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My 2021 word of the year


Katrina Kibben's Weekly Letter

December 18 · Issue #135 · View online

Every week, I'll write you a letter. A letter about anything, really. My goal is just to make you think.

I’ve been misgendered a lot lately - at least once every day. On calls. In posts on social media. Speaking gigs. I don’t think there’s an interaction I’ve had with someone new recently where they got it right. 
Now, I realize it’s not written on my forehead or anything, but I go out of my way to add it to my last name when I create my login for a webinar. It’s in my email signature. I find myself wondering quietly, “do I have to say it out loud? Should I make up a song?” 
It’s a weird tension for me. It feels like coming out over and over again. On the one hand, I want to be seen. I want people I encounter to use the right pronouns - they/them - for me. At the same time, I was conditioned not to correct people. “Just let it slide,” my parents would say. 
Really what they were saying is, “be polite.” I’m a default people-pleaser anyway, which really shouldn’t surprise anyone. I went to 13 different schools before the age of 18. That was my formula for fitting in - make sure everyone else is ok. Be thoughtful. Be attentive to whatever everyone else needs. As I got older, it became the default. Anyone else came before me. 
The problem isn’t the urge to help. The problem is that it was often at the sacrifice of myself. I destroyed my peace on the inside to keep the peace on the outside. I’d avoid the discomfort of a “no” and accommodate someone else’s “yes” only to start feeling this pressure well up inside of me. 
Then March 2020 happened. The pandemic took every one of my light-hearted yes’s and full-big heart energy yes’s and replaced them with a no. The slate was clean. Now what? 
Suddenly, I couldn’t rely on everyone else’s opinions to create my peace; I had to rely on myself. While it sounds like I wanted to light something on fire, this feeling wasn’t as damaging to me as the resentment. It was a lovely moment when I realized I could rely on myself. I could choose. 
The action part after where I had to say no a lot and reset boundaries? Not so beautiful. Pretty awful and ugly if you ask me. Lots of tears. Lots of self-doubts. Lots of insomnia. Not a good look. But the destination? That is something beautiful. It’s a recalibration of compassion. 
The goal? Learn how to quit. Yes, I said quit. 
Not this letter or my day job, not like that. I quit one-sided relationships that survive only because of my people-pleasing: friendships, work connections, all of it. I don’t owe anyone my time or peace. The catch? Quitting is hard. Walking away from people I care about that are not good for me is challenging. It will take everything I’ve got to break all my rules and rewrite my story. 
That’s why brave is my word of the year for 2021. 
Not brave in the traditional sense. I’m not trying to sacrifice it all to protect others anymore. In 2021, brave is a solitary endeavor. A deconstruction of the rules I’ve lived by my whole life. Brave is living by design instead of by default. It’s a spectrum, not a list of absolutes. 
That goes for you, too. Stop taking shit from people who don’t take care of you. Walk away. Cut off the communication. You deserve better - a life by design. 
So, what’s your word for 2021? 
I do this word of the year annually. What I don’t do every year is write a recap of the best blogs of the year. Why? I think they’re a little weird and operate off the assumption that we have more time at the end of the year. Not true. 
I did it anyway this year because the list was so different than any year before. I’ve been writing this blog since 2009. Every year the tactical talk would hit the top - 6 recommendations to do this, 5 ways to switch up your that. 
Not this year. This year’s top blogs are about people and changing the world for the better. They’re about opening the doors to vulnerability. Change. The collective shift in reality and expectations forced by the year 2020. 
I wanted to put all that good stuff in 1 place so you can pass it on. I hope you will. 
I also hope you have a wonderful holiday. I’m done writing this letter until next year. I’m taking the next two weeks off and looking forward to some downtime. 
Until next year, please stay safe and healthy. I’ll write again soon. In the meantime, send me your word of the year. 

Top 10 Blogs of 2020: My Reflection
practicing | They Is My Pronoun
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