The past several weeks, I’ve been mulling over a couple of different words… autonomy and sovereignty.
They are generally considered to be synonyms, but I find them quite distinct and I have enjoyed rolling them around in my head (as well as in conversation with a few others).
Autonomy is basically the freedom to do and act as you choose. It’s essentially not being controlled by someone else. Sovereignty typically is defined as “not being ruled by another nation or kingdom” – so at first glance, the two words are very similar.
However, if you turn them into a personal meditation/ exploration, I think that autonomy is the freedom to do what one likes or chooses, while sovereignty is more about rulership – and if you are thinking about it on a personal level, it’s about the ability (and choice) to rule oneself. It’s not about being free to do whatever you like, as much as being intentionally ruled by oneself – that is, to live in accordance with the rules, structures, guidance and goals that one has set out for oneself, and to be the sole entity in charge of one’s own life.
I have considered my life and I find that I am living, mostly, from a place of sovereignty – more now than I ever have before. There are still many, many things that command my attention and my time and my energy, and I feel often that I don’t necessarily have autonomy (in the sense that I can do whatever I want) – but deep inside I am solely governed by my best self, my highest self, the person that I am intending to become.
“First say to yourself what you would be; then, do what you have to do.” -Epictetus