I pay a guy who's a professional writer to read my stuff and shred it. The way it works is I slave over an article and pour out my best creative effort. I harness disparate thoughts and the collision of ideas into solid literary prose. Something sure to move readers deeply. Maybe even lead to a book deal.
When I finish my articles I sit back with a grin. "This one's the bomb," I'll think to myself. But before I hit the publish button, I send the piece over to my writing coach. "Just to tie up any loose ends," I tell myself.
But who am I kidding. Before long, my tattered piece of literary brilliance lands back in my in box. All marked up. Little arrows attached to succinct comments. "You started off okay, but it fell apart here," one comment might say. "What I think you meant to say is this..." another notation reads. "Well, at least you can still draw cartoons." Okay, my coach didn't actually write that one, but you get the point.
Your Mom will always be your biggest fan. Same with your close friends. All artistic souls need support from time to time. But if you're serious about becoming a better you, you need objectivity. A critical eye. Whether it's a brutally honest writing coach or merciless personal trainer, you have to embrace constructive criticism.
Think back in school to the tough teachers you had. Not the ones who handed out easy A's, but the ones that made you work your butt off for that B. You felt a greater sense of accomplishment with the tough teachers. Because you knew you really earned that grade.
Same thing with becoming a better you. If you're serious about improving your fitness or art or craft, you need to find out what's not working. What's broken or flawed. To do that you need a tough teacher. An impartial, laser honest critic. Someone who won't pull any punches. It won't be easy, but you'll adjust. So long as the coach or instructor you use is qualified, constructive and honest, you'll benefit from his/her counsel.
I often hear about today's helicopter parents, teachers and coaches who protect young self esteems and make sure everyone gets a trophy. Well intentioned, I'm sure. I was a somewhat protective parent myself. But excessive praise sets kids up later in life for a difficult reality check. When they find out the truth. When the real world crashes down on them. When they discover that there are others who perform better.
If you're a parent, don't be afraid to challenge your kids with constructive criticism. Be kind but honest. My Dad was like that. He wasn't afraid to give it to me straight. If he saw flaws in my artwork, he'd point them out. But on the occasions he praised my work, it meant so much more to me.
I didn't send this article to my writing coach, so no doubt it could use some polish. But hopefully you get the point. Embrace constructive criticism if you're serious about becoming a better you. It might mean paying someone to be honest, but consider it money well spent. An investment in yourself!