A couple of weeks ago, I went to MAC and bought a tube of matte red lipstick (and an accompanying lip pencil). I knew I would have to practice applying the colour before I went out wearing it because that shade, though gorgeous, can’t be fudged or smudged. I am embarrassed to admit that, from the time I was very little, I hated to practice things. I believed that if things didn’t come easily to me or I had to work at them and practice them, it meant that I was incapable of them or that I wasn’t smart. This is called learned helplessness: giving up on things soon after I have started them – or not trying things at all – when I felt I would fail or knew I was failing. I have worked to overcome my learned helplessness, to try things of which I am afraid, to persist even when things are hard, and to be willing to make mistakes and to fail. It hurts me and makes me very uncomfortable, but I realized a long time ago that I was doing myself a massive disservice and missing out on so much by running away from things of which I was afraid or that required more effort and practice than I believed I could give.

I feel kind of stupid blogging out ‘practicing’ applying lipstick before I make it a part of my daily routine, but it’s still something I knew I would have to ‘face’ when I bought it. I knew, if I wanted to wear it at all, I would have to work until I ‘got it right’ enough times in order to wear it to the grocery store, to work, and out with friends. I practiced applying it tonight and it was tricky, but I am willing to keep practicing it until it becomes easier. I don’t know why I have such an aversion to trying things I feel I might fail; I grew up with a mother who tries too hard at everything. She works so hard – and is willing to keep trying – even when things are hard for her. I’m amazed that I didn’t grow up with the same philosophy, and that it’s still something I have to consciously choose and consistently work on.

My friend Kara wears red lipstick like nobody’s business. She’s perfected the art of applying and wearing it. I’m certain, though, that this took practice, consistency, and willingness to smudge the lines a bit before she got it right. I have to adopt a similar philosophy, not just with regards to red lipstick, but to anything that is new, difficult, or uncertain. I have to accept that I will make mistakes and fail, but that this is a natural part of any learning process and experience. I heard once that we only learn by making mistakes because the mistake informs us how to get things right and do them better. I wouldn’t have anything to learn from if I never failed. Even when I practice something until I do it well, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be times where I still don’t slip up, but it’s natural. It’s something with which I still struggle to contend.

I will practice my lipstick application tomorrow and then – if I feel confident enough – debut it on Monday at work. If I don’t feel quite confident enough, I will keep practicing the look in the evenings until I do it well enough, and then I will wear the lipstick to the office. I’m interested in how it might change my confidence or affect the way I present myself. I’m curious as to how people will respond to me and how it will make me feel. I will only know if I practice and maintain a consistent willingness to try.  


About Norah

writer. aspiring editor.
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