The Avengers actor Chris Hemsworth has been described as the epitome of a man, movie star, and Hollywood hunk. But he seems to have a far more humble perception of himself. In a Men’s Health interview, the 35-year-old star opened up about his moments of self-doubt and, in particular, he recalled a tough period when he considered giving up on his acting goals.

Raised in Melbourne as well as the Outback, Hemsworth spent much of his childhood exploring the outdoors and immersed in books, storytelling, and imaginative play. By the time he was in high school, the only career choice he saw for himself was being an actor. When he entered the workforce, he worked part-time at a pharmacy cleaning breast pumps, but thankfully, he soon landed roles in Australian television shows including being cast on a soap opera for several years.

He then appeared on Dancing with the Stars Australia in 2009, making it through several rounds before being voted off. Soon thereafter, Hemsworth was asked to play James T. Kirk’s father, George Kirk, in the opening scene of J.J. Abrams’ film Star Trek. Indeed, Abrams heard him read for the part in his office and cast the rising star on the spot, saying be ready to shoot after the weekend. The future was looking bright for Hemsworth!

But after the film was released, he couldn’t land a role—for an extended period of time. Hemsworth told the magazine, “I was about to quit. I always wanted to act, and one of the first things I wanted to do when I got any money was pay my parents’ house off. I’d asked Dad once when he thought he’d pay it off, and he said, ‘Honestly, probably never.’ Most people are in that boat and I wanted to change that. So I was super active with auditions.”

After eight months of fruitless auditions, Hemsworth realized his level of anxiety was growing to a debilitating extent. “I couldn’t harness that energy. I was trying to convince myself I wasn’t nervous before auditions, rather than grabbing hold of it and going, [deep intake of breath] ‘Use it, raise up your awareness here, sharpen your focus,’” he recalled. Unfortunately, when auditions didn’t go well, he found himself focusing on how unfair the process was rather than analyzing what he could do to improve his performance. Deflated, he figured it was time to return home to Australia.

But as fate would have it, Hemsworth had one last audition to attend—it was for the lead in The Cabin in the Woods. For what it was worth, he figured he’d try a new approach. Hemsworth remembered, “I was like, ‘Do this for [Dad’s] house. Think about reasons other than yourself.’” After all, he’d grown up considering his parents to be true heroes because of the noble way they conducted themselves. Well, he landed the role in the horror comedy film. This new strategy seemed to be working, so he continued auditioning with the new mindset. And soon enough, he was cast in films including Red Dawn and Thor.

By pushing through the hard times, Hemsworth came to fortify his inner strength. And over the years, he’s also realized he doesn’t need to pretend to be like other people; rather, he’s learned to rely on his own identity.

“I’ve stopped trying to go, ‘Who do I have to be? What personality do I have to shape in order to succeed?’ And just going, ‘Truly be yourself.’” Indeed, he says, “The real work is, ‘Who am I?’”

Hemsworth is set to star in the science-fiction action comedy Men in Black: International. He plays a special agent who manages Earth’s extraterrestrial population in the spin-off of the Men in Black series.