Daughter depressed over a competition

Hannah - posted on 03/23/2013 ( 6 moms have responded )

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My daughter was in a school competition yesterday. She was in second place, but she only had half a point less than the guy who was first.
I am really pleased with her result, it was a hard test and honestly the number of points she had was not just good, it was excellent. I'm truly happy about this, but she's depressed.
The subject is something she's really great at-and she expected to be first. I get that. But she's depressed, and there's no reason to. She's second,and that's a big deal, a great thing. But she won't stop crying, and when I tried to congratulate her, she stared at me like I was crazy for even congratulating. She said something like "Losing is not something to congratulate". I am now feeling bad.. She did something good, she succeeded but she feels that it's not good. I wish she would understand that you don't have to be the first to be considered great at it. It's half a point of a difference... Seriously, that's like being the first place. But she won't stop crying, she even slapped herself (!!!) for "being so stupid".
I'm now almost crying because she should be happy and she's devastated.
What can I do?
There are going to be more chances, but she's so sad. She claims that it was "the only thing she was good at, and now she lost that too". I tried to tell her he didn't lose it, she's still good, but she claims she isn't exceptional and special in any way now, and that she lost any motivation in general.
I just want her to know that she is special and exceptional, and that she doesn't need a competition to be that.. And even if she did, her result IS special and exceptional. Come on , second place.. That's great.
I wish she would understand how good she is and how happy she should be. But she's embarassed of her result.
And I'm now miserable because she is.

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Cindy - posted on 08/08/2013

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I get it. I was like that as a kid. She's 14 and her body is changing so all of those new hormones are not helping because they start affecting us emotionally instead of just physically that we're used to. It's great to tell her she's great but she was second and that won't change, even if that half point means nothing to you because it does to her. I would drop the subject and not talk about it. The more you bring it up, the more she is reminded she didn't win. I ended up just fine, though I still hate to lose, and eventually she won't feel defined by her losses like she is now. In time this will pass.

Sarah - posted on 03/27/2013

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I have to say I think all teenagers should be in therapy. It is something that has helped my daughter so much. But, at the end of the day, we all have to learn to deal with disappointments and we all know that. As parents, it's our job to continue to love and support our kids, and remind them how awesome they are! It sounds like she could really use to see some videos of some young women who came in second or third at things and understood what an accomplishment that was.
For instance, the one that comes to mind the most is Michele Kwan who won silver in the Olympics. So many folks felt that she had "lost the gold" but she repeatedly reminded others that she had WON SILVER!
The reality is that there is ONE thing out there that she is absolutely the BEST at, that NO ONE can beat her at- and that is being her UNIQUE self!! Just like my daughter is the only and best Rachel Lynn she can be, your daughter is also the ONLY and BEST version of herself. And, as long as she stays true to who she is and tries her best, then she can NEVER FAIL!
That is what she needs to learn, and it's not easy for any of us to learn, no matter what age we have to learn it at...

Evelyn - posted on 03/24/2013

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You need to tell her that life is full of those "failures" and "second places". She needs to understand that if she does not "loose" sometimes she is not going to learn from her mistakes to do better next time. Too many kids expect way too much at times and that is normal. They expect to be first. As a society, we have taught kids that they all are #1 when in fact not everyone is. Those T-ball kids that all get a trophy when only one or two were the best of the team should have gotten it. We are not helping their esteem growth when we give in to their want of being great at something. Tell her that hard work got her this far. And learning from her mistakes in life will take her farther. Failing is not the worst thing in the world, its a tool to teach us things in life. Life is never fair. She need to learn this and at 14 she should already understand it.

Hannah - posted on 03/24/2013

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She's 14.

She usually doesn't get upset over school-related things because she doesn't really, well, erm... care about it enough.
But if it's something important to her, she usually reacts kind of like this, but this was really more intense than any other reaction before it.

She's struggling with her selfworth, I think, because she just doesn't accept the fact that the wheel of fortune is always turning and that things sometimes go well, sometimes bad, and you can't always be on top.. She just doesn't accept that, blames herself for anything that goes wrong, and believes that unless she's the best at something she does, she's failing at it.
And that's a way of thinking I don't like nor did I teach her that.. You can't always be the best, try your hardest but know that things can go wrong, and they sometimes will. Not always our fault.

She is a teenager, 14 years old.
She wants to be "special and exceptional", like having something to be known for, like.. There's a girl that everyone knows by her math, a girl that's great at handball, and this subject was "her thing". I tried explaining to her that it's still "her thing" because if it wasn't, she couldn't possibly be the second in the region that has a few towns, but she goes on about "losing" and "failing". I told her there's much more to her than having a "thing" that people will know her by, but she's holding on to this so hard.
I asked her if she thinks that the reason people hang out with her is this subject... She said no.
~So why do you think you need this to be special?"
-I need something that I'll be the best at, mom.
~You are one of the best, you only had half a point less.. Tehnically you are the best, and you're the best in this town in it.
-But not better than her.
~But you don't have to be better than everyone.
-MOM YOU DON'T GET IT MOM I HAVE TO . I FAILED I LOST

And that's about how she sees it. And we had a few conversations like this yesterday and today and she keeps with her thing.

I don't think she's had many disappointments lately-we talk and I know most of the things. Sure there are some things she's keeping to herself, but in general she doesn't have problems that would cause her to feel this way.

It's very painful, Im just happy she's getting better. Today she was in an OK mood, it would go down if she got reminded of the competition but in general her mood was better.
I guess this is just something we have to go through to learn.

Thank you so much for your response, it really means a lot to me! :)

Rebekah - posted on 03/23/2013

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How old is she?

Does she have perfectionistic tendencies, or is this an unusual response for her? Either way, it sounds like you are trying to help her reframe her thinking so that she can see her success for what it is... you may be saying all the right things, but sounds like she won't accept it right now.

With the comments you included, it sounds like she may be struggling with her self-worth, and maybe even some level of depression. I'm sure it is a disappointment to lose the glory of first place by such a small margin...and its ok for her to have feelings about that. But for her to call herself "stupid," slap herself, and cry to this extent would worry me. There has to be room to handle disappointment without tearing one's self down in an irrational way. If she's saying she "lost" this one thing she's good at because of this one event, she really does need to shift her perceptions to something more realistic.

Is she a teenager? Teens can be dramatic and emotional... and they naturally are struggling to figure out who they are and where they fit in... not winning a competition might shake their already fragile sense of self. But some are more resilient than others too. Give her some time to calm down and have a talk with her about what might be behind those statements. Why does she need a competition to validate her? How does she define "special and exceptional"? What qualities in a person does she value? For herself? For her friends? Hopefully she can come to the idea that she doesn't love her friends for how well they might score on a test, but for a variety of other personal reasons (and that her friends/family value her that way too).

Keep showing her that you love her... you can't make her feel good about herself, though... self esteem comes from the inside. Model healthy ways to process disappointment (just like you have been, with your comments to her) and give her time to work through it. If she still seems to struggle, she might benefit from time with a counselor to help re-route her thinking and sort through her emotions. Any chance this reaction might be due to the competition being "the last straw" on top of other disappointments that she may have had in her life lately? Maybe there's more going on.

Hang in there, mom... its painful to see our kids suffer and we can't always just "fix it."

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