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  • Writer's pictureAnjum Madan

Word of the Year - 2023

Last year, for the very first time, I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to pick a word of the year. I was convinced that 2022 was going to be my year to emerge – after all, I had been working on healing myself for so long now, it had to be time to come out of the cocoon, right?

Boy was I wrong! 2022 taught me that there is no magical finish line. There is no switch that will get turned on, and then BOOM I’ll be healed (wouldn’t that be nice?) Instead, each layer of healing brings a new, tougher layer to uncover. I’m far from emerging. Instead, I feel like I may have taken a few steps backwards. In fact, there was a point this year where I said (once out loud, several times internally) that I wish I had never started on this healing journey. I wish I could go back to the place when I didn’t know just how broken I am.

Based on this experience, you may be wondering why I have chosen a word for 2023. The truth is, that I may not have emerged, but the growth and realizations I have had this year are part of the process of figuring out who I am meant to be. And if you look at it that way, perhaps I have begun to emerge. Perhaps the word wasn’t wrong – it is just going to take longer than a year. Based on this realization, I thought about continuing with the word “emerge” for 2023 but it doesn’t feel like it sits right for the coming year. But I like the process of finding a word that embodies what I want for the coming year. And the new ritual of creating an ornament was something that really resonated with me, so I definitely want to do that again next year.

When thinking of what I want to embrace next year, the word that came to me immediately was “brave”. You may remember that I was inspired by Reshma Saujani’s book Brave, Not Perfect which I read last year. Then the word courage popped into my mind and I was curious about the distinction between the two words. According to Shonna Walters, Ph.D., BetterUp’s Vice President of Alliance Solutions:

Bravery is more spontaneous and involves setting fear aside.

Courage is about having fear, being mindful of the risks, and making the conscious decision to do something anyway.

Reading this distinction made it clear to me. In 2023, the word that I want to embrace is courage. I don’t think it is realistic for me to set fear aside. Instead, being aware of fear and the risks and taking action regardless, is what I truly want 2023 to be about. It is an attitude I can take with me into the new year to face whatever challenges may be coming my way.

I decided to create a piece of art to remind myself of this perspective and hang it at my desk so that when I’m feeling less than courageous, I can stare at it and remind myself of this attribute -and perhaps find the courage to keep going.

When trying to figure out how to depict courage, I was tempted to choose an obvious symbol such as a lion or a superhero. However, that felt too literal. So I decided to take out my watercolours and start by painting a background. As it dried, I looked at it and came to the realization that this may not have been the right approach. After all, the colours were too subtle. They did not speak of courage – instead, they seemed to speak of blending into the background – which sounded more like my “old self” rather than the person I am working hard at becoming.

I asked, what can I do to this piece to make it more courageous? All of a sudden, I knew – I pulled out my charcoal pencils and knew that the contrast between the charcoal and the watercolour would be what exuded courage. Here is what I ended up with:

Watercolour background with charcoal spriral
Word of the Year 2023 - Courage

I would love to know – does this piece speak of courage to you?

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