Hello, Have You Met My Avatar?

Tanya Valentin

Hello, my name is Tanya, have we met?

Some of you may have met me in person. Some of you may be family or friends. Some of you know me from my posts and videos on social media. If we have met, chances are you might have met my avatar.

Don’t be offended. We all have a socially acceptable version of ourselves that we send out into the world to play with the other avatars in the game, that we call life. 

Constructing an Avatar

When I was a young child in Sunday school, I remember hearing a passage in the Bible that said:

“God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul.”

Genesis 2:7

The story goes, that for many years Adam was content, innocent, one with God, unashamed by his naked form.  It was only after their separation from God after eating the fruit of good and evil that Adam and Eve noticed and felt ashamed by their nakedness.

Now, I am not sure if you subscribe to this creation story or not (although many cultures have a similar creation story involving Gods forming humans from clay) one thing that struck me when reading this was that we were all originally made of clay filled with a divine spark – a divine self.  We all arrive in this world naked, innocent, and unashamed, connected to our divine selves – our knowing selves.  However, as we grow older we start to notice our nakedness, we add more and more clay around ourselves to hide our shame.  The more layers of clay we accumulate the more disconnected we become from our golden, divine selves.

What are we creating with all that clay? 

We are creating an avatar.  Our avatar is our representative, whose services we use so that we don’t need to be vulnerable and we can protect ourselves from pain.

Avatars and the Game of Life

Like all good games, we are not just restricted to just one character. We can choose different personas to suit different situations. I have often wondered if perhaps this is why so many of us feel as if we are imposters?

I have over my lifetime played the role of “good mother”, “dutiful daughter”, “doting wife”, “party me”, “professional me”, “happy me”. 

I have on many occasions had someone has been introduced to me through my work, approach me. And even though at that moment, I smile and act confident on the outside, on the inside I am struck with a sinking, sneaky fear at the pit of my stomach. “What if I don’t live up to their expectation of me?” is inevitable the first thought that goes through my head.

I have sat in my car before parties, before work gigs, palms sweaty, heart racing, or as I as I am about to step into my home after a long days work, and thought;

“Okay, which one should I be now?”

“Which one of my avatars will they like the best?”

Perhaps you have experienced this too. We go through life so invested in these avatars, feeling as if we would die if we let the facade slip. Fearful of the perceived rejection from those around us. We get so good at pretending, that often we ourselves cannot distinguish between what is the “real” us as opposed to our representative.

Tanya Valentin

Our Children and Avatars

As our children grow, we loving parents and educators, help them to create their avatars. The version of themselves that we feel will insulate our precious babies from the hard, dangerous world instead of teaching them to stay connected to their authentic selves. We do this because we know from the lessons that we have learnt about being human, that to be without clay is to live in loneliness outside of the dream of our domestication. In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, he writes about the domestication that all humans must go through, that hook our attention and tell us how and what to dream. 

“As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, but we agreed with the information that was passed to us from the dream of the planet via other humans.  The only way to store information is by agreement.  The outside dream may hook our attention, but if we don’t agree we don’t store the information.  As soon as we agree we believe and this is called faith. To have faith is to believe unconditionally.  That’s how we learn as children.  Children believe everything adults say.  We agree with them, and our faith is so strong that the belief system controls the whole dream of life.  We choose these beliefs, and we rebel against them, but we are not strong enough to win the rebellion.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

As humans, there is no avoiding clay.  I have contributed layers of clay to my husband, my friends, my family and my children, and even to strangers that I have yet to meet, and that is a reality of life.  Most of my clay has been contributed with loving intent. I could be that you have done this too, with equal loving motivation.

A Case for Living Without Avatars

In the world that we live in, our dependence on our avatars may seem necessary. You may ask yourself, “what would happen to us if we all walked around exposing our vulnerable selves to the world?”

“How would we survive our harsh realities, if we wore our insides on the outside?”

“Don’t we need our avatars to protect us?”

I hear you, at first the idea of giving up the protections that they offer us is a scary prospect. We live in a world where social distancing, barriers and walls are part of normal life and are often required to keep ourselves physically safe. However, walls do not only keep those out who would seek to harm us, they also keep out things we need like love and connection. Our armour (because that what our avatar is) weighs us down, limits us and hold us back in more ways than we can comprehend. Our avatars also serve as a barrier that keep us separate from ourselves, our emotional and interior lives – our deep yearnings, our potential to grow and create real, meaningful connections.

One could even go as far as to say that the reason that there are so many lonely, unhappy people in a world where we are never truly alone is due to our reliance on avatars.

There is a reason we find the genuine openness of authenticity and vulnerability so irresistable. It is our natural state.

You and Your Avatar

So over to you.

If I were to meet you, would it be a meeting with your avatar?

Do you let yourself and others around you know your true authentic self, or are you too, buried under layers of clay?

Who would you be without your representative?

What could you achieve in your life if you were free from your avatar?

Are you interested by what you have read and you would like to continue the conversation? Send me a DM Here.

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How To Practice Radical Acceptance

Tanya Valentin

The first thing that I did when I saw this photo was cringe.

My smile, my attitude, the look of confidence on my face, it was just plain embarrassing.  I confess that although this photo was taken two years ago, until today, I have been too ashamed to share it with a living soul.

“What will people think?” I asked myself, “Will they think that I am full of myself?”

“Who am I to be this confident?”

At the time when this photo was taken I used to colour my hair brown even though it was mostly grey.

I used to put off buying new clothes until I “lost my weight”. 

If I bought clothes they would be size 16 instead of the size 18 that I really am, just in case someone would see the label and think that I was fat.

I used to step off of the scale or look in the mirror at my extra chins, my saggy boobs, my stretch marks and my rolls with a sigh of disgust – just wishing that I were different. Just wishing that I were younger, skinnier, firmer, sexier.

I used to tell myself what a lazy, unmotivated, undesirable, undeserving slob I was all the time.

I used to do these things and I was miserable.

serendipity: (n.) finding something good without looking for it

And then one day I saw an ad on Facebook for a plus size clothing brand.  I fell in love with the stunning dress that the model was wearing. It was feminine, floaty, colourful, just stunning. The model, roughly a size 18, looked exquisite, confident, radiant – comfortable in her own skin. 

I decided, even though the dress was more than I would usually spend on myself, to place an order. 

I waited in anticipation for my frock to arrive. 

A couple of weeks later I found a parcel in my letterbox addressed to me.  I excitedly ripped open the package and gleefully put the dress on.

It was perfect!

For the first time since could remember I looked in the mirror and felt gorgeous. That small moment was a huge turning point for me.  I dawned on me that I could look beautiful no matter the size I was. 

You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.

Oprah Winfrey

flawsome: (adj.) an individual who embraces their “flaws” and knows they are awesome regardless.

From that day on I vowed to (and religiously stuck to) only buying clothing that made me feel good. Outfits that made me feel like I did in that dress.

Slowly but surely I bought more clothes that made me feel beautiful. I stopped dyeing my hair brown and let myself go lighter until I made grey my friend.

Instead of using the mirror, the scale and my too tight clothing as a way to confirm my “not good enough” status or wishing that I was different, I started looking in the mirror and choosing to see myself as beautiful.

Tanya Valentin

It wasn’t easy. Some days I could find one small thing about myself to like.  Giving myself compliments and choosing to see the beauty in me felt so unnatural – I just wasn’t raised to think that way. As girls, we receive the message very early on in our lives that we have to act or think a certain way.  We are admonished for being vain, we are taught to be ashamed of compliments.  We learn that the most desirable feminine attribute is selflessness…

Perhaps the reason why this photograph bugged me so much my lack of humility – my apparent lack of selflessness? This photo to me said, “I am not little red riding hood – I am the wolf!

metania: (n.) the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life

However, I persisted through the discomfort and I started practising radical acceptance. And what I found was that the more I accepted myself, the more joyful, confident and comfortable I felt in my own skin. 

Once I was no longer at war with myself, I had so much more energy to create the types of things I wanted in my life, and I could make space to discover new things about myself.

I recognised that if I was having a thought that hinged around “I am not good enough” or “who am I?” Then I was experiencing shame.  I started to challenge my thinking and getting curious about the things that triggered my feelings of shame. I became a shame detector. 

The emotion of shame in itself is not the villain we make it out to be. When processed with curiosity, shame has a very important message; “I have done something to hurt someone, I need to make amends”.  However, unchallenged shame can be so disempowering especially we use it to cause harm to ourselves. Or as a way to hold us back from living the life we want to live or from being the best, truest versions of ourselves.

Radical acceptance is not saying that the thing that happened to us or what we are currently going through is “okay” or that we shouldn’t take action to improve.  Radical acceptance is simply surrendering to the reality of “what is” at this moment in time and making peace with yourself.  As Byron Katie says in her book, Loving What Is;

When you argue with reality I lose – but only 100% of the time.

Byron Katie

Radical acceptance is simply deciding to stop the war that makes reality and yourself your own enemy.  Radical acceptance is merely a means of locating yourself – putting an emotional stake in the ground and saying to yourself;

“I am here. I am human, messy, full of flaws and imperfect in many ways and I am worthy of love and acceptance.” Radical acceptance is a way of taking responsibility for yourself where you are in life as well as the energy that you put out into the world.

sophrosyne: (n.) a healthy state of mind, characterised by self-control, moderation, and a deep awareness of one’s true self, and resulting in true happiness

If you want to transform your life then you have to transform your thinking.

The first step to transforming your thoughts is to become aware of them.

My challenge to you, for the next 24 hours is to intentionally eves drop in on your thoughts. Set a timer on your phone for hour intervals. Carry a notebook around with you and each hour when your alarm goes off;

  • Stop what you are doing
  • Observe your thoughts you had in the previous hour
  • Record them in your notebook
  • Review your thoughts at the end of the day. Were they motivating and empowering? Could your thoughts makeover?
  • Take stock of your thoughts, brainstorm what you can intentionally say to yourself instead
  • Keep going, challenging yourself with new thoughts can be a bit tricky at first and takes practice, but just keep going.

So how about it? Are you up for the challenge towards radical acceptance?

If the answer is “yes” then join the amazing community of women making themselves a priority by following this link here.

Making yourself a Priority is a private Facebook group for women who are on a journey towards self-care, self-love and self-acceptance. No matter where you are on this journey you are welcome here. Come learn, love and witness the beauty and transformation in yourself and others in this uplifting sisterhood of like-minded women

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