Ah the creative critique. For one of vulnerable ego and the burning, insatiable need for affirmation (i.e. basically everyone in advertising) it can be either a thrilling confirmation of your talent or a 98 decibel announcement that you are in the wrong business. Perhaps that's why it's so hard to find people who actually will be straight with you about what they think.
Nobody wants to be the one who crushed you.
It would be easy to eat up all the sugar coating and go on your merry way. But you do need to know the truth. I mean, deep down, you do know the truth. Deep down there's a tiny art director in all of us that can be brutally honest. That yearns for something more from you. And that tiny art director is very often on to something and you need to listen to the tiny art director. But ultimately, if your tiny art director starts eating all the sugar coating that people sprinkle on their comments, then, well, you will truly begin to suck.
There's an illustrator out there who's tiny Art Director is actually his own daughter. He takes direction from her, the brief, he draws it, and then she critiques. Often her critiques are not at all kind.
Witness the tiny Art Director in action on this dinosaur project (one of many dinosaur projects, the tiny Art Director requisitions many a dino):
The Brief: A dinosaur chasing us
The Critique: Where's us? Draw us on the picture! I'm going to fix him the way I like him. This is how I don't like him. Please, please erase him! Erase him now!
Job Status: Rejected
Additional Comments: Get those claws out of here!
Artist Statement: The Tiny Art Director hates this more than anything I've ever done for her, with the possible exception of the crocodiles from the other day.
Most of the tiny Art Director's projects seem to go this way. He very often does not get them right. And that's true with all of our tiny Art Directors. If we really are being true to that voice, we would tear up our first idea, or even second idea, and start over. Maybe that means canceling the client meeting. So be it. Be true to your voice or it will stop speaking to you.
By the way, the tiny Art Director's dad put a book together of the projects that he did for his tiny Art Director. You should check it out.