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"Just Not Good Enough"

Defining a "Loser"

By Veronica ColdironPublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 10 min read
Top Story - October 2023

Am I the only one who's tired of losing? Maybe I shouldn't be looking at situations as "loss" or "win", but how do you not? Everyone searches for value and self-worth. A little winning goes a long way to supporting that. Is it so much to ask, to just win once in a while?

Every time I've challenged myself to compete, my efforts are lauded as amazing, but they're always "just not good enough to win".

I still remember the first time I competed, and it wasn't really a "competition".

Our second-grade class was putting on a play. I was excited because it was Sleeping Beauty and I hoped I had a fair shot at the lead. It was so important to get that role because the prince had already been chosen, Jeff Harper.

All the girls had a crush on him. He had almost amber eyes, wreathed in a mottled line of brownish-reddish-gold that reminded me of autumn. He had freckles, but not many, and a ready smile. Oh yeah. I just had to be Sleeping Beauty.

We'd been creating sets for weeks, so I had the time of my life. My teacher encouraged my work, which meant the world to me because I was putting in serious time on it at home, too.

When the audition for Sleeping Beauty came up, mom sent me to school in ugly brown pants. I had gotten up early, picked out my best maxi-length dress and had put ribbons in my hair. My mother didn't want me dirtying up the dress on the playground, so she pulled out an average pant outfit and told me to get over it.

All the other girls wore long dresses, and their mothers did their hair. My mother would have too, if she hadn't had a three-hour show and a 4-hour drive home the night before. She’d forgotten about the auditions and was so busy trying to shove me out the door so she could sleep, that I didn’t even get to tell her. I was disappointed when I got to the school and the other moms had come to watch, but I decided to make the best of it.

Technically, the audition for Sleeping Beauty was pretty easy. First, we danced to some fairy-like music, which was fun because I got to use my ballet lessons, and then we had to speak a couple short lines to the teacher, who was filling in as the witch. She wasn’t scary to me, so it was hard to act afraid, but I read more evenly and "in character" than the others, so I thought I had a shot at it.

Then Gloria Gonzales auditioned. Her English wasn’t very good, but she was so pretty, no one cared. Her eyes were like dark chocolate, and her shiny brown hair was very long and wavy. She had naturally caramel colored skin and all the boys liked her. She wore a long, light blue dress with a chiffon outer layer, and looked like a Sleeping Beauty to me. Naturally, they gave her the role.

The teacher told the rest of us not to feel down, that there were plenty of roles left. She needed a bunch of trolls and a raven… and a wicked witch. She asked me to audition for the part of the witch on the following morning but I didn’t want to. Unfortunately, when I told my mother about my day, she wouldn’t let me out of it. She teased my hair the next morning, put some lines on my face with an eyebrow pencil and then dressed me in a black dress. I was embarrassed, but the teacher made a big deal out of the effort, so I did my best.

The dance music had kind of a spinning, whirring sound like the “Flight of the Bumblebee” but less busy. Gloria’s job was to lie down on the teacher’s desk, and I was to dance around her pretending to put a spell on her. The way it was explained to me was, I had to act like I really hated her; had to turn circles, dance, jump in the air and sling my hands toward her as though throwing magic at her. I remember thinking, ‘Wow… Mrs. Smith is REALLY into this!’.

Mom sat at the back of the classroom, holding a cup of coffee she'd brought from the house. Her purse, the black one with the gold chain for a strap, was slung over her chair. I won’t ever forget it. She wore black slacks, and a gold V-neck sweater that was way too tight to wear to your kid’s school, but she looked like a million bucks with her legs crossed and her witch-style pumps on.

As the teacher was about to roll the record, I looked at my mom and she gave me this crazy look, almost to say, ‘show ‘em how it’s done baby’. She winked, the music started, and I lost my mind.

I can’t even tell you how I let that music carry me, floating from one note to the other as though I could really fly. Every time the music hit a crescendo, I would hop into a pirouette, spin and “cast hands” toward Gloria.

I got the part. My mother came and picked me up after school to celebrate. After washing the marks off my face, she took me for ice cream. Happy that I got the role of the witch, mom said Sleeping Beauty was too small a role, just basically lying around waiting for some prince. She was excited that as the witch, I actually got to do some acting and I know she meant what she said, because my dad’s entire family came to see the play.

I danced so hard that day that my hat repeatedly tried to come off my head. I had to keep catching it to make it look purposeful so, just before the music ended, I tossed it into the crowd. It landed on some little kid's head and totally sent the other children off the deep end screaming. My parents laughed their heads off. I actually got the most applause when I came out to bow at the end and my teacher referred to the improvisations often during the rest of the year, as "brilliant".

As an adult, I know that day was actually a win, but in my little 8-year-old heart, it didn’t feel like it at the time. Jeff Harper was holding hands with Gloria Gonzales when they bowed. I had no way of knowing he had a crush on me and would be at my birthday party in a couple weeks, to give me a necklace that I still have in my jewelry box to this day. So... I stood there taking the applause, feeling like a loser.

That's me in the back there, mom, and my sister Monica the same year I played the witch

I think a lot of my life has been like that since then. I always give it my best, but never win.

I once sang in a karaoke contest at a bar where they hosted national talent searches. There were professionals in the room, and some stinkers too! With the amount of people there, the odds were high that I wouldn't win, but I was hopeful.

I sang “In the Arms of the Angels” by Sarah MacLachlan to a standing ovation… the only one of the night. Most of the people there were average karaoke singers, but probably two or three others could easily beat me. I was okay with that. While I don't have footage of that night, I do have some poorly recorded footage of me singing it at a coffee shop, linked below. It's not my best effort, but it could be worse.

When they started reading the names of the winners, I still held my breath in hope. Third place went to a guy I considered a “karaoke” singer, but a good one. He got a free dinner for two at a local restaurant. Then the second-place winner was one of the powerhouses I had been afraid of, so I was happy she won. She actually got $100 for her efforts. If she'd won it all, I would have gone home feeling great about myself for trying. I don’t mind losing to better performers. It's actually an honor just to compete on their level.

Then they announced the winner: a karaoke singer in short-shorts who wouldn’t know a good note if it walked up and smacked her in the face. She sang “Before He Cheats”, by Carrie Underwood… badly.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends who are good-looking and sometimes wear short-shorts, so it’s not really what she looked like so much… just that her looks not only beat my talent, but the talent of a few others that I viewed as incredible.

I immediately relented to the fact that my voice was never going to be “good enough” to get me anywhere in the music machine of the day. As I was about to leave, one of the judges touched me on the elbow. I turned, to see an attractive middle-aged man in a suit, slightly overweight and balding. He smiled at me, looking over a pair of dark-rimmed reading glasses.

“Miss.” he said. “Can I talk to you?”

“Sure!” I answered, turning around to face him.

“Listen, you did a phenomenal job. I don’t know why you’re even at a karaoke contest, but let me say that there was a time when scores like yours would have walked off with that thousand-dollar purse tonight.”

“Really?” I asked incredulously. No one had ever given me that kind of compliment before. I was still staring at him, dumbstruck by his comment when he felt the need to clarify.

“Listen.” He told me. “Places like this are always going to give their money to regulars who will come back in here and spend the money. The judges all agreed you were the best and the “10’s” on your cards are clear testimony to it, but ultimately the decision goes to the owners. Anyone can see you’re a professional so they’re not going to hand you that purse. My advice? Get a good agent who can put you where you belong… not in a karaoke bar.”

I was grateful for his candor but agents kept turning me down. The agent I did get never found me work and kept calling me for business advice. I didn’t tell the judge that though. I just thanked him and went home.

Me, singing at the Voice of the Martyrs fund raising concert

That night was a win, but I still lost. So, how to you gauge yourself? Even with good odds, I still lose and I’ve got thousands of stories just like these.

Do we ever get used to losing, or does the stigma just follow us so long that we come to expect it? Do we subconsciously do things to perpetuate the action of losing simply out of habit?

For instance, I had completely stopped “putting myself out there” to be wrapped in failure again, when I found Vocal.


I lose.

All. The. Time!

BUT, I've made friends I love and have a supportive writing community. I've written things I didn’t think possible and have enjoyed every moment, even the losing because the winners are amazing.

Are the winners better than me, or my friends? No. They just won. Their work was good, too, and it had something the judges were looking for. I support them and applaud their wins because I recognize their work was deserving.

Still, I find it hilarious that I spent all these years trying to avoid the sting of losing by burying myself in my work and not competing anymore, and here I am... happily lining up to lose.

The long and short of it? I guess we all want to win. Some people win all the time. Some people get lucky now and again. And some of us?

Just don't win.

I guess what you actually win from losing makes it okay to be a loser.

Bad habitsTeenage yearsSchoolHumanityFriendshipFamilyEmbarrassment

About the Creator

Veronica Coldiron

I'm a mild-mannered project accountant by day, a free-spirited writer, artist, singer/songwriter the rest of the time. Let's subscribe to each other! I'm excited to be in a community of writers and I'm looking forward to making friends!

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Comments (28)

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  • S. A. Crawford5 months ago

    This is incredibly insightful, and I agree with you wholeheartedly; there is value in 'losing'. As a freelancer, I was turned down for work all the time, despite being overqualified, more than experienced, or just downright perfect for the project (in my eyes). I've gotten good at being told 'no', but it's always a fight to stay in a place where I'm not pessimistically expecting it. Thanks for putting these feelings into words, it really resonated with me. On a side note, you have a lovely voice - I always wished I could sing, so you're definitely a winner in my eyes!

  • C. Rommial Butler5 months ago

    Definitely deserving of a top story! You won me over! I find that the act of creation itself has become the win for me, and only lament the ways workaday life steals the energy I would otherwise apply thereto; but it sure does gladden my heart to see the fruits of others' creations in these rare idle moments. Don't stop, you're one of my faves!

  • Lena Folkert5 months ago

    I thought I’d already commented on this. Oops. Well. Truly inspiring writing. I always feel like a loser. Not even second place. But you had me re-examining some of my experiences with a different eye. Perspective. Is. Powerful. Congrats ona very well deserved top story. And LOVE the singing 💕💕💕 beautiful!

  • Tiffany Gordon 5 months ago

    I loved this piece and your writing Veronica! You're so gifted! I feel like we win every time we lace up because we made the effort! You have a very nice voice as well! Congrats on your TOP STORY! It was very well-deserved!

  • Novel Allen5 months ago

    Everyone wants to be a winner. Yet immersing oneself in what one loves is the key to winning. First win with yourself by accepting yourself I say, and the rest will follow as life ordains it. There is always something that we win at every day, we just have to open our eyes and see it. We are all winners in our own way. Wonderful story, congrats.

  • Jazzy 5 months ago

    Let me tell you, I lose so much more than I win- as a competitive tennis player. Worse yet, I am always complimented when I win “I can’t believe I beat you, you play so BEAUTIFULLY” I always want to scream lol but we have to keep trying :) I loved this story about you!!!!! You sound like such a FUN PERSON!

  • Stephanie Hoogstad5 months ago

    It does suck to continually enter contests only to not win, and that karaoke contest sounded at least a bit rigged from the start. Still, life's more about appreciating what we actually get, rather than worrying about what we lose out on. In hindsight, you got what seemed to be the better role in Sleeping Beauty, and you've found a great community to belong to through Vocal, if nothing else. I know, I know, it's no compensation, especially not in the moment. I get pretty disappointed when I don't win the challenges/contests that I enter, too. If nothing else, though, when we don't win, we get a slightly tougher skin from losing--at least, that's what I tell myself. Congrats on the Top Story!

  • Dave H.5 months ago

    Splendid Work! In life, it is inevitable that one has to go through formidable ordeals. We often lose to win, disconnect to reconnect, stumble and fall, only to rise once and for all.

  • Deasun T. Smyth5 months ago

    Congratulations on the Top Story! I can relate a bit, there where some vocal challenges I didn't enter because I was pretty sure I wasn't going to win. Well keep writing, I'm sure you'll win a challenge soon! You're one of my favourite writers on this platform. 👍😁

  • Rachel Deeming5 months ago

    YES! Well deserved TS, Veronica. Just thought I'd stop by again to say "Hooray!"

  • Amethyst Champagne5 months ago

    Yeah, I can relate to that.

  • Lamar Wiggins5 months ago

    Hurray! Back to say, Congeats!!!

  • Excellent work and Congratulations on your Top Story🎊❤️🤩📝👍

  • JBaz5 months ago

    I really enjoyed reading about your trials and challenges, I am so glad you started with the Snow white story. You do have a beautiful voice, that is not an easy song to pull off. Congratulations

  • Naomi Gold5 months ago

    Winning is a mindset. I’ve been winning my whole life. I can never be a loser, because I can never lose anything meant for me. Sure, I’ve competed for things I didn’t get. My mom put me in beauty pageants two years in a row, because of my beauty. She should’ve known better. I had selective mutism and wouldn’t even speak to the host when he put the microphone in my face. And I never heard the end of it. To this day, my mom is mad the child with the outgoing personality won. She put me in that competition for her. It was never about me. God had far bigger plans for me. I’ve been winning first place in various writing competitions since I was 8 years old. Because I’m a writer. My parents put me in soccer for several years. I was never the best player on the team. I played the saxophone alright, but I was never gonna make first chair. I was in dance classes for years. Never the best dancer. I was in art competitions, and I won some recognition, but never first place. I did have a judge recommend my mom take me to a drawing audition at the art college in the nearest city—I was in a room with tons of children in my age group, drawing a still life. And I did win a scholarship to children’s summer art classes that year. But as much as I lived these things, they were just hobbies. Not my purpose. I think people damage their self worth trying to be something they’re not. Even with the writing challenges… not every challenge will be for every writer. Not every publication will want everything a great writer submits. You have to know who you are, and not waste energy forcing something. Dissipated energy has no focus. Without focus, you’ll never get anywhere. That being said, I loved reading this, and nonfiction is YOUR strength. It’s where your voice is. I bet you even sing songs best when you write the lyrics yourself. Many people couldn’t write nonfiction if their life depended on it, even if they’re talented and accomplished. It should absolutely be your focus. I see people on Vocal competing in all these official and unofficial challenges, writing stuff they’d NEVER write otherwise to “challenge” themselves, and I think WTF. That’s a great way to have no focus at all, and be completely off the path toward one’s purpose. You maybe didn’t want advice when you wrote this, but it’s coming from a genuine place. And congrats on your Top Story. 🥂

  • Alexander McEvoy5 months ago

    I never had the same experience with plays and such at school. Far too awkward and anti-social. But I empathize with you :) I'm an other one who never wins it seems, though I'm also extremely happy to have found the wonderful people here on Vocal :) Congratulations on a well deserved and deeply touching Top Story :)

  • Alex H Mittelman 5 months ago

    Great work! And congrats on top story!

  • I think the problem with competitions especially things like Bocal Challenges is that they are Subjectively judged, not objectively judged. The problem is if you could win by ticking boxes then the writing would become tedious. So just can easily judge who wins a race, but not what is the best piece of writing.If the comments on my stories were anything to go by I would have placed in many challenges , but I have never placed, but those comments show me my value. Your piece is excellent, well done

  • Matthew Fromm5 months ago

    wonderfully expressing many of my own thoughts in ways I never could, congrats on the top story.

  • Donna Renee5 months ago

    Thank you for writing this! ❤️❤️ you are so talented, don’t let the losses stack up in your heart, and treasure the wins no matter what they are!

  • Cathy holmes5 months ago

    Congrats on the TS.

  • Cathy holmes5 months ago

    You have such a beautiful voice, and your writing is top notch. You're a winner to me.

  • Babs Iverson5 months ago

    Winner, winner, winner!!! Awesome story!!!❤️❤️💕 Never a loser, there are no losers!!! There are only learners. My favorite quote, "if I am not winning, I am learning." Confessing, I have for brief moments questioned, "what have I learned?" I have learned to be thankful and grateful.

  • Ohhh that Gloria! How dare she hold hands with Jeff! I will finish her! God I can only imagine how your little heart would have felt when you saw that. I'm so sorry. Also, being the witch is like the best thing ever! What's better than being able to curse people? Nothing! If you ask me, Gloria's the loser! I mean Jeff had a crush on you, not her. So you did win although it didn't feel like it at that time. Moving on to the karaoke, makes sense that the owners want potential regulars to win. But hey, yours got all 10s and a standing ovation! Now that's a much better prize to be won. Anyone can win a title and get prices but only a few gets full marks from the judges and a standing ovation. So you won, although you didn't feel like it at that time. And screw those agents! Now as for on Vocal, I feel it's more like what happened at the karaoke, if you get what I mean. Your readers love your stories and I'm your biggest fan! Well, if that still makes you feel like a loser, then let's be losers together, lol! As for losing, I'm used to it. I have long given up hope and desires. I always aim low and avoid disappointment. Sometimes I just don't aim at all. So whevener even the smallest good thing happens, I'm always pleasantly surprised. Hope is a biatch! It breeds misery!

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