Insights | Analysis | Approch

So You Lost the Race: Recovering from Ego Death

Well, it’s 9 o’clock on election night, and after frantically refreshing the Secretary of State election website, you get a glimpse of the initial result… and it’s not looking good. Your stomach drops. The voices in the room dwindle to a silence for what feels like an eternity. Some mumbles. Shuffles. Your family, friends, supporters all come to the realization that this election ended, not with a bang, but with a kaput.

You give some loose remarks while trying not to cry and keep your voice from breaking. This make-shift concession speech, the pièce de résistance, a hastily crafted word vomit that incorporates thank you’s, congratulations to your opponent, and some nonsensical promises of what’s to come next. You do it all with a straight face.

How could this have happened? 

It was that campaign manager’s fault for only working 80 hours a week because they insisted on “work-life boundaries.” It was the volunteers’ fault for not canvassing hard enough and not taking PTO to doorknock for you. Mostly, it was the fault of the consulting firm you had to introduce yourself to several times that swore spending 60% of the budget on 6 different mailers, for which they took 40% of the cut, was the best strategy. 

Oh I knew I should have gone with that dope plucky, upstart and successful political consultant firm! They’re quite literally so dope, tight and cool, ugh! What was their name again?

So, now what? Do you retreat into the political wilderness, only to come back as a consultant offering sage advice based on your extensive experience of losing an election? Or maybe you “escape reality,” enter a deep depressive funk as you recount this harrowing experience and how much debt you’re in, only to be mocked by those stupid yard signs you have left over because everyone who said they wanted one stopped responding when it was time to get one? 

Whether you like it or not, you’re experiencing an ego death. 

Fear not though, as this is a badge of honor for the countless other pseudo-political analysts (and failed podcasters!) When you get to this point, there’s only one thing you can do: remember why you ran.

Sure, you wanted to be the person adored by thousands of voters, which would only have lasted two weeks into office until the public turned on you. But that’s not why you decided to run, to suffer, to work your ass off. It’s not why your severely underpaid campaign manager, your volunteers, your family, literally everybody who supported you by contributing dollars, time, energy, and care, did so to see you live out your 7th grade insecurity-fueled dreams come true.

You did this for those who supported you and didn’t support you. You did this because you care about your district and community. You should be thankful you had a chance to really explore, talk, and meet with its people from all different backgrounds. Those interactions should remind you why you ran, what you believe in, & why we need leadership who will be held accountable to all the communities that helped shape you. You’ve learned so much.

The work doesn’t stop here. Life and continuing to fight—with and for community—isn’t dictated by campaigns. It was always just an organizing opportunity—another step on this journey forward, fighting for the changes we need. 

There will be another city council meeting. And even if you didn’t get elected to sit at the dais, you can show up, take notes, send an email to the list you just built, bring people next time to influence a critical vote, and ensure your community is represented when it’s time to make decisions. The legislative session looms, and there are so many ways to influence your legislators.

I hope you look forward to continuing to do this work, in whatever way that may look like, together with the community you care so much for. And when you’re ready to try again, maybe give that dope, thoughtful, and calculated firm a call.