100 Years of Suffrage and Why Do We Still Imprison Ourselves?


100 Years of Suffrage for Women…

This week marked the 100 year anniversary of the first UK laws that gave women the vote. (Not all women, not quite yet, but it was a milestone). It got me thinking about freedom, what we mean by it and what’s in the way of us having more of it.


If I were to ask many of my friends and clients what it is they want in life, one of the answers that would come back at me would definitely be 'freedom'.

Different people mean it differently but there's often a common thread about choice, being able to live life in a way that they want to rather than being at the mercy of other people or circumstances; being able to have some freedom of lifestyle—travel, a fulfilling career or job, and some way of making a difference in the world.

Sometimes I hear someone mention money as a means to this, often not.

And this elusive 'freedom' looks like a real thing that we can’t ‘have’ in the future. Something like the laws that one day didn’t exist, and then one day did. 

When we Get There…

Just as it looked to the women (and some men) of the early twentieth century that universal suffrage was an important milestone in tackling discrimination against women.

Well, in many ways it was but I don't want this to be a history lesson. Instead, I want us to look at how we (women and men) continue to imprison ourselves, even when we have more freedom of circumstances than we even realise. 

Freedom of Mind… 

A client, Joe, I worked with last year, came to me because he wanted to create more freedom in his life as he got older. He'd had a successful career and he wanted to transition to something with more flexibility, and perhaps some location independence so that he could travel and visit family around the world.

To Joe it looked very much as if the parts of his life that needed 'working on' were his options for future jobs or business opportunities, maybe there was something about 'confidence', and maybe something about 'decision-making' since he was, literally, faced with a world of choice.

To me, in those kinds of client conversations, the first place I'm curious to explore, however, is freedom of mind.

You see, once we see that most of what is holding us back is a creation of our own thinking, then this thing called freedom that looks like it's somewhere in the future, somewhere outside ourselves, suddenly explodes into our present.

You Already Have It… 

Joe and I had one such conversation.

He was telling me about a previous team member who'd transferred to the company's offices in the US some years ago, who'd recently been back in London for a visit.

What's to stop you going to the States, Joe?

I asked him.

If the company offered you a six-month stint in New York starting next week, you could take it couldn't you? What's actually stopping you?

As we talked Joe began to see that the only thing stopping him was that he'd created an image that his future looked a certain way.

The more we disentangled what was actually true from what he was creating as true that wasn’t, the more he saw that he had all the freedom he was looking for right now.

The only relevant question was, 

Did he want it?

He could pretty much say 'yes' to any interesting offer that came along, and he could start to create more opportunities in his present—there was no need to wait for some made-up future. Time has a vertical as well as a horizontal axis.

Vertical Time? 

As long as we are creating a fixed version of 'freedom' (or anything), and as long as we believe that it is within our job description to own it and control it, then we are prisoners of our own imaginings.

The suffragists weren't just fighting for an equal right to vote, they were fighting for equal access to education for women, improved pay and conditions, especially for manual labourers, better housing, social security, the full panoply of social change.

We have those campaigners, and the politicians who finally agreed to legislate, to thank for creation of many of our social safety nets and social reform of the last century. 

And, Yet… 

Much of what holds us back isn't about our physical circumstances.

Most of my clients are sitting in relative wealth, or at least comfort. Most of the people who attend my free seminars or low-priced workshops have nice homes and a business or a job to support them.

Yet many of us still feel dissatisfied. We still feel sometimes trapped and it looks as if we are bound to our situation. 


Isn't it just time you broke free of some of those imaginary chains that are holding you back?

In the words of Rumi,

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.

The entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.

With love,