A Guide to Harnessing Your
Individuality into Your Superpower
Have you ever labeled yourself as the “black sheep” or “scapegoat” of your family, your workplace, or somewhere else where you’re “supposed” to naturally belong?
In my office, so many of my clients use this phrase to describe themselves. (And, I admit, I’ve used it myself to talk about whether I felt I fit into various groups too.) There’s something I find when we look closer at how and why we use these terms, however, and it has a lot to do with shame and how we feel we’re being judged by other people.
In my office, I often ask: What if you weren’t a black sheep? What if you were a black unicorn? Or a yellow, blue, or rainbow unicorn?
Think for a moment of the unicorn stories you grew up on…
Those mythical, majestic creatures were anything but ordinary. Maybe you believed they came from a distant land full of magic.
Maybe you dreamed that you’d be the lucky human who got to climb on one’s back, hold tight to the beautiful mane, and go off on great adventures. Some stories have it that the unicorn had phenomenal healing powers. And, of course, there’s that whole ability to walk on rainbows…
You’re all grown up now, of course, and you probably don’t fall asleep each night hoping you’ll hear the tap of a golden horn on your windowpane. In fact, all that talk of rainbows and sparkles may seem a million miles from your everyday experience.
What’s possible when you embrace this idea of being a “black unicorn”?
Think for a moment… What aspects of that unicorn idea still apply to you? What parts of it might be empowering and just plain fun to consider and explore? Specifically, what aspects of the black unicorn might be important to you as you reframe the idea of being the black sheep?
Black unicorns are…
Individuals: You go your own way and you have your own way of getting things done.
Rebels: You may have been judged for speaking out and acting out, but you appreciate that bumper sticker: “well behaved women rarely make history.” Whether you’re a man, woman or non-binary folk, you likely realize that positive changes happen when you challenge the status quo.
Risk takers: You know that taking risks makes you feel alive. You’ve achieved as much as you have because you’re willing to take chances.
Free thinkers: To the casual observer, you may not look like you’re doing something radically different, but something extraordinary is going on inside your mind. You naturally have a different perspective and this opens up all sorts of amazing possibilities.
But we don’t necessarily live in a world that embraces the black unicorns...
These black unicorn qualities sound pretty magical. They may not always be easy to embody, but you’ve found a certain comfort zone living on the edge, far from the herd. That said, the emotional wounds that were part of your childhood and your relationship with family and your experience at school may still be with you.
Part of my work as a therapist is informed by Family Systems Theory. In this approach to individual and family mental wellness, there’s something called the “identified patient.” Often, the child who receives this label would think of themselves as the black sheep of the family.
As the “identified patient” in your family, you may have noticed:
Your parents were (possibly) more strict with you than they were with your other siblings or others in general
You felt misunderstood and were often mocked, ridiculed and/or made fun more than occasionally
You [may have] developed mental and/or emotional disorders, and/or substance abuse problems to numb out as a result of being scapegoated and overburdened.
Your family didn’t show any interest in who you really were as a person, and as much as that hurt, you also grew comfortable with being invisible much of the time.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these ideas?
It’s important to note that families who assign identified patients often go to great measures to keep that member of the family close to them. If the scapegoat truly leaves the group, they’re forced to face their own inadequacies.
So what does it mean for you to successfully and joyfully live as a black unicorn now?
You’re invited to embrace who you really are and find ways to use your black unicorn magic to live a rich, fulfilling life. Let’s look at what that might really mean for you today.
In addition to having many positive qualities as well as being the victim of many judgements and misperceptions, black unicorns do have their own legitimate shadow side. Then of course, everyone does.
Many people go to a great deal of trouble to conceal their dark side from everyone else, but as a black unicorn, you may be a bit more comfortable with the darker parts of your nature. It’s important to decide what parts of you are might be revealed as hidden assets and what might be actually be keeping you stuck in negative patterns.
How to thrive as a black unicorn in a world full of sheep
Let’s look at the four main qualities of a black unicorn and separate the superpowers from the habits that will drain your magic and your happiness.
Your self-reliance and individualism can help you get by and stand out from the crowd in a really good way. But, these same qualities can cause unnecessary loneliness and isolation.
Being vulnerable about your thoughts and feelings might not have been easy in the past, but your life-satisfaction and success depend on creating relationships with people who value you for the renegade black unicorn that you are.
Your rebelliousness makes you more creative and less likely to be swept up in group think, but you might still “act out” due to habit rather than a legitimate reason to reject the system. Because of this, you might resist joining in, even when it would be a good idea for you to do so.
You’re someone who enjoys challenges, choice, freedom, and self-expression and this could make you a powerful activist in support of a cause you believe in. Think about the worthy causes that deserved your energies and the activities you might want to pursue.
Your ability to tolerate risks may open you up to amazing opportunities for growth, but you might also be prone to recklessness. These habits have enabled you to succeed in business and brought some immense rewards and achievement - our rebels are those who bring great innovation and change the world of business, technology. And yet, poor choices can get in the way of romantic and professional relationships.
The goal is to channel your risk taking tendencies with the right kind of support so you can stay connected to the people who matter. You want to achieve your breakthrough before you hit a breakdown!
You’re a free thinker who is probably called to find your way along a non-traditional career path. You feel like you need to make a living in your own unique way, but it’s not always easy… Entrepreneurship, freelancing, and taking jobs that some might call unusual can open you up to judgement - especially if you haven’t “made it” and can’t show the world your success through money.
You need the support from loved ones (and perhaps a therapist too) so you can really trust yourself and your instincts so you don’t abandon your dreams too quickly.
Not Every Black Unicorn is an Outsider
There’s something I’ve noticed when “black sheep” start to realize they’re called to be a whole different type of creature:
as black unicorns, they tend to come together.
They still retain their individuality, mind you, and they still don’t want to line up with the status quo, but they find a way to create a community of mutual respect and support while staying true to their own dreams.
I’m proud to say that Space Between Counseling Services is a gathering place or shall I say, a holding stall, for black unicorns to deepen their magic.
Until Then. Be Well
We invite you to meet our team and discover our various specialties, which include individual + couples work, and supervision + consultation services (Susan).
Our two clinicians and two interns spend numerous hours training:
Just to name a few of our therapeutic areas of focus --> Trauma Informed, Attachment and Neuroscience based, LGBTQIA, Art Therapy, Couples Work featuring the PACT approach, Family Systems & Internal Family Systems, Brainspotting, and Afrocentric Approach.