Sovereignty. Oh, it’s a tricky thing to define. Also to feel.
I’ve described it here as:
- “the spiritual quality of not giving a shit.”
- “the state of not giving a damn what people think because you are the king or queen of your life.”
- “being at home in your body and your life.”
- “knowing that you are only responsible for your stuff, not for anyone else’s.”
But it’s so much bigger than that.
Every time I think about explaining sovereignty, I want to write a children’s picture book about it.
You know, say things like:
Sovereignty is a big blue balloon!
But we need some grown-up words for this, so I’ll try to hang on to the balloon while figuring out how to talk about this.
Bits and pieces of that thing we call sovereignty.
Sovereignty is …
Feeling what you feel.
Babies are marvelously sovereign.
They don’t censor their experiences even slightly.
No shame in discomfort. No shame in delight.
No reason not to point and gasp and stare and cry and laugh. No reason not to just fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.
This doesn’t mean that filters aren’t useful. Just permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.
Conscious interaction with pain.
Sovereignty is the ability to say I’m sorry, without taking on someone else’s pain.
To be with the people you care about in their pain, but not be in their pain.
Securing your own oxygen mask first.
Sovereignty is respecting your capacity.
It’s knowing where your edges are.
Sovereignty is the ability to be clear, firm, loving and unapologetic about what you stand for.
It’s trusting that doing things to take care of yourself doesn’t mean that anyone else is less important.
It’s knowing that there is nothing selfish in taking care of yourself, because that’s the only way you can be present enough to help others.
No to things that need a no. Yes to things that need a yes.
Sovereignty is the thing that allows you to give a gracious, kind, loving NO to things that don’t support you.
And to things you don’t truly want to do.
It’s acknowledging the pain and loss in the saying no, and saying it anyway.
Sovereignty lets you recognize the need behind the want:
“I’m drawn to this thing because I need more comfort in my life, and yet this isn’t the best way for me to receive comfort right now. What are some other ways?”
Sovereignty gives legitimacy to having needs. And treating those needs with respect.
Knowing that everyone gets to be king or queen of their world.
That’s because sovereignty isn’t something that just applies to you. Everyone gets to say, “the world was created for me“.
The more firmly you wear your crown, the more you give permission to everyone else to wear theirs.
You respect other people’s sovereignty by respecting your own.
Knowing that it cannot be bestowed on you because it’s already yours.
You have sovereignty, even when you can’t feel it or access it.
It is always there.
No one can give it to you or take it away from you.
Not sharing your swing.
The other week I was having a sovereignty crisis, and Hiro wisely pointed out that I was letting people into my space when I didn’t want them there and they didn’t belong there in order to be nice.
It’s like I have this super cozy swing, and there’s room for exactly one person: me.
And then someone else plops down in the swing with me, even though there isn’t room. And I scootch over so they can fit, but they can’t.
Now everyone is uncomfortable.
I do this a lot. I do this because I think it’s the nice thing to do. I also do this because I forget that every single person in the world has their own swing.
I forget that the kind thing is actually to point out to them where their swing is.
Sovereignty means not having to share your swing.
The fact that a story is compelling doesn’t make it true.
Sometimes I think everyone is out to get me. They’re all trying to knock my crown off.
This is a comfortable story for me. It is not necessarily a true story, even when the pieces all seem to fit.
Sovereignty is the thing that helps you remember that your interpretation of events is part of a narrative. That the true pattern isn’t the painful experience, it’s the story that says this painful experience is the pattern.
When I stride down the corridors of the airport, wearing my (imaginary) crown and my not even slightly imaginary red sovereignty boots, I remember this.
And even if the security people are obnoxious and even if my past history gets triggered by the experience and even if I feel wobbly, I am still queen of my world.
Remembering that helps me take a different tactic. It helps me step away from the pull of what is both familiar and painful.
Knowing when to take responsibility and when not to.
Taking responsibility for your stuff.
Remembering not to take responsibility for all the things that are not yours.
Like the times when people will try to knock off your crown.
Not on purpose, usually. Though sometimes very on purpose.
Part of sovereignty is remembering that when other people throw shoes at you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s their stuff.
And part of sovereignty is remembering you have the right to call them on it.
To say hey this is unacceptable we can’t have you throwing shoes at people because that’s not how we do things around here.
I wish I could say that everything I know about sovereignty I learned in kindergarten.
But that’s not true.
Everything I’ve learned about sovereignty I’ve learned from Hiro.
It actually kind of drives me crazy that we didn’t learn this stuff in kindergarten.
That we didn’t grow up knowing that our bodies are ours, and our thoughts are ours and our internal world is sacred and no one gets to come in just because they want to.
And now I’m getting my chance.
Hiro is teaching a six week program called Sovereignty Kindergarten about sovereignty. How to apply it and use it and live it.
It’s going to be fun and playful and experimental. Think smocks and playdoh and fingerpainting.
And I’ll be there too (not in any official capacity, just kindergartening it up).
Hugely useful, whether this concept is brand new to you today or something you’ve been messing around with for a whilel.
I want more people playing with this stuff. More people actively practicing sovereignty makes my life easier. And it makes the world a better place.
Which is part of my secret mission. And all secret missions are fueled by sovereignty.
Comment zen for today …
We’re all working on our stuff. We let people have their own experience. We don’t give advice.
You’re more than welcome to share sovereignty challenges you’re working on. Or fabulous things that have happened when you were intentionally wearing your crown.
Or other things you’re wondering about and thinking about. Besos.