What Are the Boundaries of Sovereignty?

boundaries of sovereignty

I get a lot of questions like:

  • My boyfriend takes a long time to text me back. How should I feel about that?
  • My wife hates that I see a therapist. Should I stop?
  • My best friend gets a lot of support from her family. I don’t. Should I expect her to pay when we go out?

Where do you draw the line with sovereignty? What are the boundaries of sovereignty? How do you know what is yours and what’s not? When is it okay to act and when is it crossing the line? It’s a very big question that is not easy to answer. Here are some guidelines to get you started to think about it.

You Are the Sole Authority on Your Body

Your body is your physical domain. It’s up to you to keep it looking nice, healthy, and fit. You get to decide what to eat, when to eat, whether to exercise, how to take care of hygiene, whether to sleep and how much, and anything else related to your self care. Your body is where you live. It is how you move in the world, and is a huge reflection of who you are. So, it’s up to you to claim this authority!

If you want tattoos, have tattoos. If you want to wear flashy or subdued clothes, go for it. But your authority isn’t limited to how you look or self care. It’s also about your health care decisions. You are responsible for your choices. Research options when you are sick. Choose your health care providers. Know what you are agreeing to. Don’t give someone else – even a knowledgable professional – power over your body.

This also applies to sex. It’s up to you to say what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. This doesn’t mean you are going to get it, but if you don’t speak up, you certainly won’t. On the other hand, if someone is approaching you in a way that you don’t want, you have an obligation to yourself to speak out. Power requires assertiveness to wield. It doesn’t assert itself without you.

You Control Your Own Thoughts

It’s totally okay for you to have your own opinions. They are influenced by your experiences, education, and maturity, so they may not be accurate. They may change. And it’s still your right to have them!

However, this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily appropriate to share them. If your thoughts are not kind, necessary, or true, it might be wiser to keep them to yourself.

You Are Responsible For Your Feelings

Feelings are a reflection of your thoughts. They are not you. Emotions are not universal. Some people will laugh at an incident while others feel indifferent or compassion. If you don’t like the way that you feel, change your thoughts. It’s not up to anyone else to make you happy or comfortable. This is true even if their actions resulted in you feeling down or uncomfortable.

So, if someone wants to tell you how to feel, you can call “boundary violation” on them. If someone wants to blame you for how they feel, the same is true. We can’t make someone feel something. Our feelings are our own. They are little sign posts that show us what’s inside. Maybe they are saying it’s time to slow down, move away, move toward, or spend some time healing something.

You Control Your Actions

What you do is up to you. Do you want to take a job, go for a walk, stay out too late, or not go to a family outing? It’s your call. When we please ourselves, we tend to be more authentic. However, connection and independence are related. The more independent we are, the less connected we tend to be. It’s a dance, a trade off. So, if you do what you want without regard to others, you may have a lonely time of it.

Putting It All Together

So, now that we have some guidelines, let’s look at how to put it all together so that we can guide our lives.

First, no shoulds. It’s only about what is. If you feel something, you feel it. If you want it, you want it. Nobody has an obligation to give you anything, do anything, or feel anything because you want it. The same is true for you. We all decide how to spend our time, money, and whether to give our attention to others. It is what it is. No obligations.

Second, if it’s not yours, it’s not yours. Not your body? You don’t get to say what someone does with it. Not your thoughts or feelings? You can have an opinion about it. But it’s not yours to control. You may not like what’s happening. You can respond to that by speaking out, removing yourself, or acting in other ways, but sovereignty means freedom and responsibility. We each have to decide how to use that power.

Each of us is a gatekeeper of our own realm. When we balance our needs with the needs of others, we are good neighbors. When we don’t, we create a world that’s not easy to live in. So let’s make great choices today!