We explained that personal sovereignty means that each person is the only legitimate source of authority for his/her choices, decisions, and actions.
Respecting our own personal sovereignty means independently examining and consciously choosing which ideas, claims, norms, rules, and ideologies to adopt, rather than automatically adopting what others tell us. This is true even when others are supposedly figures of authority, such as parents, teachers, experts, professionals, government officials, or religious figures. It is always acting out of our own power, listening to ourselves to see what is right for us, rather than relying on what others say. Perhaps what they say works well for them but not for us. Personal sovereignty means making decisions without worrying what others might say about us.
See also “Re-examining our beliefs” here.
Respecting our own boundaries
When someone poses a request to us, how can we make sure that accepting this request and doing it is in line with our own boundaries? For that, we must listen to ourselves. This is a skill that we were not taught, but it can be developed. Stopping to ask the various voices inside us what they think and feel about the request. Do we feel like doing it? Do we have concerns? What do we feel in our body? What does our Essence say about all of this?
It is not always simple, because sometimes parts of us want to agree to the request while others don’t. For example, a friend requests that we help him move his stuff to his new apartment. On the one hand, we have a value of generosity and a desire to help him. On the other hand, today we feel a strong desire to stay at home and connect with ourselves. It is important we give ourselves the time to figure out what it is we really want. If we don’t get an agreement from all our parts, if we are unsure, then let us give ourselves the liberty to say no. Let’s do things only if we get an enthusiastic “yes” from all of our parts, or at least a decision we are ok with which we reach from our Essence.
Another possibility is to answer the request with an alternative suggestion, such as “not now but tomorrow”, or “I don’t feel like X, but how about we do Y?”
Stopping to figure out what our different parts want strengthens our ability to respect our boundaries and not agree to a request that we don’t really want to accept. Often it is hard for us to say no, because it’s unpleasant to be in conflict with the other person’s desire. But it’s even more unpleasant to do something we don’t really want to do. It’s hard also because in our society, we were not taught how to find out what we want and don’t want and how to communicate it. On the contrary, we were taught to sacrifice ourselves for other people’s wishes – parents, teachers, the state (see “Why do people violate personal sovereignty?” here). So learning and practicing to say “no” to others is crucial for our well being, and it is really learning to say “yes” to ourselves.
Here is something to remember that can be very helpful for you. In this world, there is a Very Important Person. This VIP has an assistant whose role is to take care of this VIP. This is a very prestigious and important role, because if this assistant does not take care of the VIP, no one else will. The primary responsibility of this assistant is to take care of the VIP. Only as a secondary goal the assistant can also help other people. It turns out that you are the Very Important Person, and you are also the assistant who is responsibly for taking care of this VIP. If you remember that, it will be easier to refuse to do something which goes against the VIP’s boundaries, because that’s your important job, and no one else will do it instead of you.
Think of situations in your life in the present or past where you did not respect your own boundaries. If you encounter similar situations in the future, how could you be more faithful to yourself and your boundaries?