In “The Hustler”, Paul Newman plays a pool shark named Fast Eddie Felson. He is as natural as they come, but Fast Eddie has a handicap: he struggles with thinking he’s a “born loser”, as one character types him. He hides behind large quantities of alcohol, and starts working for a sinister professional gambler named Bert Gordon (a brilliant role by George C. Scott).
Fast Eddie is seeking personal fulfillment, while succumbing to the role of the loser. It got me thinking about how we trip ourselves up with “loser” type-thinking. Eddie finally has a catharsis after the suicide of his girlfriend, played by Piper Laurie, and is able to realize his potential and shuck the “loser” mentality off to beat legend Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). But how many of us are truly able to shuck off the loser thinking and fulfill our potential?
Many guys I work with look successful on the outside, and have all the trappings of what looks like success: careers, family, cars, money, power, etc. But on the inside, I think there’s a lot of us that still think we’re losers, even if we’re not to others.
First, identifying that we think like this could be a powerful wake up call to change. Often times, we get in the unconscious habit of thinking “successfully”, and not attending to the underlying loser “voice” below. We strive so hard to beat, fight and slay the “loser” that we work double time to get rid of it. And yet, the loser voice doesn’t go anywhere – it just grows stronger.
How else can you help kick the “loser” out of your life?
- Start to recognize the loser voice: let it come up and don’t push it away. It’s got something to say, and let it play out. It won’t make you a “loser” to just allow that voice some airtime.
- Journal about your experiences when the “loser” voice comes up. Create a special journal or use a dictation app on your phone and make time a couple of times a week to get in touch with that voice.
- Consider your family of origin background: Did you take in messages that you weren’t good enough as you were? Was it hard to do things without being criticized or shamed?
- Ask yourself: do I work extra hard to suppress my “loser” voice? A lot of men work double time – at work, at play, in relationships – to keep that voice locked up. Try to see how you “overcompensate” for feeling like a loser.
- Share your feelings with someone you trust: your partner, a trusted friend, a family member. Chances are pretty good that that person has dealt with these feelings, and that you’re not alone.
- Take charge of your “loser” voice: work to affirm yourself for your strengths, talents, gifts and the like. You’ve got just as many of those things that, when seeing your reality, can override your “loser” voice.
- Watch “The Hustler” on Netflix
- Get in touch with the feelings behind your experience of being a loser: is there sadness? Is there pain? Are there feelings of shame and embarrassment, or inferiority? Those can be dealt with. Seek out some support, or some counseling to help.
- Know you’re not alone: in my humble opinion, most men deal with thinking this way. Inside, most guys have a scared little boy who’s not feeling good enough, successful enough, etc. Even if other guys aren’t talking, I can tell you this can very much be the truth.
Fast Eddie overcame his label of “born loser”: he ass-kicked Minnesota Fats in the end. You have all the resources you need inside of you to not just look successful, but to believe it on the inside. What prevents us from kicking the “loser” out is ourselves. Removing those roadblocks means believing you are genuinely powerful and successful, and not the “loser” you’ve believed yourself to be.