowering expectations”.
Where it all began…
The movement behind this mentality started in the 70’s but gained momentum in the 80’s. Giving trophies to every participant had the main goal to build self-esteem and was a promise of turning your kids into more successful and confident version of themselves. Some worrisome parents might have been at the other end of this celebration of mediocrity, with the best of intentions, of course. Nevertheless, it does come down eventually to asking ourselves “Do you want your kid to learn how life really goes or do you want to fabricate a reward for something that he doesn’t deserve, which ruins the whole purpose of turning your kid into a potentially successful adult?”. Yes, you are brave for trying, but is it enough?
Top 3 consequences of the “everyone is a winner” mentality
1. The lack of motivation and ambition
The mentality of everyone is a winner is inherently wrong and cancels the idea of hard work, success, and achievement which are 3 key ingredients of fulfillment. In dancesport, hard work and talent make things happen. So why would people skip the necessary steps to achieve something that has no genuine value? If the journey towards a diploma or trophy is lean and they’re no bumps in the road, the climax of your winning narrative is no longer there. If everyone gets a trophy three things happen:
True winners feel unappreciated and they don’t find themselves in a true growth and competitive environment;
Some people feel entitled and expect results without putting in any additional efforts;
The people who get the last place in competitions and still receive a trophy or a diploma feel even worse because they know they don’t deserve it and it’s just a formality.
For example, let’s look at the way our mind and body reacts when we’re eating fast-food opposed to when we’re eating a home-cooked meal. Quite different, isn’t it? That sugar high you’re experiencing while you’re shoving down the throat fast food is similar to the instant gratification of an undeserved title or prize. The main issue here is that you get hooked on it and your mind will be asking for more and more, and more and you’ll probably give in and find excuses – “Just this time, then I’m going to eat healthy the rest of the week!”. What happens next? Well, you’ll probably feel depressed the rest of the week and blame yourself for having fallen into temptation and not only that, but you will also feel more tired, irritable, and less energetic.
On the other hand, a home cooked meal involves an extensive process: making a list, buying all the ingredients, actually preparing the meal, setting the table. More effort but more enjoyable in the end. After you finish it, you will not feel overly stimulated and you will probably not experience severe behavioral reactions. Actually, more than likely you will concentrate better and remember more. In other words, these are building blocks of the learning process, just as the failure and trials a dancer has to go through to learn. It is your choice if you’re going to choose short-term over long-term thinking.
2. The winner and the know-it-all generation
Millennials, their successors – Generation Z, or younger generations, feel more entitled because of that mentality. It’s not entirely their fault, it’s something that has been generated by parents who were overprotective of their children but it has to change, otherwise, kids will grow up not being able to sustain themselves emotionally. Anxiety and depression are one of the consequences children face after leaving this fabricated, fake world, where every attempt is rewarded and everyone gives you a pat on the shoulder and stepping out into the real harsh world where wins come at a high price and usually after a long period of time. The mentality of a true winner has to be trial and error, you cannot improve and advance if you do not have failures that can teach you lessons.
3. The expectation of instant gratification
Instant gratification fails to instill any resilience in kids. If you are going after immediate results that can satisfy your need for fishing compliments, you’re not going to build any emotional resilience or strength that can help you in life in the long run. If you want to raise a kid that will become a responsible adult and that will not crash at the first heartbreak or letdown in life, you have to make sure he/she realizes that pain is a part of everyone’s life and hardships can boost you and be a trigger for success if you put the work in it.
What is the importance of having real winners in dancesport?
Facing the pain and striving for excellence, that’s one of the most important character traits that you can develop as a dancer and that’ will not be developed if you keep telling yourself that you’re a winner when you’re only on the 29th place locally.
It rewards hard work
If you a have a winner, you also have a loser, and that’s ok because you can finally paint a true picture of the level you are at and what your accomplishments are up to that point. Failure is a feedback that can be transformed into a chance to become a better dancer and a better person. You can only control the efforts, not the outcome. If you got bad results, analyze the outcome and find the right solutions to fix the situation. Today’s winners are yesterday’s losers, they are the people that made something out of their defeats and took a turn for the better. A great dancer accepts reality, adapts to it and improves on it one step at a time. Dancesport rewards hard work. It’s a competitive sport and thrives on a competitive spirit.
It helps set positive examples
Quite honestly, what’s wrong with someone better than you? Seeing other dancers succeed and actually deserve the win motivates others to push themselves further. Look at Daniella Karagach – she is the youngest US competitor to hold the Ten Dance Championship title. Who wouldn’t look up to her? Real winners, people that spend their life practicing, investing time and money have to be admired properly. If everyone wins than the relevance and the value of the real winner diminishes and fades away.
It reestablishes the importance of the mighty trophy
Nowadays, trophies are collecting dust, or people forget them in boxes when moving houses. Nothing special about them since probably a lot of kids got them as well. Why should receiving a trophy be a big deal? A trophy is a striking symbol of excellence. A trophy means you reached the highest peak and is a durable reminder of your achievements. The ceremony of handing a trophy or grand prize to the winner should be special. In some specific situations tradition dictates that a single trophy cup is passed from the previous winner to the next. A trophy or diploma is a token of victory and a recognition for hard work. It should be held in high regard.
The healthy way to boost self-esteem is to put yourself out there, invest effort, time and money. Then make sure you are ready to either lose or win. That effort-failure-feedback – effort-win-feedback-effort loop needs to happen, Why? Because if it doesn’t, then it’s just too hard to realize what you’re doing wrong and what you’re doing right. You might end up just spinning like a hamster on the wheel because you’re not getting ahead. Failure, followed by later success, is what builds character, fortitude, courage, and tenacity.
[email protected] Elena Anashina
Dancing has been my passion since I was 13 and since then I've been doing things in that direction. Writing, creating and putting together the biggest community for dancers around the world!