(image from pixabay)
It was the end of my first year of uni (doing my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree) and I was nervously awaiting for my final results to pop up on the computer screen. I alternated between looking everywhere but the screen, and giving furtive little glances to see if the page had loaded yet (remember this was before high speed internet and just after we had graduated from dial-up). Inevitably the page did load and there were my results: passes and merits.
Not bad, not bad at all, especially from a kid who had failed to get the marks to get into uni straight out of high school, but was determined enough to make a go of it as a "mature student," i.e., in Australia you are considered a "mature student" at 21.
Yet, my little competitive heart clenched.... it was good, but not good enough. I wanted to be better, much much better.
And so I hit hard the obstacle that stops many of us from improving ourselves - was I prepared to accept (with an open-mind) and take on board the constructive criticism from my lecturers? Was I willing to step over my ego, embrace some humility, and step with open arms into the abyss of contradiction and argument in the hopes that my marks would improve by that time next year?
When we want to improve in life, whether that be our academic results, labour skill, hobbies, or even character strengths, we have to actually embrace the notion of being open to constructive criticism from those that are further down the path then us. We have to accept our imperfections, our mistakes, and we have to acknowledge that others may see what we don't see, that they may know well an easier path to take, and that in having made similar mistakes to ourselves, know how to rectify and improve themselves.
If we want to be truly open minded we have to accept that this will include constructive criticism - in fact we can't avoid it whether we are open or not - but your level of openness will predict how well you take the criticism and whether you will use it for good, or discard it for the status quo.
Constructive criticism generally comes from a place of support and encouragement - why would you be closed to that?
In my second year of uni I voraciously read the side note commentary written in the margins of my essays and art journals. I noted each approval and each criticism, most especially I noted suggestions for improvements. As the year went on my marks started to improve, until I finally found myself at that end of year again, nervously waiting for the screen with my marks to load.
Results: merits and distinctions.
Liz: 1, Ego: 0.
Being open to constructive criticism works.