I Don't Know What I'm Doing, But I Keep Doing It

I recently got a request for a makeup consultation. The overriding sentiment among the person was that she didn't feel sure about herself when applying makeup: "Sometimes I feel great when putting on makeup, and other times, I feel like I should never touch it again," she said.

She'd seen some of my work posted and guessed I may be coming from a place of more surety and could somehow tutor her towards that feeling. I told her flatly that I suffer the exact same inconsistent confidence about makeup. Not a great selling point, but I suffer from a case of honesty.

Truth is, it isn't just makeup. It's a lot of things in life that I've pursued. I've been a writer for as long as I can remember, but it's a fresh psychological experience every time I sit down in front of a keyboard. I never really know what's going to happen. Despite a journalism degree and nearly 10 years of professional writing, here's the thing: I still don't know what I'm doing. That's the wonder of it, and the pain of it.

A few years back, I moved into the financial services world to gain a sense of surety: The formulaic promise that if you add X to Y, you'll get Z outcome. My mind has become both comforted and numbed by the logical outcomes.

When I write, or when I do makeup, the outcome is always unknown. In a lot of ways, I'm just riding on instinct and a voice in the back of my head that says, "Try this and see what happens." I mess up a lot. I apply and see the result, then amend as needed. I write and examine the sentence, then delete as needed.

I have punishing self-doubt in both realms. And yet I keep doing it. I saw a comedy routine recently where the comic seemed absolutely scripted with his performance. Moreover, he was confident to the point of screaming many of his jokes.

At the end of the show, he confessed something: "I've been doing this for 20 years, and most of the time, I have no idea what I'm going to do right before a show. You just keep doing it, and eventually, you get better by sheer persistence and being in the game."

This thought was fresh in my mind this weekend as I attempted a few different makeup looks. I was anxious in a way I hadn't been in a while, so uncomfortable with that sense of, "I don't know what I'm doing" that I considered backing out.

The finished products on all looks were a pleasant surprise, especially to me. As I worked, I got comfortable in the skin of uncertainty. I realized it's actually a pretty amazing spot to be in.

My advice to anyone with a passion is to allow that self-doubt to propel you forward, rather than make you shrink in fear.

Keep doing what you don't know.

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