Competitions and confidence

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

“Great things never came from comfort zones”

It’s a fact well known, mention the word “competition” to any nail tech, and it sends us running with knife hands, as fast as we can, in the opposite direction of any such nonsense. I think the perception of competition is that everyone who competes, always competes, therefore there’s no point in entering because there’s no way you’d stand a chance? …Or another is that you don’t have the confidence to compete.

What if I told you I haven’t, and I have my own personal struggles with nerves everyday as well as the lifelong need I’ve faced to not let anyone down or not do well or feel I’ve failed.What if I also told you, that every nail tech that has or does compete, whether they admit or not, feels like this. So How do we get the buzz at fantastic competitions and all this amazing competition work from being too apprehensive to try? Competitions need competitors, just as Laurel needs Hardy, Ant needs Dec, and more importantly like Bert needs Ernie…. without competitor’s what’s the point? Now I’m not saying I’m a seasoned competitor, but, I’ve been around the block and back again, and round again, 30 more times, had my bum smacked, and still I come back for more……But what makes me keep coming back? Because it’s definitely not winning all the time!! So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty…Don’t go into competitions if:· you don’t want to improve your skill· you’re not good at losing· you can’t take criticism· you don’t think you can get better at your craft· you’re not good at following rules and guidelines · you don’t feel you need feedbackEntering a competition is all about you improving your skill, networking, growing in confidence, challenging yourself, listening to others, taking feedback and running with it and most importantly takes you on a journey to discover exactly what talents you have and what you can actually do, I’ll let you into a little secret…. your actually more amazing than you think you are. Confidence is the one word I see cropping up, but how can you ever improve in confidence if you never move out of your comfort zone? you want to? so why not?! Take a deep breath and dive in. “The quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid of. Fact.”

I remember my first ever box, I was like a dog with 2 tails strutting to hand it into the comp arena, but the nerves in my stomach were awful, I didn’t eat all day. But I thought I was quite good!! Absolutely sure I was Vincent van gough and on the brink of winning a turner prize …… so totally convinced I was placing…. I swear I could smell the cut glass on that trophy………. Ohhhhh how wrong I was. Like a thunder punch to the throat I finished 17th out of 21. I’d worked for 2 months solid on this box, I was in my box bubble, even my kids wondered who I was when I emerged from my room one day. SO, imagine the disappointment when I looked at the others……… mine looked like a kid had done it the faces were not good the finish terrible . Although nervous beforehand at this point my confidence took a nose dive……. I felt awful. Scooping my pride into a bin liner, I went to see the judges, I took feedback, every bit of it made sense and every bit of it I still apply to my work now. Now, I’m Not saying I liked or even agreed with it all, but still I learned from it all. My box was just not at the standard required. I knew I had a long way to go, years even, but this was my personal challenge. I suddenly realised I needed to improve, so much, I could see I had the building blocks there to improve on, the rest was in my hands. After a few days of procrastinating, I decided that rather than feeling deflated and never entering again, ever, I actually felt inspired. I felt that buzz in my stomach. So, what I didn’t place, let’s see if I can do better next time.

I’ve learned so much along my journey and finally after 18 months of trying it paid off, my 3rd box scooped 2nd place in Ireland. My photographic were placing 2nd, 3rd. Another 2nd place box this year, and much to my shock and disbelief, my 1st place for my designer disc in Birmingham this year. In between these I’ve had 4ths and 5ths, 6ths and 10ths I place all over the place!!, but my journey is my next challenge, a podium place is amazing but looking at what I’ve achieved personally is the real prize. I often wonder what I’m capable of next and I’m thinking of boxes, photographs and ideas years ahead of each show/comp !!! it’s such a rush!!! It’s that that I find addictive now, not the win, that’s just a big brucey bonus! And I think out of all of it, my respect for my product and how I use it has changed my salon work 100%. I think my relationship with my product is way more productive than with my hubby ha ha, and it now does as its told and does not answer back or grumble!! So, what have I learned from competition and how have I transferred this to my salon work? · As amazing as social media is, it’s not true to life some of the time. You only see what the poster wants you to see. So, to do a box/photograph/floor comp, it has to be perfect. No dust, lumps, scratches or uneven surfaces, bubbles or missed spots. Photoshop is not an option. I’ve learned to achieve work as flawless as I can to the naked eye and learned how to use and respect my products. Using them to their maximum effectiveness. I have learned to finish my work as cleanly as I can. In salon, I now ensure my nail finishes are free from dust and debris. I ensure that I can take a picture with no Photoshop involved to edit imperfections on the nail. What you see is what my client walked out with. I feel so proud of the work I now turn out, I did before but I can see a cavernous difference in finish and clarity. My working area is much cleaner, when I am doing art I ensure my surfaces are protected and no dust is in direct contact with my nail surface, so I can paint cleanly. · I love art, I didn’t study it at school. I’ve always been creative but never really understood it. The talent in competition is amazing I have so much respect for each individual artist. From my first box to know the difference is phenomenal. I’ve learned how to use light and shade in my work. I’ve learned to paint with many different mediums. I’m now able to control my brush better, being much more careful and neat with my work. I’ve learned about composition and layout. I’ve learned to proportion my work, so it looks aesthetically pleasing. I’ve got a new-found respect for colour theory and I do use this now to my advantage, it’s amazing how using complementary colours enhances your work. I’ve learned to plan my work. I’ve learned that less is more. I’ve now got the hang of what I can and can’t do well and I utilise this to my advantage. · Feedback has been harsh at times but good. I don’t want to be told its perfect when it’s not. What I want to be told is that if I was to do “xyz” it would improve it and elevate it to another level. This has again enhanced my salon work. I’ve found myself really concentrating on my work in front of me. I am less likely to lose focus and more likely to try and enhance my client’s expectations. I am able to elevate from just nail art to an individual inspiring nail my clients love. I’ve been able to elevate my nails above that of my competitor’s through respecting my product and visual appearance of my work. I’ve become more able to take constructive criticisms and not see it as an attack but as a way of moving forward. Most importantly I’ve learned to respect others work and styles. I’ve networked and made friends and I’ve pushed myself past all my own limits. There are a 100s reasons I could tell you why not to enter comps, but there are a million reasons why I could tell you to take a leap of faith and just do it.

Mel’s Top Comp Tips· If you feel your anxiety is getting the better of you. Enter a comp where you can remain anonymous. Photographic or box is a great place to start. Photographic can be sent in via email, no names are displayed on the work in the arena or on the displays. Box has to be handed in, but no names are displayed and it’s great to look at others work too. My other advice would be not to use social media to tell everyone if you’ve entered. No one needs to know, Just you. You never know, you may be surprised, but you will also learn so much from doing this. Confidence boost right there, do it for yourself. · There are groups online that you can ask competition questions and judges and competitor’s will answer. is a great Facebook group that can support and answer any questions. Some competitor’s including myself are willing to help too!! · Plan plan and plan. Each theme is released a year before, so you have ample time to plan. Did I mention you need to plan? · Read the rules. I Cannot stress this enough. Doing months of work and then losing 10 points for a miss read of misunderstanding of the rules is gutting! I’ve been there! The less we mention about “box gate” the better!! Read them and double check them. They can change to so if in doubt email the competition organiser for clarification and keep the answer on email for evidence. · Relax, it’s not important you win, just enjoy the ride and learn!!! · Think outside the box. Be unique, be true to yourself, don’t try and replicate someone else’s style or work. Go on, just do it ……. don’t think……. just doMel xxxx

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