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, and 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 (many cultures have a similar creation story involving Gods forming humans from clay), but one thing that struck me when reading this was that we were all originally made of clay filled with a divine spark, a divine self.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, and 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 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,” and “happy me.”
I have, on many occasions, been approached by someone who has been introduced to me through my work. And even though, at that moment, I smile and act confidently 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 inevitably the first thought that goes through my head.
I have sat in my car before parties and work gigs, palms sweaty, heart racing. Even as I am about to step into my home after a long day’s work, I’ve 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 façade 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.
Our Children and Avatars
As our children grow, we loving parents 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 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.”
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 who I have yet to meet, and that is a reality of life. Most of my clay has been contributed with loving intent.
It 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 holds us back in more ways than we can comprehend. Our avatars also serve as a barrier that keeps us separate from ourselves, our emotional and interior lives, our deep yearnings, and 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 irresistible. 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?