Why Is It So Hard to Say No?

I’m definitely a yes person. In an ideal world, I’d be getting up in the morning and saying yes to social engagements, walks with my dog, trips, and all the other things life offers up. I really don’t like sitting on the sidelines; I like to experience things.

My juvenile rheumatoid arthritis has other ideas, though.

Feeling bad either way

The past few days I’ve had to say no to a barbecue, a walk, attending a wedding, and a request for a favor. It felt awful. I say I had to because, in the past, I would contort my thinking enough to convince myself to say yes, and then I would end up exhausted and feeling awful in a different way.

I have spent a lot of time feeling bad about my choices, whether I say yes to something or no. One choice makes me feel like an isolated party pooper, and the other makes me feel like an exhausted idiot who doesn’t know how to take care of myself.

Saying yes to maintaining my well-being

This predicament has to have a solution, and I’m pretty sure I won’t find it by continuing to feel awful. There isn’t any benefit in going through life feeling bad about making choices that keep me as healthy and pain-free as possible, and if I remember that is what I’m doing when I say no, I can shift my thinking over time.

The truth is, I’m never saying no — I’m always saying yes. By saying no to attending a wedding a few states away, I’m saying yes to keeping my energy levels steady, which will help me maintain my well-being over time.

Of course, this is easier said than done. I’ve not mastered this way of thinking in any way, but I’m hoping I’ll get better at it over time.

Finding ways to make it less of a struggle

One thing that has been helping is having people in my life who understand. I have friends who also have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and others who live with chronic pain, who help bolster me when my negative thoughts get the best of me. Another thing that has helped is paying attention to how my body reacts when I actually prioritize its needs. Instead of doing the bare minimum to keep it going, if I add a few things that I know are soothing and bring my pain levels down, over time everything is less of a struggle.

On days that I have to say no to something I would’ve really loved to say yes to, I’m trying to find something else, something that will occupy me in a positive way, so I spend less time ruminating about being a party pooper.

It's getting easier to say no

So, as I try out this new way of moving through life, I’m noticing how I feel and who keeps showing up. It’s been surprising, and tough, and wonderful all at the same time. And it’s getting just a little bit easier to say no.

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