On Saturday, March 24, 1984, five students at Shermer High School report at 7:00 a.m. for an all-day detention: "a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal".
That's where the movie, "The Breakfast Club" begins. Throughout the film, each student will struggle with coming to terms with who they really are (warts, sparkles, and all). One character in particular, Allison Reynolds, deserves some special attention.
See, Allison is a classic undervalued Unicorn. She didn't even earn detention - which, I mean, "earn" isn't a great way to describe it, is it? She went because she had nothing better to do. She's not there for behavior problems, skipping school, or bad grades. From what we can tell, she's smart, thoughtful, kind, and quirky.
On one level she's chosen to "punish herself". On another, she probably doesn't even think of it as punishment. Not unlike some of my clients!
Allison sits alone, ignored by the others. She's quiet and withdrawn, and she's constantly hiding behind her hair and a heavy coat. Allison doesn't say a word until more than 20 minutes into the film, but when she does, she speaks with thoughtfulness and candor. She's clever. She's smart... even if everyone else chooses to write her off and miss her brilliance because of it.
As the day goes on, she takes off her coat, both figuratively and literally, revealing the unique and colorful person underneath. She stops hiding behind her hair and pulls it back so we can see her face! By the end of the movie, she's no longer hiding and connects with the other students (especially Andrew) on a deeper level.
Was it easy? Well, yes and no. Allison asserts her stance while Claire goes to work: "I like that black shit." She's clinging to the benefits of hiding herself. But Allison soon realizes that when you let people help you, it can be safe to be seen for who you really are.
When she walks back into the library, she's uncertain how she'll be received, and quick to "blame" Claire for her appearance.
"What happened to you?" Andrew asks.
"Why? Claire did it!" She snaps. Then, with an air of uncertainty, she says, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong. You're just so different. I can see your face."
"Is that good or bad?"
Regardless of Andrew's answer ("It's good!"), the uncertainty is still there. It's starting to melt and Allison's gaining confidence in being seen for who she really is, but she's still not there. It's only after Andrew gives her that external validation that she smiles and lifts her head with confidence.
But what if Allison didn't need Andrew's validation? What if she just strode into the room happy with her new look, confident from within?
That might feel like a stretch for an undervalued Unicorn. I mean, Allison trusted that Claire wouldn't steer her wrong when she let her apply eyeliner in the first place. And Claire had already given her validation before she walked back into the library.
But that still wasn't enough? How much validation do you need in order to be confident? What (or in her case, who) was she waiting for!?!
Waiting for someone else to fill your cup is problematic at best, and dangerous at worst. It can quickly devolve into something like an addiction - craving attention, being manipulated by the whims of others who dangle their approval like a carrot in front of your face.
Um, no thanks!
I mean, I grew up with it, so I know it well. And it's not healthy. Sure, it's nice to get applause and validation from others. But needing it and appreciating it are two different things.
The fear at the root of this "need" is one of three flavors: fear of failure, fear of judgement, or fear of abandonment. Sometimes, it's a slippery slope of all three. What if I take a risk and I fail? What if I'm not good enough? What will people think? Will they leave me and never return?
You might be thinking that if you wait long enough, the right opportunity will present itself, and you won't have to risk anything. Perhaps, but you might also be waiting a long-ass time for that magic moment to appear. Plus, I don't believe opportunity only knocks once. In my experience, opportunity likes to play ring and run. It keeps coming back, over and over, but you've got to be at the door to catch it. If you're waiting on the couch, you'll never get there.
This creates a feedback loop of low confidence. You're waiting for someone else to give you the credential, the recognition, the opportunity, instead of stepping into the leadership role that's custom-made for you. You think that if someone else sees your potential, they'll give you the invitation to play at their party.
That's not always the case. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities.
Give yourself permission to be who you really are. Even if that's dangerous or scary. Don't wait for someone else to validate your or tell you that you're good enough. You're already magnificent! Find someone that helps you believe in yourself and won't let you buy into the bullshit lies the rest of the world wants to pile on. Then, take action toward your dreams. Even when it seems like no one is looking. If you're only working when everyone else can see and applaud it, you're not going to make much progress.
Take a page out of Allison's book. Take off your coat, engage, and let the world see who you really are. If that feels scary on your own, get help. Find a supportive community, a friend, or a coach to help hold space for the shining star you're becoming. Take small steps, a few at a time. Do what you can as you are able.
You don't need permission to pursue your passions and be yourself - because you already have it! Don't wait for someone else to tell you that it's okay. IT IS OKAY! Take a few small, calculated risks, build your confidence, and don't be afraid to fail. That's how you learn!
You have the power to choose yourself and create your own opportunities. Don't wait for someone else to recognize your worth - show them what you're capable of. Stop hiding, start shining like the star you are and OWN your dreams. Choose yourself and see who shows up to cheer you on.
Have you ever felt like you're not good enough, even though you know you're talented? Are you feeling like you're the only one who hasn't quite figured out this whole "success" thing despite your years of experience and talent? Like you should "be there" by now - wherever that is. Or worse you keep getting overlooked and passed over for other people in your industry who aren't as skilled, qualified, or don't have the same depth of experience as you?
Well, my friend, you might just be an Undervalued Unicorn!
You're probably wondering what the heck an Undervalued Unicorn even is. This is the best way I know how to describe the kind of clients I just adore! An Undervalued Unicorn is someone who is an absolute badass at what they do. They've got years of experience, a list of credentials as long as their arm, and a small army of raving fans that sing their praises. But they haven't gotten the recognition, the rewards, or the respect that they deserve for their genius.
Undervalued Unicorns sometimes fight with Impostor Syndrome, but usually Unicorns know that they are Unicorns - they know how good they are at what they do. It's usually less about feeling like an impostor and more like the sense of impatience and frustration that rise out of the Passed Over Paradox - being overlooked or undervalued by influencers in their field.
Undervalued Unicorns are some of the most innovative, risk-taking, and badass people out there. Because of your unique take on things, it's easy to feel misunderstood or like you're on the outside, looking in. You might feel like the underdog, the misfit, or the black sheep of your industry.
You have an advantage that others don't: you see the world in a different way, and that means you can create things that other people can't even imagine. Maybe it's a new business model, a new product, or a new way of doing things. Whatever it is, you have the power to bring your vision to life!
One of my clients is a perfect example of this. Jamie (not their real name) is a professional with more than ten years of experience in their field - and all the credentials that go with it. They envisioned a future where they would be on television, writing books, and being seen by the world for the expertise that they'd developed in their chosen field.
Jamie was definitely a Unicorn - a remarkable standout in their field - in an almost magical, mythical way. But what made Jamie an undervalued Unicorn was that they were grossly undercharging for their work. They mistakenly believed that they were charging the "going rate" for where they live and couldn't possibly charge more. But that rate wasn't sustainable. Jamie was compromising so much about themselves and the quality of their client experience just to keep that lower rate. Jamie could barely make ends meet when we met, and was ready to flip the tables and quit the career they'd worked so hard to build because they just didn't know how to break through.
Then, Jamie saw a newbie to their field charging nearly double what Jamie was charging - and getting it!
That's when a switch flipped.
Jamie finally realized they were ready to shift their thinking and open their eyes to how those false stories had been holding them back!
Jamie raised their rates and started showing up more visibly in the market. And guess what? The people who already loved Jamie loved this new way of showing up more powerfully. Most were even happy to pay higher rates to keep working with them. Those higher rates also meant that Jamie could afford to be more generous. Jamie created new offers that were financially accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford their new rates.
As Jamie's visibility grew, they got getting stopped on the street! Media outlets started seeking Jamie out for interviews. Jamie wrote a book and is now considered one of the foremost authorities in the world on their subject.
After years of working with these undervalued Unicorns, I can tell you that one of the biggest things you need to do is choose yourself. To stop waiting for someone else to pick you and create your own stages and your own opportunities. I know it can be easy to feel like you're not good enough, or just an impostor trying to fake your way to the top, but that's not true. Here's why:
First, Undervalued Unicorns are natural innovators. You don't just accept the status quo - you're frequently looking for ways to improve, to do things differently, maybe even stand out from the crowd in the process.
Unicorns don't fit neatly into any particular box. You're pushing boundaries and exploring new territory. Think about Prince - he was always breaking the rules and doing things his own way, whether it was his name, his fashion choices, or the way he approached music. He didn't care what anyone else was doing, he just did what felt right to him. And that's what makes Undervalued Unicorns so valuable - they're always pushing the envelope and bringing new ideas to the table.
You have a knack for thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas that nobody else has thought of. That's a gift that make a big difference!
Undervalued Unicorns are the mavericks of their industries. They are the rule-breakers, the game-changers, the ones who refuse to conform to traditional norms and instead pave their own path to success. That's not always an easy path, but it sure is rewarding when you can stay the course.
Unicorns aren't afraid to put themselves out there and try something new. Sure, it can be scary as hell, but that's what makes it so thrilling.
When Lady Gaga broke out in the late 2000s, she was unlike anything in pop music at the time. With her wild costumes, theatrical performances, and unapologetic attitude, she quickly became a household name. But Lady Gaga fought tooth and nail to get there.
Yes, her dad offered to pay her rent for a year, but she still had to show up and do the work - or give up on her dream and go back to school. In her own words, “I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen.”
About a week before it was time to call it quits, a door opened... then a label signed her. Then they dropped her. But she just kept going. As a songwriter, a background vocalist, whatever it took to keep the lights on and play for one more day. Then, she got picked up by another label and they got her. The label invested in her development and the rest, as they say is history.
Lady Gaga's story is a prime example of the Undervalued Unicorn mentality. She refused to let the industry dictate her success, instead carving out her own path and using her creativity and innovation to get noticed. And it paid off in a big way - today, Lady Gaga is one of the biggest names in music, with a loyal fanbase and a string of hits to her name.
That kind of fearless attitude and out-of-the-box thinking is what sets you apart - and is essential for your success.
And the piece that is often the most difficult for Undervalued Unicorns to embrace is that you create your own path to success. You can't wait around for someone else to hand you an opportunity. Make your own.
I've lost count of the number of times well meaning people have said I couldn't make a living as a creative entrepreneur, or that I should have a "real job" as some kind of "back-up plan". The career I've built for myself is a real job.
Undervalued Unicorns that wait for someone to give them permission or validation are usually frustrated and resentful. It's a harder path, sure, but creating your own path to success is a major advantage in today's crowded marketplace. But having that much autonomy can also feel like a lot of pressure:
"What if I fail? What if it doesn't work?"
Oh, but sweetie... what if you succeed beyond your wildest dreams? What if it does work??
That can be just as scary sometimes.
It's not always easy to be on the front lines, but that's where you need to be if you want the success that seems to be passing you by. Own your badassery. Sure, you may feel like an impostor sometimes - or like nobody sees how hard you're working, but that's not reality. The truth is that you are powerful, talented, and freaking amazing! Take a risk this week and try something new. Show up more YOU than you ever have before - out loud and on purpose!
Believe in yourself. Choose yourself. Because if you don't, why should anyone else?