Decolonize (v.)

To release from rulership

To allow (a colony) to become self-governing or independent

To free a colony to become self-governing or independent

I used to avoid conflict like the plague.

I genuinely believed that if I spoke up for myself, if I preferred something different than someone I loved or if I showed my anger, hurt or irritation that I might shrivel up and die.

I realize this might sound a bit dramatic (especially if you haven’t experienced something similar yourself), but anytime I faced even a mildly confronting situation my voice started to shake, my palms beaded up with sweat, my stomach churned and my heart raced like I had just completed a full throttle sprint. These physiological symptoms are indicative of the level of fear I had around ruffling anyone’s feathers and being seen as something other than a nice, flexible, open-minded and loving person.

This and so many other recurring patterns that I have been working through for years are demonstrative of how my mind and body were ruled by the values, belief structures and preferences of many forces outside of myself. This is what I refer to as being colonized or occupied.

In order to engage with the process of freeing ourselves as women, we must learn to adopt an attitude of decolonization.

Decolonization is a term often used in political circumstances that describes the process by which individuals, groups or societies refuse to accept the colonial mindsets and norms. There are many examples throughout history and in this modern day where groups of people enter foreign lands and attempted to gain power, control and influence over how others were living.

If we keep our eyes wide open and get really honest with ourselves, we start to recognize that our experience as women can be linked back to the expectations of family, school, culture, religion and many other tangible and intangible forces. There is no getting around this basic human fact that we have all undergone molding and influence.

Accepting that this occurs is one thing, but if we want to experience greater levels of freedom both internally and externally as women, we need to take the process of personal decolonization to heart. This entails rolling up our sleeves and becoming committed investigators of our own minds. Until we engage in this critical thinking and excavation process we are not choosing what we accept or reject about how we’ve been influenced, instead we are passive participants in our own lives.   

Particularly for women who are living in relatively free and safe countries and who have been born into families and sub-cultures where there is access to education, equal rights and economic opportunity, much of the struggle has shifted from an external fight (although there is still much work to be done!) to an internal battle.

Hating one’s body, striving for accomplishments that are not authentically fulfilling to who you are, constant uncertainty about self worth and confusion on our inherent value are all signs and symptoms of how our hearts, minds, bodies and souls have been colonized by outside forces that are not necessarily in support of our unbridled expression and freedom as whole, empowered and inspired women.

I recently made an educational video where I walk you through a simple and practical method for how to engage with this process of personal decolonization. You can watch and listen here: 

Once you’ve gone through the exercise with a specific thought, belief or perception, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What did you notice when you took yourself through the process? What did you learn?

I want to remind you that there is no magic formula or perfect system, my teachings are simply suggestions and clues that will hopefully help you on your path.

The moment we start to question the validity of our own beliefs and assumptions (particularly when they have the flavor of limitation and impossibility) is the moment we step foot on the path to freedom.

This process of decolonization is continuous. There is no finite ending. It is an ongoing journey to repeatedly free our minds, bodies and souls from the grips of other people, culture and ideologies that have their agendas and wish to influence, shape and dominate us.

The painful truth is that the tentacles of patriarchy can be tricky and slippery at best. They shape shift, hide and try to confuse us, and that is why now, more than ever we must commit wholeheartedly to the life-long practice of decolonization and join in solidarity with other women who are committed to the same, even if it may look or feel different than how we might do it.

In Service,