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It’s okay to say “no”

By Mary Pettigrew

It’s okay to say “no.”

Let me preface this article by saying I will not be focused on COVID-19. We’ve all been dealing with this virus in one way or another for more than a year. Now, I may write about the topic in one form or another in the next month or so, I’ll not write about it today. Therefore, I’m saying “no.”

Whether we have MS or not, we typically have the best intentions towards others and events happening in and around our lives. People with MS want to live as normal a life as possible. We may have projects in mind and people of whom we want to please. We have family and friends we want to call, see, or connect with either in person or virtually, but with MS, sometimes we can’t. It is frustrating, exhausting, but it’s also okay to say “no.” It’s a part of self-care, mindfulness, and setting boundaries for yourself. Be patient because it does take practice.

It’s okay to say “no,” even when we say “yes” (or want to say “yes”): 
We often say “yes” with good intentions, yet must cancel or postpone at the last minute. It’s okay. When we have MS, our bodies and or mind tell us another story about what we can or cannot do. It really sucks, but we have to be okay with it.

It’s okay to say “no”: 
When we are presented with an opportunity to participate in activities, events, or even agreeing to collaborate on a project. Be honest with others and more importantly, be honest with yourself to know what you can or cannot do. The guilt of saying “yes” if you can’t fulfill promises can be overpowering and will cause mental and physical issues. I’ve experienced this for years. Remember, the gut has a “brain” too and will react in unpleasant ways.

Be mindful of what you want to do versus what you cannot do. This does not mean it’s a permanent situation. Focus on what it means for you and to you at that particular time. Can you quit? Can you postpone? Can you readjust to fit the need of yourself and everyone else in play? There questions worth asking yourself base on what you want and need. 

There is a time to say “yes,” but here is also a time to say “no.” This is part of being mindful and taking care of yourself. Believe me, all parties will be all the better for it in the long run.

Bullet Points:
  • It’s okay to say “no” to family – because they still love you.
  • It’s okay to say “no” to friends – because the love you too.
  • It’s okay to say “no” to yourself – because you need to love yourself too.

This last point, I believe, can be the hardest to reject, the hardest to grasp. I’m a people pleaser, always have been, but I’m learning to please myself and it can be done. And when it can be done it’s quite powerful. So, although the title and the gist of this article is about saying “no” to things in our lives, it opens up the door to saying “yes.” When we can say “yes” with confidence, we are more willing and excited to participate in life. Our lives with MS can still be meaningful and fun. Again, it takes a while to learn the differences between saying “yes” versus “no.” But remember, it’s okay to say “no.”