What Is Sovereignty? 13 Elements
The word Sovereignty is getting thrown around lately. In this article, I will explore this concept, sharing the 13 elements of Sovereignty, and explain why it’s such an important piece of the puzzle right now for women. I’ll also share powerful quotes from many sovereign women from both past and present. I’ll conclude with some practical tips on how you can get more in touch with your own personal, visceral sense of Sovereignty. Read on to embark on your own journey with sovereignty as we ask, what is sovereignty?
“The reason women are critiqued for being too loud or too meek, too big or too small, too smart to be attractive or too attractive to be smart, is to belittle women out of standing up publicly. The goal is to ‘critique’ into submission. & That applies to anyone challenging power.” ~ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
What Is Sovereignty?
To be sovereign is to claim your own inner authority as valid, to live rooted from the truth inside you, which is not beholden to any external person, institution or belief system. It is to belong to yourself; it is to feel strong, to be true, and to embody your integrity. To be sovereign is to no longer be imprisoned by the damaging cultural and familial messages that tell women to defer to others, to be silent and small out of fear of rejection, disapproval or shame.
Why Be Sovereign?
Anytime a woman speaks her truth to power, the critics quickly begin their chorus of judgements. According to a phone-based CNN poll, Kamala Harris was the clear winner of the debate with Vice President, Mike Pence. However, a different poll, which focused on undecided voters by the L.A. Times found something quite different. The participants called her abrasive, rigid, and said she was shifting blame. Her knowledge was praised but she was sharply criticized for her “condescending reactions.” Sound familiar? To be a woman, especially a woman of color, speaking her truth while firmly holding others to account, is to expect a backlash from people who want women to “go back to their place” which is out of public life where we cannot challenge the dysfunctional status quo that is set up to fail us. The underlying message is that a woman’s place is NOT at the table where decisions are being made and that we must accept our fictitious inferior status to men. It’s time for this outdated, untrue belief to go.
“This is who I am. I am not asking for your approval. I do not have to justify my existence. I want to know and be known for who I am.” ~ Marion Woodman
Many of us have watched our mothers, aunts, friends, or other women in our lives experience the compulsion to be silent and complicit in their own disempowerment to some degree, as a means to stay safe and accepted by the status quo, whether it was through a controlling husband, an abusive boss or an angry father. We’ve all seen women who have lost touch with themselves on the slippery slope of trying to please someone who doesn’t have their best interests at heart but who sees no other option but to defer and comply.
“Patriarchy can exist so long as women are afraid.” ~ Sonia Johnson
To be sovereign is to become larger than our fear and to stand in truth and integrity, no matter the cost. We are living in a time in which, perhaps more than any other time in history, we need the strong, uncompromising, resonant voices of millions of women. This requires we conjure a passion, a powerful urgency to shed the inner shackles we inherited from women before us, that say our voice, our bodies, our lives don’t matter.
“If our history has taught us anything, it is that action for change directed only against the external conditions of our oppressions is not enough. In order to be whole, we must recognize the despair oppression plants within each of us – that thin persistent voice that says our efforts are useless, it will never change, so why bother, accept it. And we must fight that inserted piece of self-destruction that lives and flourishes like a poison inside of us, unexamined until it makes us turn upon ourselves in each other.” ~ Audre Lorde, from the essay “Learning from the 60’s” from the book, Sister Outsider
Sovereignty: Sourced From Within
Sovereignty is a power sourced from within, from a woman’s connection within herself. It’s a power sourced from your own connection with your body, your connection with the earth, with nature, with your heart and with all life. It’s NOT a false, patriarchal power, which is based in power-over someone or something else. It’s not competitive, dominant, submissive or hierarchical in any way. That’s why a woman’s sovereignty individually and even more so collectively, is a HUGE threat to patriarchy and why women’s bodies and psyches have been demonized, pathologized and suppressed—because we don’t actually need a mediating force outside of us in order to access it and embody it.
Patriarchy thrives on our belief in the illusion that our survival depends on self-deprecation. It depends on our fear of repercussions if we speak out, if we dare to challenge power. Now, more of us are shedding that fear as we see are finally coming to consciousness about what is at stake, for ourselves personally, for people collectively and for the world itself. We are waking up.
Sovereignty is about no longer depending on external approval but on finding the INTERNAL RESOURCES we need to own our power and take wise action on our own behalf and on behalf of all life. The power we seek already lives inside of us and it’s something we can claim, tap into and cultivate at any moment. As women, we need to do our own inner work but we can’t do this alone. We need each other to stand strong in a sustainable way. Every single time we embody our sovereignty, even in the small, tiny, unglamorous private acts we do each day, we build an energy that we can all tap into for support.
What Is Sovereignty? 13 Elements
Below are what I call the 13 Elements of Sovereignty. I invite you to read this list and see what jumps out at you, what resonates with you and if anything triggers you. What situations, people or dynamics come into your mind. And most importantly, Which of the 13 elements of sovereignty are you ready to step into at this crucial time in our history?
- Self-definition: You are your ultimate authority of truth and what’s right for you.
- Setting Boundaries early and often without guilt: Nurturing the Self is a priority.
- Being skilled at enduring the Discomfort that comes with Growth.
- Knowing that you are sacred, life is sacred, your body and nature is sacred.
- Practicing Inner Mothering: An indestructible “Bubble of Belonging” to oneself.
- Honoring your body and its limited window of tolerance.
- Owning your right to remain centered in your own being, no matter what’s happening.
- Resilient in the face of change: Inner safety allows you to allow chips fall where they may.
- Knowing your worth cannot be earned. It is inherent, established, not up for debate.
- Your pain is entrusted to you to help you grow and evolve; not a source of shame. Feeling the dignity and rejoicing in the wisdom that comes with healing traumatic wounds.
- Recognizing patriarchal behaviors in yourself and pivoting away from them. Refusing to self-fragment and self-abandon. Each situation is an opportunity to shed oppressive patterns and stand in integrity.
- Discernment: Taking your time to reflect, having healthy skepticism and a critical lens backed by self-worth. Not easily seduced by illusions of fantasy, rescue, perfection or of “us versus them.”
- Nourishment in Sisterhood: Finding and nurturing mutual support with other women on the path of embodying their sovereignty is a core piece of women’s liberation. As we heal the Mother Wound, we’re more capable of bonding more deeply with other women.
How to Build Sovereignty
To become more Sovereign, there are 3 things we need to build over time:
1. Re-building a sensitivity to the inner signals indicating when you are approaching a limit of some kind.
The goal is to be able to hear the inner signal as early as possible and take action on it. For many of us, our inner sensor for limits was disabled or muted through traumatic experiences, so these inner messages can feel silent or extremely faint in the beginning and there’s a learning process in how to read the signals of a limit approaching AND getting accustomed to taking action on those signals as soon as possible. With practice, it gets easier and easier. For example, when you are tired, hungry, angry, overwhelmed, when you need support, when you need rest, when you need to say No, when you feel disrespected, when your intuition is telling you something is off, etc. You take action to meet the need in that moment instead of putting it off and then experiencing some crisis, collapse or conflict. It becomes second-nature with time, to read the signal and act.
2. Developing your voice and refine how you speak up and set boundaries:
In the beginning, it can feel quite clunky and awkward, perhaps come across too strong, or it could be too shyly spoken. You may be skilled in setting boundaries in one area but hesitant to set boundaries in other areas. Be patient with yourself. Boundaries are an art and way of life, and as we grow our boundaries they become ever more precise, flexible, fluid and ultimately more empowering. Every time we set a boundary we are learning about ourselves, our needs and our relationships. Learn to see boundary-setting as a positive growth challenge that enhances your life immeasurably as an adventure of individuation. With every inch of ground that you claim, you help other women do the same.
3. Building Resilience in not taking people’s responses to your boundaries personally:
With more conscious, intentional practice of setting boundaries, prioritizing yourself, and situating that commitment as part of your integrity, you gradually become more resilient and less reactive when people disagree or push back on you. In fact, you eventually get to a place where it doesn’t matter if anyone calls you ugly, a bitch or selfish, because YOU feel deeply safe and in connection with yourself. You begin to trust that any losses you incur through expressions of self-ownership and inner authority are not truly losses, they are gains because you reclaim more of yourself. Those losses ultimately make space for more people and experiences that reflect your growing sense of self-worth. It becomes increasingly evident that the nourishment from your own integrity and self-love greatly outweighs the passing rejections of others.
“To accept and integrate and strengthen both the mother and daughter in ourselves is no easy matter, because patriarchal attitudes have encouraged us to split, to polarize, these images, and to project all unwanted guilt, anger, shame, power, freedom onto the “other” woman. But any radical vision of sisterhood demands that we reintegrate them.” ~Adrienne Rich, from the book Of Woman Born
All three of these things are facilitated through the practice of Inner Mothering, which helps us to heal the Mother Wound, which is how patriarchy gets passed from mother to daughter.
Inner mothering helps us shed those early adaptive coping mechanisms that keep us small and to increasingly stand in our power, truth, and integrity. As more women do this, we give each other, the animals, and the earth a fighting chance in the face of all the uncertainty and dismantling that we are living through.
Are you ready to be subversive, self-governing and sovereign? Buy my book Discovering the Inner Mother – A Guide to Healing the Mother Wound and Claiming Your Personal Power here.