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No One Is a Loser

Personal Perspective: Exploring a forbidden word.

Kevin Sloan, used with permission
Source: Kevin Sloan, used with permission

When we were children, my father would often bring educational topics to the dinner table. One of them that he would frequently repeat was about stupidity, fools, and losers. He strongly emphasized that there is no such thing as any of those. “No one is stupid. No one is a fool. No one is a loser.” He refused to ever let us use those three words. It was such a beautiful, life-affirming, and powerful lesson.

Then one day, when I was 14 years old, I was leaving the main building of our high school and walking across the basketball court. I was carrying a box of drawing and painting supplies, excited to be on my way to Mrs. Grubbs’ art class. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a group of boys who started shoving me back and forth and making fun of my art supplies. They kept shouting that I was a loser.

I was a shy, artistic, nonathletic kid, so of course, I believed they were right. Dad was wrong. I was a loser.

After I fell to the ground and they all ran off, I sat there picking up my art supplies, and for a moment, I stopped. I looked up at the sky, and out loud I said, “This will be the hardest day of my life.”

I am the first person to recognize that saying that statement probably made me the highest-ranking drama queen loser that ever lived, but at the same time, I have never forgotten that afternoon, that statement, or that feeling. Because of the emotions that it still brings to me, I believe it to be true to this day. I wish that I could go back as myself today and sit with that boy and comfort him, and yet, I also know that he needed to sit with the pain and feel his emotions.

Obviously, those bullies never had a clue about the gifts that they gave me. It was one of my first huge lessons that painful experiences can lead to great achievements... once you stop, stare at the sky, pick up your art supplies, and move forward.

They taught me four great life lessons. Courage. Compassion. Strength. Hope.

Those words are the opposites of Stupid, Fool, and Loser.

In my next post, I will dive deeper into those beautiful and rewarding four lessons as well as the pain and the fear of bullying. Bullies can become our greatest teachers once we allow ourselves to release the shame and embrace the beauty of who we are as an individual. So very often, it is the gifted, creative, and uniquely talented children who are the ones bullied.

Without a doubt, some of our greatest gifts are handed to us in such ugly wrapping paper. We learn compassion by being the outsider and understanding the pain. We become strong from the struggles we are forced to overcome. And hope is the most glorious of all the gifts if we choose to create it, embrace it, and help others to discover it.

Flash forward 34 years. I was at a low point in my life, having become addicted to drugs. One night I was out having a great time dancing, and a man came over to me and said I looked like I was having so much fun. I told him I had just done some drugs. He made one short statement that changed my life.

“Good luck with that, you big loser.”


My body froze. Even though Dad had always said there are no losers, this time I again felt like Dad was wrong. I was a loser. I still wish to this day that I could find that stranger and thank him for saving my life.

The next day began my journey of sobriety. My surrender began with a trip to the beach. I sat there shaking and crying, looking up at the sky once again, and remembering the hardest day of my life. I literally did not know what to do. I looked down and saw a rock. I picked it up and squeezed it tightly. A rock. I was low enough in my life that a simple rock might give me strength. I literally had reached “rock bottom.”

Then I remembered the four lessons the bullies had taught me, so I found four rocks, each one representing the categories of Courage, Compassion, Strength, and Hope.

It’s been 19 years and I still pick up four rocks every time I go to the beach. All of them are smooth and polished. They are beautiful only because they have been beaten by the ocean. Just like us, they have endured and weathered the harshest of conditions and yet managed to make it to shore. (I have to admit, I often want to pick an ugly rock for “Loser,” but I know Dad would not be happy. There are no ugly rocks.)

One day, I took my incredibly talented artist friend, Kevin Sloan, to the beach with me and told him about my tradition. The next week, I received the beautiful painting that is the image in this post.


Please do not underestimate the vibrational charge of “compassion.” It begins with you. Self-compassion. That is often our most important first step.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the term. In no way does it mean feeling sorry for yourself. It is not sitting in self-pity and crying. Rather, it is the opposite. It is the beginning of healing. It leads to the transition from bad to good. It can give us courage and strength to move forward by showing ourselves kindness. When we stay stuck in pity, shame, sadness, and drama, we are not allowing the next step, which is empathy and a change of attitude.

Where might you still need comfort? Where might you still need forgiveness? Where might you still be stuck in past actions that are done and over? Remember that you can sometimes overcome them by using them as motivation for bigger and greater actions.

No matter what happens to us in our lifetime, there is hope. Keep your fork.