Grading Life on a Curve

Way back in the last century, I attended design college. I learned many aspects of the fashion business. I learned to drape garments on a dress form and then turn the draped pieces of fabric into a paper pattern which could then be used to produce 100s or 1,000s of garments. Pattern making was something I could do all day. I excelled at it and received A grades in each class.

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As part of the program, I was required to take 3 levels of figure drawing classes. Budding fashion designers needed to be able to draw 9-head figures. The model used for fashion design drawings is 9 heads tall proportionally. (see drawing at left)

The teacher, who I had in all 3 drawing classes, graded on a curve. He had a picture in his mind of what A-level work should look like. The students who received A’s had been drawing 9 headed models since they were toddlers (just guessing :). These students did amazing work. I hadn’t even heard of a 9-head figure until I began the class. I could look at a drawing and replicate it well. But, drawing from my imagination, which is what was required in this class – not so much. I received a C grade in all three of my figure drawing classes.

My drawings did not match the picture the teacher had in his head for A grades.

I did my best work, but because my drawings weren’t as beautiful as more experienced students, I felt penalized with C grades.

I mention the picture in his head, because well, we ALL do this. There are places in your life where you have a picture of the way things SHOULD be. If reality doesn’t match the picture you have, you or your loved ones or the guy at the grocery story may receive a penalty from you.

When what happens doesn’t match the picture in your head, the penalties look like meanness to yourself and others. Correcting your loved ones about the way they “should” be acting. Obvious disappointment with your kids when they don’t behave in ways that fit your picture. Withholding approval from yourself and others. No smile or thank you for the guy at the grocery store. You get the idea.


Unexamined pictures in our minds of the ways things should be can cause us to grade life on a curve.

I worked hard in that class and what I needed from that art teacher was encouragement and an attagirl once-in-a- while for my efforts. I didn’t get it. Instead I got a grade that felt like punishment. Can you tell it still stings a bit when I think about it?!

Want to stop grading your life on a curve? Take a look at the pictures and expectations you have in your mind for as many areas of your life that you can stand to look at.

I mentioned the grocery guy earlier. I check myself and my picture before a visit to the store because I have an expectation of how my groceries should be packed. I grade the bagger with a lack of acknowledgment or kindness if I forget to be aware of the picture of perfectly packed groceries before I go to the store. In this example, I could just bag my own groceries, but the point is to be aware of your expectations for yourself and others so you can be kind. Awareness of our pictures and expectations allows clarity so you can express your life from a place of love or at the least, neutrality, instead of from the shoulds hanging around in your head.

So, where have you been grading your life on a curve? Let me know on Facebook.