Keep Going! The road to believing in yourself is full of potholes of self-doubt. But, each time you’re met with fear and push through or set a goal for yourself and achieve it, you prove to yourself you can do it! That confidence will only continue to build over time. Each day you wake up is a chance to try again. It’s never early to start, and it’s never too late to try.
Starting something new is scary. Learning to believe in yourself can be a critical precursor to starting a new initiative. Why is it so important to learn to believe in yourself? How can someone work on gaining these skills? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, authors, writers, coaches, medical professionals, teachers, to share empowering insights about “How To Learn To Believe In Yourself.” As a part of this series we had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Duncan.
Rachel Duncan is an award-winning makeup artist, aspiring author, and the owner of the luxury bridal makeup company Color Me Gorgeous. Rachel has been featured in Yahoo and Rose, Inc. Color Me Gorgeous, a sought-after luxury airbrush bridal makeup experience in NY and beyond. Rachel’s colossal heart and signature “CMG Natural Glam Bridal Look” have made her one of the most in-demand makeup artists and educators on the East Coast, with brides flying her internationally to celebrate her big day.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you for having me! I grew up on a farm in Upstate NY. I spent my summers bailing hay and my falls, splitting wood. Mornings were reserved for letting the horses and goats out to pasture, and after school was spent mucking stalls and tending to animals, then homework. My grandparents lived a field away, and I can’t tell you how many times I raced my sister through a herd of cows or how many summer afternoons we spent catching crayfish in the creek.
Growing up, I was rarely without a book in my hand. My favorite place to read was in the loft of the barn. My Mom taught me to read when I was very young and always encouraged my love of literature. As a little girl, the library was like my Disneyland. I think I’ve always craved knowledge, and I was born with a natural curiosity to understand the world and, more importantly, the people in it.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I always thought I was going to be a lawyer! The running joke with my dad was I could outlast the energizer bunny. I’ve always been passionate about things, and regardless of the topic, I would argue my point long enough that my opposition would just get tired and give up. In my youth, that was mistaken for always wanting to be correct. I just wanted to show people there was a different way to see things. I wanted to feel understood.
Honestly, I’ve just always loved people. My career began in retail management and eventually moved into beauty/skincare education for Sephora. Beauty has the power to transform and the ability to build confidence in this almost magical way. It’s not about the makeup at all; that’s just a vessel. It’s about the person wearing it and the transformative manner in which they see themselves. Think about the power you feel in putting on a suit, getting a fresh haircut, or after a good workout. That’s the same kind of power that a tiny tube of lipstick can hold.
Back in 2013, a month before my wedding, I took a leap of faith. I was in Vegas for a brand summit with Sephora when I decided I wanted to start a bridal makeup company. I didn’t need to be the best makeup artist. I just needed to be a good makeup artist who cared about my clients and their big day. One who would listen to them and help create what beauty meant to them. The wedding industry was lucrative (I was paying for my own at the time), and the idea of connecting with new people and going out on my own was so exciting. I was also so petrified. But it just felt right. I called my fiancé (now husband) and pitched him my idea. He was terrified. I had a good job, and we wanted to buy a house within the following year. He knew me well enough to know that there was no talking me out of something once I had put my mind to it. I asked him to trust me. I told him I would do everything in my power to succeed. I said, “Give me two years, and I will be working for myself full-time.” He agreed.
I experienced the highest and lowest highs in those two years. The doubt swooped in constantly, but I kept pushing forward. I wouldn’t let us down. I worked all kinds of other jobs while I was trying to get my business off the ground. The last one being for a company that sold replacement doors and windows. This was a commission-only job. If I didn’t sell, I didn’t get paid. I was the only woman on a team of career salesmen. I had to start at the bottom on the gutters. Within a month, I worked my way up to the big leagues, windows. Between that job and building my company, I worked seven days a week for nine months.
I left that job when I had enough weddings booked out to support myself financially. That was in 2015. And weddings were just the beginning. I can’t begin to explain my gratitude for every client who took a chance on me in those early years and every client who has invested and believed in me since.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is a good one. When I first started doing makeup on clients, I was terrible at applying false lashes. I didn’t know how to place them properly or the right glue to use. I had no idea you needed to let the glue get tacky or that you needed to measure and cut them to fit the client’s eye shape. I was so worried they would fall off halfway down the aisle. Ha-ha, Instead, I guided clients to a more natural makeup look. I curled their lashes and applied lots of mascara. I told them that less was more.
It’s funny now because I rarely ever do a bridal look without some kind of false lashes. But at the time, it was more important for me to be confident in the look I created for my clients than to offer a service I couldn’t guarantee. So the integrity of my work has been and will continue to be very important to me.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
This project was incredible to be a part of! To grow, we must be willing to put ourselves in new and, at times, uncomfortable situations to level up and develop new skill sets. Through this project, I had the chance to be in front of the camera instead of behind it, and it’s a great way to step into the shoes of some of my clients and experience life from a whole new lens. The topic at hand is self-confidence and building trust, and I wanted to demonstrate that instead of just talking about it. Thanks for giving me a chance to walk the walk.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to believe in yourself? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Self-belief is one of the most important skills you can cultivate to grow in any area of your life. It’s essential for growth and forward movement. It’s truly an endless power source of inspiration and determination. In your life, you will be faced with lots of challenges and opportunities. The thing that stops most people from seizing those opportunities or facing those challenges is doubt. They quit. They say they didn’t want it to begin with. They give up. They make every excuse they can to not even try because it feels safer to stay where you are than head into the unknown.
Eventually, enough time goes by, and you stop going after your dreams altogether. Instead, you settle for a life inside the proverbial box. Not because you aren’t worthy or talented enough to live a life full of happiness and success waiting just outside. But simply because you didn’t believe in yourself enough to climb out of the box.
My father passed away when I was 12. Pulmonary embolism.
My mother passed away when I was 32. Brain aneurism.
Last month, at 34, my grandma passed away, and I became the oldest living woman in my family.
These life-altering losses have taught me many things, one being life waits for no one. Every moment on this planet is a gift — precious, irreplaceable sands in an hourglass of time.
If you knew how little time you had, would you spend ANY of it doubting yourself? Would you let fear guide and control your decision-making?
I absolutely won’t. And neither should you.
Had my self-belief been influenced only by the people around me, when the people I loved died, so would have a lot of my belief in myself.
Careers, relationships, where you live, political climate, and world affairs change constantly. You must rely on something other than those things to be your North Star. We’re all born with an inner guidance system. You must learn to develop and trust it. When you become the fixed point, the center of your certainty, the Universe becomes your playground. That’s when life gets fun. It is in that certainty that your confidence and happiness will shine.
What exactly does it mean to believe in yourself? Can I believe that I can be a great artist even though I’m not very talented? Can I believe I can be a gold medal Olympic even if I’m not athletic? Can you please explain what you mean?
Believing in yourself is reframing how you view yourself and your approach to the world. It knows you will encounter doubt, failures, and hardship, and you will continue, despite those challenges. It knows your desire is stronger than the opposition you’re facing.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
This happens to me all the time! No one is perfect, and we all experience moments of doubt. That’s normal. You just cannot decision make or operate from that place. In my experience, when I’ve second-guessed myself or held back, it’s something I’ve regretted. I believe anything worth doing is worth giving your all. When I’ve made decisions based on the opinions of others, I have almost always regretted the outcome. It didn’t feel authentic, and that’s something that is incredibly important to me. In those situations, my work and relationships suffered. When you trust your instincts, the outcomes will naturally align with your desires. And you’ll be proud of who you become in the process.
At what point did you realize that in order to get to the next level, it would be necessary to build up your belief in yourself? Can you share the story with us?
There was a time in my business after I had my first son when I felt defeated. I was a new mom trying to scale my company and felt so lost. I was taking advice from everyone around me on navigating life with my new baby and balancing a business. I was failing miserably. I was so unhappy. One day, I had driven to Starbucks to get my son to sleep and grab myself a coffee. I felt guilty about this because so many people had told me not to let my son get used to sleeping in the car, or he would never nap anywhere else. I pulled out my laptop and started working while he napped in the backseat — another heavy feeling of guilt. I had gotten a lot of pushback for not taking extended maternity leave. Well-intentioned moms had told me I needed to be soaking in every second and work could wait. But I missed it, and I felt guilty for missing it.
I started working and sipping my coffee while he napped in the backseat with the window down. A woman pulled up next to me and smiled. She said, “GOOD FOR YOU! You do whatever you have to do to get some peace, Mama!” And she drove away. This was a life-altering moment. At that moment, I realized how much peace my work brought to my life.
My work is what brings out some of the best parts of myself. It allows me to feel connected to others and have the freedom to create. I didn’t want to choose; I wanted both. To love and adore my son AND do the work that brings me an incredible feeling of service and fulfillment.
The moment I started believing in myself again and trusting I knew what was best for me was when everything started falling into place again. My son is five now, and our Starbucks dates are still one of our favorite things to do together.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Be grateful for your failures.
Failure is all part of the process. We need to make mistakes to realize that a way of doing, thinking, or being is not working for us. In the raw and realness of these misalignments, we can get clear on who and what we want to be. Or simply how we would like to do something differently. This happens to me daily with my boys. Kids will level-set you like no other. One morning I was trying to get everyone out the door, and we were running very late. I was rushing my five-year-old to get his shoes on to move things along. The harder I pushed, the slower he put them on until he was finally so frustrated with me that he yelled, “Mommy! Why do I have to go faster just because you’re running late? My brain can’t think when you’re talking at me like that!” Gut check. He was absolutely right. Why should his morning be rushed and chaotic because of my poor time management? I could do better. I started setting a timer for the boys fifteen minutes before we needed to leave so they knew when to put their shoes on, and it created buffer time for me so no one felt rushed. They absolutely love the timer trick. Our mornings are not perfect, but they are much more relaxed, which helps everyone start the day better — that messy morning, ultimately, led to an even better outcome than I could have hoped for.
2. Create a strategy.
Once you’ve set your goal, write down everything you need to achieve it. Then chunk it out into manageable tasks. Now you’ve built your plan. You’ve already done something to support yourself.
When I wanted to learn how to apply false lashes properly, I needed a plan. So first, I researched all the ways I could find that explained false lash application. Next, I read articles, watched YouTube videos about it, took makeup classes from other artists, and I practiced on myself. Then I started practicing on other people.
These small goals, achieved over time, were a step towards my bigger goal. With each step under my belt, I began to feel more confident to take the next one. Eventually, I started applying them to clients. And now, it’s one of my favorite techniques to teach while educating other artists in my classes.
3. Confidence is a practiced skill. So, practice!
Public speaking. Traveling. Makeup artistry. Writing. Cooking. Exercising. Playing an instrument. Being in relationships. The list is endless, but people are rarely naturally good at these things the first time. They are skills learned through dedicated practice. You must be willing to put the work in to receive the outcome. Building belief in yourself is no different. Recently, I was asked to be part of an industry panel to discuss roadblocks and solutions in our sector. It was a large-scale public speaking event, and I was nervous. The first time was amazing! I felt prepared and confident. For the next event, I didn’t do as much preparation because I felt like I had done well the first time, so this would be no different. I was wrong. The structure wasn’t the same as the first panel — different experts. The audience was frustrated — a completely different scenario. I didn’t hold my composure as well as I could have. I got flustered and defensive. I debated poorly, and my temper overshadowed my message. I left that forum feeling defeated, embarrassed, and incredibly disappointed in myself. I easily could have shifted the blame to how the event was structured or decided to quit the panel. This wasn’t a necessity for my business, but it was necessary for my growth. It was an opportunity to learn more about what makes a strong debater and public speaker. It was a chance to grow my skill set and try again. I’ve been studying, preparing, and practicing. I’ll let you know how the next panel goes.
4. Stop making excuses and enjoy the experience!
Have fun! Last year I had a client fly me to St. Lucia for her wedding. It was the first time I traveled internationally for work by myself. There were a million reasons I could have said no. First, the traveling ministry had many restrictions and a lot of paperwork due to Covid. Second, I have a family that needs me. Third, ensuring your makeup kit is TSA-compliant takes a LOT of work. And on and on. Had I focused on all the reasons not to go and kept making excuses, I would have missed out on the experience of a lifetime. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever experienced, and I learned so much about myself during that time. I discovered a love for exploring new cultures and places. And as someone who did very little travel alone in her 20s, I am making up for it in my 30s! I plan to travel back with my family at some point. And it opened the door for destination brides all over the world. I’m currently working on a contract for a bride in Europe!
5. Keep Going!
The road to believing in yourself is full of potholes of self-doubt. But, each time you’re met with fear and push through or set a goal for yourself and achieve it, you prove to yourself you can do it! That confidence will only continue to build over time. Each day you wake up is a chance to try again. It’s never early to start, and it’s never too late to try.
Experiencing so much loss in my life has changed how I approach the world. I often had my entire belief in self-being generated only by the people around me. When the people I loved died, so would have a lot of faith in myself. It’s incredible to have a robust support system. We all need a little encouragement from time to time. For confidence to be sustainable, it must come from you first.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
Changing the way you see yourself takes time. People overlook the fact that your relationship with yourself is just that, a relationship. You must take time to cultivate and nurture that dynamic. If you find a particular line of negative self-talk coming up continuously, start writing it down. Read what you’ve written. Would you talk to anyone else like that? Would you let anyone talk to you like that? The answer should be absolutely no. Now that you know your old narrative, write yourself a new one. If you wrote, “I am horrible at public speaking,” change that to “I am actively working on becoming a better public speaker.” Then do one small thing that supports that new narrative. Maybe you post a video of you talking on your social media. Or you order a book about how to shake the nerves of public speaking. Maybe you answer in class or speak up during a work meeting. Remember, small actions hold significant meaning.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
Even the most confident people are only confident some of the time. To build confidence, you must first experience doubt. It’s in that polarity you can grow the bond of trust with yourself. Experiencing doubt is normal, and it’s our brain’s way of protecting us from the unknown. Once you realize that’s all it is, you can decide if what you are trying to achieve is worth the leap of faith. My vote is always yes.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
We’ve all been there. You are not alone. Imposter syndrome is very real and often comes in cycles. Even doing this interview, I’ve had many moments where I thought, “Why me? Why do I deserve this platform or opportunity?”
View those moments as opportunities to rise to the occasion. Be grateful for the platform or experience before you, and do everything you can to make the most of it. Be clear in your message. Be intentional with your voice. Never stop putting in the work; there are always new ways of doing and thinking to explore. Use your power and influence to do something to make the world a better place. Find a way to use your talents to help others. It’s something you’ll never regret.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Random acts of kindness are my favorite ways to bring light to people around you. You never know what someone is going through or what their experiencing. The person in line at the coffee shop might have just got a Cancer diagnosis. The kid you just saw steal a bag of chips might be trying to feed his siblings. The waitress who was rude to you and your friends might have just gotten evicted from her apartment. Give. Give patience. Give kindness. Give grace. Give understanding. Give time. Give in whatever ways you can. A feeling of abundance comes from being able to give back to our communities and the people around us. It’s a small way to make a big difference.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
My assistant, Grace, lives and breathes Taylor Swift. She spent one afternoon giving me a breakdown of each album, era, and the deep meaning and representation of each, right down to wardrobe and makeup influences. And as someone who has been so inspired by Taylor Swift, unfortunately, she’s never had the chance to see her in concert.
Grace is my real lifeline most days. She is talented, and I am blessed to have her on my team. I have to use this opportunity to get Grace connected with Taylor. Because she has had such an immensely positive impact on her life, and I know how much it would mean to her. Taylor, help make Grace’s dream come true, and let’s do brunch!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for having me! I would love to share more life and beauty with your readers! Come hang out with me over on my Instagram @color_me_gorgeousxo or TikTok @color_me_gorgeous. To chat business proposals or serious partnership inquiries, I would love to connect via my website, www.colormegorgeous.me.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.