Is Life Graded on a Curve?

I remember taking tests when I was an engineering student at OSU.  Every course is so hard that there is a running joke that you only survive “on the curve”.  Grading on a curve means that grades are never absolute, they are *always* relative to how everyone else did in the class.  Thus, you don’t actually have to do “good” on the test to get an A, you just have to do better than everyone else … because everyone fails.  I remember how impossibly hard those tests were – I remember once getting a score of something insanely low, like 42% … and because of the ‘curve’, I got an ‘A’.  42% knowledge mastery was an ‘A’.  Hmmm.

I was battling depression in college though, and I don’t think the meaning of the ‘A’ really sunk in.  The meaning of an A on a curve means that I still did better compared to my peers – I understood the material better than most of my peers – which really means … THE TEST WAS WRONG.  If “everyone” failed the test, then the test was clearly not a valid measure.  To someone battling depression however, it is the 42% that sticks – the failure.  My best, after all that studying, is 42% of what it ‘should’ be?  What a depressing thought!

Is life like this?

We go around feeling like we should be doing ‘better’, somehow managing better all the crazy that life throws at us.  We should get everything done and never mess up.  We judge ourselves, and berate ourselves, against a fictitious, universal measure of what we’ve decided our lives should be like.  But what if the TEST is wrong – what if it is our “measure”, our comparisons, that are wrong?  If we always “expect” life to be different than it is, and we continually never measure up to our standards, then we are setting ourselves up for a life of mental misery.  We’ve designed a test that we are guaranteed to fail.

Maybe it is NOT that there is something inadequate about us. Maybe it is NOT that somehow we have to be ‘better’ to get an A on the test.  Maybe, just maybe, it is our EXPECTATION that is off.  We are expecting life to be different than it is.  Expecting things to be perfect, to be only smooth, only light.  But life IS messy, life IS challenging.  Without challenge, we’d never grow.  EVERYBODY has first learned to walk by messing up and falling sometimes   … this is true at EVERY age.  We need to accept tripping and falling if we want to still learn and grow and evolve into new areas of life.  We need to stop beating ourselves up over these things and rather ACCEPT them as a true part of life’s landscape. 

Life is amazing, and it’s going to be imperfect!

What about you?  Are you routinely giving yourself a failing grade when it is really just your expectations that are unrealistic?  Where is an area in your life that you can start giving yourself some ‘slack’ – maybe better celebrate a “baby step”, or give yourself a free pass on a mistake?

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