suemclaurinmakeup, Sue McLaurin Makeup Artist, brisbane makeup artist, editorial makeup

How to deal with Makeup Artist Anxiety

Earlier this week a fellow makeup artist (who does beautiful work, and has plenty of experience), posted in a Facebook group about how she is currently dealing with crippling anxiety. The responses from other artists were incredible.  Of course, many artists offered her words of support, but what saddened me was to read how many other artists deal with the same feelings and anxieties.

My first message to you all is:  You are NOT ALONE.  As was obvious in that thread, many of us feel the same way from time to time, we doubt our abilities, and feel that we can’t carry on.  This is normal!

I too have felt this way many, many times in my career (and in my life in general).  Just a few years ago, when I went through a very traumatic separation, I suffered terrible anxiety, doubted myself and my work and really struggled as an artist.  I was actually diagnosed with situational depression, anxiety and PTSD.  It took me a long time, and a lot of work to move beyond what lead me down that dark path, and of course those feelings will never truly leave me, they are always in the background.  But with a lot of work I have been able to learn to live with those feelings and thoughts, and to act and behave in support of my goals and vision anyway.

Now, I am no psychologist (I actually failed first year psych at Uni – but that’s a whole other story!), I am a sociologist, makeup artist and student of life with a deep interest in what creates human behaviour, why some people seem to succeed in everything they set out to achieve, and others don’t.  I have spent the last 7 years reading, listening to podcasts and lectures, attending seminars, and working with a personal therapist and a coach, and this is what I’ve learned and how I deal with my anxiety as a makeup artist.  I hope it can provide some hope to any of you dealing with these issues right now.

Firstly, what is Anxiety? The dictionary defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”.  Yep, sounds about right.

Step 1. Identify

The first step in dealing with your makeup artist anxiety is to identify it.  What is it?  What is the feeling or the worry?  Self-awareness is critical in understanding what’s going on and how to move beyond it. Is it that you are afraid that your client won’t like the makeup you do for her?  That you won’t be able to do the winged liner properly?  That the client will ridicule you for doing a bad job? They will be upset or angry after you have finished?

Know that our brains are hard-wired for survival.  This goes way back to the cave-man days when at any moment we could be attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger.  Our brain (and ego) was responsible for keeping us alive.  Of course we don’t need to worry about getting eaten by a tiger any more, but it’s the same thing… our brain (ego) wants to keep us safe. That’s why we call it a “comfort zone”. Our ego wants to keep us in our comfort zone where we are safe.

What is more comfortable? Staying home in bed or facing the UNCERTAINTY of going out to do someone’s makeup, when they may not like it. This uncertainty of the outcome is what can lead to anxiety.

So lets look at this a little further.  Our anxiety, and ALL our fears really come down to two basic fears.

  1. I’m not good enough, and
  2. I won’t be loved.

We play out various scenarios in our mind “she won’t like the makeup, she will get angry and write a bad review on social media, I will be embarrassed and humiliated, nobody will book me, I won’t be able to pay my rent or feed my children, I will be a failure, etc etc etc” and then the big fear is “I CAN’T HANDLE IT”

Step 2:  Challenge

Once you have identified the feelings, its time to challenge them.  Ask yourself, “Is this a possibility?  Is it possible that my client won’t like the makeup that I do?” Yes or No?  Of course that’s a possibility, but is it a LIKELY and REALISTIC possibility? We can look at our past performance to predict our future outcomes.  Has this happened before?  Have you ever done someone’s makeup and they didn’t like it?  For me, of course that has happened before!  Just last week I had a bride cancel her booking after doing a trial with me (actually, I am glad, my bridezilla radar was going crazy throughout the trial – remember sometimes its not about YOU its about them!) but my point is, it happens to all of us, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, you just haven’t been around long enough (or you’re a super-freak and I’m not sure why you’re even reading this post!!).

If you have had a client not be happy with the makeup you did, what happened? Was there a lesson to be learned?  Did you handle it?

Think about the WORST thing that could happen.  Then ask yourself: Will you survive?  Can you make a comeback?

Then ask yourself: How likely is this to happen?  What evidence is there?  Look at your past performance.  How many happy clients have you had?  I’m sure you will find that you have a lot more happy clients than unhappy clients. So, the evidence points to the likelihood of this client being happy too. I know I’m not right for everybody.  A wise person once said to me “You can’t please all the people all the time” and I use that as a constant reminder.  I can’t. And you can’t either.

Step 3: Re-focus

But who and what should we be focussing on?  Those we can’t please? What went wrong with a makeup or hairstyle that we did?  Those who aren’t happy with the makeup look or hairstyle we create for them?  I think not! Let’s focus on those who do like our work, and look at ways we can do more for them!  Let’s focus on what went right at our last job.

It’s a fact of life (and it comes back to that survival mode ego again) that we tend to focus on what we don’t have, what we can’t control, and what could possibly go wrong  (Lack, Loss and Never).  But remember, “What you focus on Expands” so the more you think about those things, the more they will affect you every day, and the harder it will be for you to move forward.

When I was talking to my group about this last night, we agreed that taking a short break can be a great way to re-focus, even if it is just to get out in nature and ignore social media for a day!

Step 4:  Reflect and Celebrate

My coach (yes, I have a coach) has me do an End of Day Reflection exercise, where I have to look at everything that went RIGHT in my day, and all the things I did get done, and congratulate myself for those things.  (Hands up who else looks at their To-Do list at the end of the day and only sees the things they DIDN’T tick off?)  Don’t do it!!  Look at the things you DID do each day (even if its only 1 in 10) and say “Yay me!” for those.

The next time you get images back from a photoshoot, BALANCE your critique with an appreciation of what you did WELL, and give yourself a virtual “pat on the back”.  Does this sound weird?  Do you think, “I couldn’t do that”?  I know how you feel.  I thought it was weird too at first, but let me ask you, Why are you so ready to beat yourself up about what you did wrong, and not congratulate yourself for what you did right?

In the Facebook post a lot of people pointed to Social Media and how that can have such a negative effect on our mindset.  It’s so easy to look at everyone else’s lives on Social Media and feel inferior.  Just remember for every perfect face-tuned Selfie there are probably 50 rejects where the person thought, “ugh, I look hideous” – but nobody shares those photos!!

Consider that EVERYONE goes through the same fears and anxieties that you do.  Everyone doubts his or her ability.  Everyone is worried that they aren’t good enough and won’t be loved. I remember last year when I worked on a big event that was being televised, I was backstage with a group of other hair & makeup artists.  We had one big name celebrity come in to have her hair & makeup done, and obviously, she was allocated to the most experienced artists on the team.  When the makeup artist (who is AMAZING) finished her makeup, and the celeb looked in the mirror and said “I love it, thank you” the makeup artist admitted to her (and I overheard) “I was really nervous about doing your makeup”.  The celeb laughed it off and reiterated how she’d done a great job, but I think the rest of is in the room were all thinking “wow, even this amazing artist has those feelings”  I sure know I thought that!    Remember, EVERYONE fears that they aren’t good enough and won’t be loved.  You are NOT ALONE.


I congratulate the artist who was brave enough to reach out in that Facebook group, and I congratulate everyone else who offered words of support.  What an amazing community we have!  I love that even though we are “competing” for the same jobs, people will reach out and support a fellow artist in their time of need.

Love and Hugs to you all.


Disclaimer:  The information provided in this post is of a general nature, and by no means meant to substitute for medical advice or a diagnosis.  If you are having trouble coping, there is always help available.  Here in Australia, you can contact Lifeline on 131114 or visit, or please visit your doctor.


Photo Credits:

Rachel Jackson Photography
Verge Girl
Kenny Smith Photography
Tom Hall Photography



2 thoughts on “How to deal with Makeup Artist Anxiety”

  1. Loved this read Sue. You put it so well that as creative people who create art were so critical of our own art work and always want it to be good that we get anxious about it. Its such an artist thing that I don’t think other industries/sectors really get as much anxiety as us. So it’s important to check in on yourself as youve said. Love it, thank you so much for writing this. Ps: ‘What we focus on expands’ I learned a couple of years ago that this saying actually comes from Jewish Scripture. The word AVON means: ‘what the eye hooks to grows larger’ thus ‘what you focus on, expands.’ Such a really old saying that we honestly need to get today learn the lesson. Can help us to remember to focus on or look at better things!! xoxo


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