Do you feel like a fraud as a cosmetology professional? Whether you professionally provide hair, nails, or skincare services — imposter syndrome can cause real feelings of doubt and fraud. While these feelings are real, it isn’t reality.
Let me first tell you about my experience with imposter syndrome and what you can do to feel a little more comfortable in your professional skin.
I’m a trained and licensed cosmetologist, but I feel like a fraud
As a hairstylist, I was woefully unprepared for the transition from my beauty school career to my cosmetology career. Like many of us, while my time at school was nearing an end, I was excitedly planning for the next stage of my life. I was confident in myself, I was comfortable in my environment, and I was proud of the skills I had honed in the last 14 months. What I hadn’t planned for was feeling like a fraud on my very first day of work.
My first day started out like most first days; I was nervous, but I was still confident in myself and my abilities. My confidence began to waver when I was asked to demonstrate cutting techniques on a mannequin. At that moment, I forgot everything I had been taught. Was I sectioning correctly? Should I have used a traveling guide or a stationary guide? Heck, was I even holding my shears and comb correctly? I fumbled through the demonstrations, getting more discouraged with every new cut.
My internal feelings of being a fraud were not reality
To my complete surprise, each cut I demonstrated was above acceptable. My manager was impressed and the more impressed she became, the more I felt myself regress. For months I clumsily performed dozens, maybe even hundreds of haircuts on clients. As before, I continued to struggle internally, while still putting out high-quality haircuts. How had I gone from a confident future professional to someone who couldn’t make it through a haircut without shaking? And why couldn’t I get my confidence back when my cuts were looking better than they ever have?
There is a name for this feeling
Around that time, I discovered something called “Imposter Syndrome”. In layman’s terms, imposter syndrome is present when someone doubts their talents, skills, and accomplishments, while simultaneously worrying about being exposed as an imposter or fraud.
Those with imposter syndrome often set their own expectations too high or have an unrealistic idea of what it means to be competent. Commonly, feelings of guilt may cause a subconscious fear of success or struggles with perfectionism.
These feelings are often brought on by environmental or stimuli changes, such as transitioning from a learning environment to a working environment.
There are things you can do to combat these feelings
Armed with this new information, I began actively fighting these intrusive negative thoughts one by one. Although it wasn’t an easy process, I began to see myself as a professional who was worthy of success.
After almost a year of self-doubt and internal struggle, I finally felt that I was on the same level as my coworkers. While I was happy with where I now found myself, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other beauty professionals went through a similar internal process upon transitioning from school to work.
Books and Resources
Here are three books that helped me overcome these thoughts that were holding my professional career back.
- Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (affiliate link)
- Imposter Syndrome Remedy: How to improve your self-worth, feel confident about yourself, and stop feeling like a fraud! (affiliate link)
- The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (affiliate link)
I promise you are far from alone with these feelings
Although I felt like I couldn’t confide in anyone about my secret fraud status, I discovered a large percentage of beauty professionals experience feelings of imposter syndrome.
Some professionals believe it is due to the sudden lack of support from an instructor or a mentor. Others believe imposter syndrome is caused when a new graduate sees services performed by established professionals and believes their own skill set should be held to a higher standard. Personally, I believe a combination of different factors contributes to imposter syndrome, causing the number of those affected to steadily increase. Possibly you have struggled with these feelings in other areas, long before cosmetology school.
Females are also far more likely to experience imposter feelings, so it makes sense why it is a common feeling in our female-dominated industry.
What can cosmetology instructors or schools do to prepare students for recognizing and dealing with imposter syndrome?
To combat the number of new graduates suffering from imposter syndrome, schools should begin preparing students for the transition to the workplace early on in their learning careers. Courses on imposter syndrome will make students more aware of the accompanying feelings, how to overcome these feelings, and how to receive help if they are unable to overcome these feelings on their own. With the high prevalence of imposter syndrome in new beauty industry professionals, schools should be required to provide mental health information and additional resources to current students and new graduates.
In the event a new graduate has to process these feelings on their own, there are several agreed-upon coping mechanisms for dealing with and beating imposter syndrome. The most recommended coping mechanisms are geared at reframing your way of thinking over a period of time. These methods involve reconsidering your perceptions about failure, success, and the situation at hand, while also reaffirming your self-worth. While these methods are in no way a quick fix, they will allow you to refine your thought process long-term and overcome imposter syndrome once and for all!
You are not a fraud! You are a capable, amazing professional!
Whether you are currently experiencing feelings of imposter syndrome or you are nervous about these feelings creeping up, imposter syndrome does not make you any less of a beauty industry professional. It is also important to remember imposter syndrome is not a permanent destination, but just a stop along the way.
I never thought imposter syndrome was something I could overcome. I thought I just had to live with it. But I am proof you can overcome these feelings and move forward with your career with confidence. I want you to have the same freedom from these feelings and the success that comes with it.
Regardless of what phase you are in, imposter syndrome is beatable by setting and working towards obtainable goals, and remembering that you are capable and completely deserving of success.