You’re a God Damn Magical Unicorn!
I was in the car, driving to my first audition in five years, when it happened. My fingers were white, wrapped tightly around the steering wheel and sweat beaded on my upper lip. I was nervous. As usual. I always got nervous before an audition, but little did I know that this would be the last time I’d let it sabotage me.
As I fought through traffic, my inner critic began to murmur in my head, filling me with self-doubt, telling me I was too old, too fat, blah-blah-blah! I took a deep breathe, quieting the negative voices. Stopped at the lights, I caught my own gaze in the rear view mirror and without warning I said to myself “YOU ARE A GOD DAMN MAGICAL UNICORN!” As I heard the words I felt my mind calm. “You are perfect, right here, right now, as you are,” I said. “You are going to go in there and do your best. And your best will be amazing because you are a god damn magical unicorn.”
I felt a sense of peace and power come over me. I’m a unicorn, I said again. There is no one out there quite like me. I am an endangered species. I need to protect myself. Not change myself.
A Passion for Playing Pretend
I was in high school when I discovered my passion for acting. It was an accidental love affair bought about by the fact that most of the subjects I wanted to do clashed with others. I was in a position of choosing either maths or drama. Seeing as I am allergic to maths and my best friend was in that very drama class, it was a no brainer.
My next concern however became how I would hide in the backrow and never actually have to get up and do any acting. I was shy. Very shy. I was still in the midst of my gothic phase and hadn’t yet recovered from a spat of high school bulling the previous year. I was used to keeping my head down and sticking to my very tight group of friends. I hardly spoke to anyone else.
I soon learned that keeping my head down in drama class was not really an option. At the end of every class we’d do a group performance, so like it or not, I was up on that stage in front of people. But to my surprise I didn’t hate it. Not one bit.
Saved by a Coven of Witches
For the very first class we were asked to put together a short theatre piece. It could be anything at all but had to fit with the theme ceremony. While the other groups worked pieces about marriage or birth, my group created a piece about a coven of witches, joined in a circle, wearing black robes. We chanted about the living sacrifice we would offer up to the night – the sacrifice turned out to be plants not people.
As I stood there amongst my peers, my face smeared with white face paint, a large staff in my hand, something came over me. It was a tingle of adrenalin and the thrill of creating a piece of art. I was stepping out of myself for a moment. While I was on that stage I wasn’t playing the part of Lisette – the shy goth who got beat up last year – I was a witch surrounded by sisters who worshipped the earth. It felt amazing.
I’m a firm believer that when you love something you can’t help but do well at it. So not surprisingly, drama became a subject I excelled at. I got top marks for every assignment. I could not get enough of it.
The Voices of Self Doubt
After high school I went on to drama school. But I soon realised something was different. These were all people who loved acting just as much as me, but unlike my supportive class mates at high school, the tone felt much more competitive. Every time I got up in front of the group to perform, I felt 30 pairs of eyes judging me, willing me to fail. They think you’re shit, I’d tell myself. So do the tutors. You’re not good enough to be here. Try as I might to silence those negative thoughts, I could not. They just got louder and louder.
I tried to find ways of convincing myself I was good enough. I started working-out a lot and eating a lot less. Due to basic physiology I lost weight. Soon people were complimenting me, telling me I looked great. “Like a movie star!” someone said. That sounded pretty good to me, so I ate a little less and worked-out a little more.
There’s no Such Thing as Perfect
The problem was that the thinner I got the less I liked myself. It never seemed like enough. Every time I got a call from my agent about a big audition I’d start psyching myself out. Nah, you’re not thin enough for this part. They don’t want you. They want someone prettier. Someone with smaller thighs. I’d convince myself I couldn’t handle the part, that I wasn’t good enough. With all these voices in my head I’d end up so frazzled by the time I got into the audition room that I’m sure I never gave my best performance. I was too shaken to simply listen to direction and change in an instant – which, when it comes down to it is what you need to do to nail an audition.
Self-Sabotage became my life. If I had a big audition on, I’d get drunk the night before. That way I had an excuse for not doing my best. It’s because you were hungover, I’d tell myself. But you were completely wrong for the part anyway!
After performing on stage I’d judge my own performance harshly. Even though other people enjoyed watching my work, it was never good enough for me. I’d even tell myself that people were laughing at me behind my back. Eventually it all got too much and I had threw it in. I let my agent go and I got a “real job” that destroyed me from the inside out.
Getting Back on the Horse – Or Unicorn
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided I was ready to try again. First I got back into theatre. I loved it. I loved working with the script and playing with the other characters. I worked hard and I went easy on myself, telling myself that whatever the character became was who she was meant to be. Previously I’d got the idea that the actor shouldn’t be present at all in the character they perform. But, I now I approach it differently, working from my “self”, then building on that until it clicks.
In the car that day, on the way to my first film audition in five years, I heard those negative thoughts return, if just for a moment. In that second I remembered all of it; the years of self-doubt and self-loathing. The hours spent in the gym working out from a place of sadness, not empowerment. All that time wasted feeling not enough. Fuck that, I thought. I am done with that shit. From now on I am owning my power. From now on I will honour the awesome unicorn that I am.
We are all Unicorns!
We are all miraculous. In her 2011 Ted talk, self-help author Mel Robbins shared that according to scientists, the chances of you being born the person you are is about one in 400 trillion! Gee Whiz! So basically the person you are, the way you look, the way you think, is a one in 400 trillion miracle. You are one of a kind. A fucking mythical creature. You are a unicorn. Don’t waste your gifts.
So I guess you’re wondering, did I get the job?
Well funnily enough I did not. And I share that with no shame because what I gained was so much more valuable than a one day job for a web ad. I walked out of that audition with a spring in my step. I nailed it. I felt so good about my performance that I didn’t feel the need to beat myself up afterwards. I knew that whatever happened, I’d done my best and for once my best was good enough. The casting director told me she hoped to see me again and I got great feedback from my agent.
Sometimes enjoying the process and allowing yourself to learn from it is more important. What I learnt that day was that regardless of getting a job, not getting a job, getting published, not getting published, I am still awesome. And so are you.