Leveraging Lipstick Lessons: How Mary Kay Cosmetics Loosens the Grip of Impostor Syndrome


Years ago, I was a Sales Consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics. It’s a dual-ladder direct sales company where consultants earned income through two primary avenues: product sales and team building. The company provided excellent training for both aspects.

I distinctly recall a powerful training workshop on recruiting that still stands out for me today. Instead of the typical approach where recruiters described the job’s tasks like finding customers and demonstrating products, this training took a different perspective. The trainer, an engineer, reevaluated common objections she received, which often centered on a lack of sales experience or makeup skills.


She shifted her approach and started describing the qualities of successful Mary Kay consultants. Rather than focusing on the job itself, she highlighted the characteristics of individuals who excelled in this role. She emphasized traits like effective time management, eagerness to learn, a knack for multitasking, creativity, friendliness, optimism, a strong sense of family, a value for relationships, the pursuit of dreams and goals, overcoming challenges, self-care, and a desire to help others. This shift in perspective was a game changer that led to greater recruiting success by focusing on the person in the job, not just the job itself.

Why? It’s because most people cannot see themselves DOING an unfamiliar job, but they can see themselves BEING the same person in that job.

In other words, they can see their character qualities more accurately than their skills and abilities. In addition, the truth is that success in a role is more often attributed to intangible character qualities than hard skills. Hard skills can be learned. Character qualities are developed over a lifetime. In fact, hard skills are learned BECAUSE of character qualities. Diligence, curiosity, a teachable openness…these are all the qualities that allow a person to learn a new skill.

For people who struggle with Impostor Syndrome, this should be game changing! Far too often, people undervalue their character qualities, and put too much emphasis on a lack of hard skills. When faced with a new challenge (a new job, a promotion opportunity, a new project) they automatically think, “I don’t think I have what it takes to do that job. Everyone will see me as a fraud.” So, they pull back, and let a wonderful opportunity go by.

When you face a time of transition (which is when impostor syndrome screams the loudest!) instead of saying “I don’t have the background to do that,” say, “I have the qualities that allow me to figure it out and learn something new.” Your personal attributes and traits that contribute to a your past success, such as resilience, determination, adaptability, and a growth mindset play a crucial role in your ability to navigate challenges and learn from experiences.

Never underestimate the power of your character traits that define the type of person you are. What you are determines what you do.

Photo by Edz Norton on Unsplash

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