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creation story involving Gods forming humans from clay) one thing that struck me when reading this was that we were all originally made of clay filled with a divine spark – a divine self.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 Be There For Someone Else During A Time Of Uncertainty

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

How are you?

I am aware that for most of us this is a bit of a loaded question. There are so many thoughts and emotions swirling around inside of us as we learn to cope with our new “normal” – this time of great uncertainty.

You might be experiencing rapid shifts to your emotions. You might be fine one moment and the next have tears rolling down your cheeks. Please know that all of this is perfectly normal and allowed. There is no right way to be feeling at this time.

Today I am not writing to you as a teacher or an ECE leader as I usually would, but rather as a person. A person without title, label or position. I do this as I feel that this virus, this situation we all find ourselves in is the greatest leveller. When we come down to it we are all just humans beings trapped in our own four walls somewhere, going through the same range of emotions, doing the best that we can.

As I am writing this, I am experiencing a myriad of different thoughts and feelings and I suspect that I will have to take some breaks in writing to compose myself along the way.

As a parent, the hardest thing for me is the sheer helplessness I feel. I hate watching my children going through strong emotions such: disappointment, sadness, fear, anxiety and anger. As a child, a sister or friend it is so difficult not being able to be there to help others during their time of need, because of physical separation.

The Temptation to “Fix-it”

I know that I am not alone in this, it is a very natural thing for us to want to solve problems, or act to “fix things”. For many of us, helplessness can bring up feelings of anxiety, fear and even anger.

However, how can I “fix” my ten-year- old’s sadness over not seeing her cousins for Easter? Or my fifteen-year-old’s disappointment that her birthday will happen during self-isolation and she won’t get to spend it with her friends, or that to her all the fun has been sucked out of her world? Or my seventeen-year-old’s fear or anxiety over what the future may hold? The short answer is I can’t and that sucks.

Having Empathy

One thing that I have learnt over the years is the importance of empathy – to feel the other person’s emotion with them. Often we forget that we have a different perspective of life to our children. We are a product of our experiences and my forty-five years of experience makes me see the world quite differently from my teenage daughter. Things that might be trivial to me can seem like the end of the world to her.

In the past, I might have dismissed her disappointment over the band that is no longer performing due to Covid 19. Or told her that it is okay, that they will come back. Or avoided feeling her pain because it feels so uncomfortable (and who likes to feel discomfort?). However, in order to support others, we first need to feel with them. There is power in stepping into the other person’s shoes, in sitting with them in discomfort.

Acknowledging Emotions

Something that we don’t tend to do very well is acknowledging emotions. Most of us don’t even do this for ourselves and so doing this for others can seem unnatural. The fear is that the other person will “milk” the situation or make this period of discomfort last longer if we acknowledge the emotion they are feeling.  We might try to distract someone from what they are feeling or tell them that it is going to be okay, as we feel that this will move them out of what going through quicker. However, when we practise empathy we realise that we all like to feel that someone understands what we are going through, that they get us. Giving voice to what others are feeling does just that.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Holding Space

Holding space means that we are willing to simply be there with another person in whatever they are feeling without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. This means curbing comments, withholding sage advice, and our need to rescue others from their feelings. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

When we hold space for with or for someone we acknowledge that they matter and that their feelings are valid and important. Holding space can feel like doing nothing and can be extremely difficult given our natural tendency for “fixing”. Holding space is often awkward as creates a feeling of vulnerability in us.

If we dismiss someone else’s feelings as unimportant (even if it is a toddler expressing outrage for not having the blue cup) or try to “logic” them out of emotions we have the opposite effect to what we intend. Instead of making them see that it’s not so bad we unintentionally send the message that their feelings are not important or even that they are not important.

Being There For Someone During Social Distancing.

Self-isolation shouldn’t stop us from being there for someone else. It is more important than ever to make consistent contact with your family and friends a priority, even though you might not be able to physically be with them.

Check-in regularly, let your loved ones know that it is okay to feel sadness, fear and anxiety and that you are there for them if they need you. Remember that trust is earned by us extending our trust to others in return. Banish ideas that you need to keep your feelings to yourself and that you don’t want to burden others with them. When we are vulnerable we make it okay for others to be vulnerable too and this nurtures real, wholehearted connection. Holding space with someone can be done over the phone or via video chat too.

Please remember that you are not alone.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or that you need to off-load to someone or to have someone holding space with you please reach out.

I care about your mental and emotional health and so I have made a limited number of FREE 30 minute chats available for people who would just like to connect and talk about what they are feeling. You can book a time with me HERE.

I also have a range of FREE webinars and other freebies and special offers available to support you during this time of self-isolation.

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What Your Feelings Are Telling You?

Tanya Valentin

Have you ever suffered hurt or disappointment?

Do you ever get angry with yourself or others, or feel guilty?

Have you ever had an emotional response that has left you so triggered that it is all you can think of for days and days?

Chances are that we have all felt these emotions in our lives from time to time. Sometimes these emotions can be really intense. We can really feel upset by them or feel so stuck that we just can’t move past them.

Let me tell you about something that happened to me recently…

I was facilitating a workshop and it was all going well. In the break, someone came to me and said, “Excuse me but, there is a typo on one of your slides.”

Now I acknowledge that it took a lot of courage for this person to come up to me and tell me this. I know that she was doing this because she cared about me and my professional integrity. I personally value professional discourse and honest direct feedback.

I know that to you this might seem trivial… So then why was I feeling so triggered?

To be perfectly honest this emotional response hung around me for days after the workshop like a bad smell. So I decided to put pen to paper and to curiously and courageously unpack some of what was going on for me.

I learnt this process at a personal development course that I attended a few years ago. I have since added my own bits to it so that works for me.

Today, I would like to share this experience and the process that I used with you. My hope is that this might help you with some of the feelings or emotions that have taken up residence in your mind and heart.

How I got myself out of Stucksville

First of all, I found a time where I was able to be undisturbed and I able to focus on my thoughts. I then tried to, as accurately as possible, to write down all the facts about the situation. (Just the facts)

I then tried to think about what I am projecting – something from my past (in this case, the first-ever presentation I did in front of a group of people many years ago) or was it fear or something that I am worried about for the future?

In this instance, I realised that I was in my circle of concern rather than my circle of influence and that I needed to move back into where my power was.

Tanya Valentin

I then confronted myself and wrote down everything that I was saying about myself and this situation.

I usually take a “no holds barred” approach to this as I feel that once these words are on paper they are no longer taking up the room in my head. I then acknowledge them and draw a line under what I had written to signify that I am now moving past them. I reminded myself that nothing has meaning except the meaning that I give it.

What are my feelings telling me?

The next step is to pinpoint the emotions that I am feeling.

For me, it was anger and disappointment.

I have three choices with these emotions. I can either wallow in them(and make them mean something about me) try to bury them (we can easily fall into the habit of labelling our emotions as “bad” and to try to avoid feeling them) or … I can see them for what they are information.

“Information for what?” You might be asking. Information for what my next move should be.

(I have included a list of common emotions that we don’t like to experience and what they might be telling you below.)

When I examined what my emotions were telling me, I realised that I had not met my own expectations of myself. I had also violated my “rule” about excellence and professionalism.

I then needed to challenge my expectations – were they realistic? As well as my perceptions around my “rules”.

What did excellence and professionalism mean to me?

Life is all about perception and what we tell ourselves at any given moment of time. Once we realise that we control the narrative of our lives it opens a world of new possibilities. What you tell yourself everyday will either lift you up or tear you down – YOU decide.

Decision time

So instead of perpetuating the narrative of not being good enough, not professional enough, et cetera, et cetera (that we all can fall prey to).

I chose to change the narrative.

I decided to tell myself that I am human. That everyone makes a mistake from time to time – even professionals.

I chose to tell myself that I will take action to do better in the future. However, I would probably still make mistakes and that this is okay.

I decided to take the lessons from this experience. To forgive my younger self for the disastrous workshop from years ago (and for my mistake in the recent one.) And to let it go.

What are your emotions telling you?

Here is a list of common “unpleasant” emotions and the action that they are telling you to take:

Fear – I am unsafe/I need to prepare – get prepared, change your situation or change your perception about the situation.

Hurt – unmet expectations – adjust your perception or your expectations.

Anger – one of your “rules” has been violated by yourself or by others – You can accept the situation, take steps to change it or move away from it.

Frustration – what you are doing isn’t working – change your behaviour or try something new.

Sadness or Disappointment – unmet expectations – adjust your perception or your expectations.

Guilt – you are out of alignment with your values – adjust your values or realign with your values.

All unpleasant feelings stem from some sense of loss – real or imagined.

What had I lost in this situation?

It turns out that my sense of loss was merely a projection, an idea that I was aspiring to be.

What about you?

How do you choose to deal with your feelings?

Have you ever thought about your emotions as feedback or information on an action that you had to take in your life?

Could use these often perceived “negative emotions ” as an agent for change or as a powerful way to empower you?

If you found these steps useful or helpful and you would like to chat with me about mentoring, wellbeing coaching or whole team PLD please get in touch.

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