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Welcome to my island of sanity and serenity. I'm Sandra Pawula - writer, mindfulness teacher and advocate of ease. I help deep thinking, heart-centered people find greater ease — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Curious? Read On!

How to Own Yourself In A World That Wants to Own You

The Tree That Owns It Self

If you’re not speaking your truth, whose are you speaking?  If you are not honoring your medicine,  who will midwife it into being?  - Ara Campbell

I haven’t read Free Will Astrology  for years, although I used to be an addict when I lived in Santa Cruz and the column ran in the Santa Cruz Weekly. As synchronicity goes, a friend posted a link on Facebook and curiosity brought me to an early December reading for my astrological sign on self-ownership:

Your mascot is a famous white oak in Athens, Georgia. It's called the 'Tree That Owns Itself.' According to legend, it belongs to no person or institution, but only to itself. The earth in which it's planted and the land around it are also its sole possession. With this icon as your inspiration, I invite you to enhance and celebrate your sovereignty during the next seven months. What actions will enable you to own yourself more thoroughly? How can you boost your autonomy and become, more than ever before, the boss of you? It's prime time to expedite this effort.

Serendipitously, my personal intention for the preceding month read like this:

  • Trust myself
  • Respect my sensitivity
  • Set my boundaries
  • Honor my limits

I must have sensed this message in the offing, as self-sovereignty depends on the strength of these abilities although it’s not defined by them alone.

Owning Yourself In a World That Wants to Own You

I don’t think it’s easy to own yourself in this world.  To begin with, you’re subject to conditioning from your family and society.  In most cases, these forces pound you over the head repeatedly, not only to conform, but to fully buy into the dominant norms.

When I look at my life, I see I’ve been owned by people and my own obsessions; less so by possessions or money, but these often rule a person’s life.

At various times in my life, I’ve been owned by:

  • My parents, boyfriends, bosses, and mentors of all varieties.
  • Alcohol, food, and the desire for love.
  • Conditioning, confusion, low self-esteem, and fear.

In terms of the people, it wasn’t their fault.  Deep inside, I thought I must do what they say.

What about you?  Who or what controls your life?

I could be wrong, but I think it’s almost impossible to start off owning yourself.  Unless you're the rare child gifted with clarity from early on, there's much to be undone if you wish to align with your free spirit.

For many people, self-sovereignty only unfolds at a seemingly unpredictable pace as they tumble through the challenges of life, knocking off false bits through experience. A handful of pixie dust must be thrown into the mix from time-to-time as well.

Many people die as subjects to an imaginary King or Queen, never knowing what it means to own themselves.  Why do some people wake up and others stay asleep?  Luck, good karma, or magic - whatever you want to call - must have a place.  It could be a line from a blog post like this, an unexpected encounter with someone you admire, or a job gone awry that suddenly sets you on a new track.

There are dangers to not owning yourself, which Brené Brown sums up brilliantly:

If you trade your experience for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.

Potent clues like these tell you it might be time to step back and look at exactly how autonomous you are.  I would add global warming to the list as marketers hoodwink us into consuming more than we actually need to be happy.  Sadly, the consequences effect everyone worldwide.

What Is Self-Sovereignty?

When I speak of self-sovereignty, I don’t mean a political or economic movement like rights-based libertarianism or individualist anarchism.  To me, self-sovereignty means:

  • Peeling away they layers of conditioning so you can come to know your true self.
  • Knowing you are worthy. You have the right to exist and to thrive.
  • You know what you want.
  • You create the space to tune into yourself.
  • You forgive yourself.
  • You’re on top of your thoughts and emotions instead of subservient to them.
  • You’re not easily perturbed.
  • You have a voice.  You have a presence.
  • You are free of the control, expectations, and coercion of others.
  • You understand and appreciate the interconnectedness of all beings.
  • You know your actions have an effect for better or for worse.
  • You take responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions, aiming for the highest good for yourself and others.
  • You feel grounded in yourself so you’re not easily knocked off-center when someone makes a suggestion about your life.
  • You're self-reliant, but also have the confidence to ask for help when needed.

What did I miss?

Self-sovereignty isn’t about self-cherishing, self-absorption, or egotism.  It’s about removing the layers of the false self so your true self can shine.  Then you naturally impact others in the best way possible.

My mission for the next six months is to learn - in my being - all I can about self-ownership and to step more fully into myself.

Thus, I’ve chosen self-sovereignty for my 2016 guiding word.

I don’t have self-ownership all figured out. In fact, as I paged through my last year's journal, I observed the gap between when I know in my heart and when I put the heart-wish into action.  At times, these two are many months apart as I fumble around following external markers.

A part of me almost wishes I hadn’t selected this word for the year.  As soon as it popped up, new boundary issues confronted me.  The first one I conquered easily.  The next ones proved more challenging, evoking deeper and darker emotions.

When Your Self-Sovereignty Is Challenged

What happens when your self-sovereignty is challenged?  You might:

  • Feel uncomfortable.
  • Go quiet and cold.
  • Feel angry and aggressive towards the perceived challenger.
  • Feel caught in a double bind.  You might want to please, but don’t want to do what the other person has in mind for you.
  • Feel very alone, as though no one understands you.
  • Obey, placing your own wishes to the side.
  • Or maybe you can hold your space!  Let's all head there.

How do you respond?

Yes, change often feels uncomfortable, but when you open and move through it you find more happiness, trust, and freedom on the other side.  It's so important to deeply know this, so movement forward doesn't frighten you out of your wits.

Mixing Self-Sovereignty with Love, Grace, and Space

I know one of the lessons I’ll be learning in the coming months is how to own myself with love, grace, and space.

I’ll need to get to know this fury inside that manifests in all these burdensome ways - from cool to hot aggression - and hear the messages she holds for me.  I’ll need to carefully purge this festering wound that says, “You must do what they say.”  I’ll need to separate my projections from what another person actually means, recognizing their ideas may come from a warm spot in their heart.

When someone has a solution for my life, my wish is to be I’ll be able to say, with a sense of love, grace, and space, “Thank you.  I’ll think about that.”  I may take their suggestions into consideration if they feel like a good fit.  But I won't just collapse into obedience.  I’ll be practicing knowing myself, honoring my intuition, respecting my wishes, and making the right decision for me.

So that’s my word for the coming year:  Self-Sovereignty.

How about you?  Have you chosen a word as a guiding star for the coming year? And, what about self-sovereignty?  Where do you fall on the spectrum from owning yourself to obeying others.  I would love to hear!

Thank you for reading!  I appreciate your presence.  If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free blog posts by email and please take a moment to share it.  May you be well, happy, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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