Those of us with fibromyalgia talk a lot about the importance of saying no, but sometimes saying no just isn’t an option – or so we think. Often, we feel like we have to say yes when, in reality, we really don’t. Many times, we say yes without thinking and without asking the right questions of ourselves and/or the the person asking. Does this sound like you?
Before You Say Yes
Before you say yes to doing something that could potentially make your fibromyalgia symptoms worse, ask yourself these questions:
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- Is saying yes in my best interest? As a general rule, whenever you’re asked to do something, you should evaluate how it will affect your health and decide whether or not saying yes is in your best interest. Sometimes, however, you’re going to have to say yes, even when it may not necessarily be in your best interest physically. For example, when my mom was sick and called me up needing something, I dropped everything to help her – regardless of my interests – because at that moment, her immediate need was the most important thing. Likewise, when my husband totaled his car a few years ago, even though I was still at the worst of my illness, when I got that call, I threw my shoes on and was out the door. In urgent or emergency situations such as these, helping loved ones in need may have to take precedence over your own personal health interests.
- Is it worth the cost? Evaluate what you will have to let go of in order to say yes. Is it really worth it? Is what you are giving up of so little importance that you can just pass on it?
- Do I have the energy to do it? Is your energy envelope full enough that you can give what is being asked without depleting it? With fibromyalgia, you never really know in advance how much energy you will have available at any given time. You need to consider this before agreeing to do something. Sometimes it’s better for everyone involved to say, “I’m really not sure if I’ll be able to do that. I’ll pencil it in, but I can’t make any promises.” It’s better not to commit than to do something halfway or to have to back out at the last minute.
- Am I the best person for this task? It can be exciting to be asked to do something – particularly if it’s something you’d especially like to do. But in the midst of your excitement, be sure to consider whether you’re the best person to do it given your health limitations. Think about whether you really have the skills, time and energy to commit to the task. Do you know someone who might be a better fit for the job? If so, share the opportunity. Or if you feel you can handle some aspects of the task but are not up to doing it all, you could offer to share the responsibilities with someone else.
- What’s at stake? What does the person asking you for this favor really want? Is it as simple as what they’ve asked for or do they want more? Are they asking you for a small favor just to get a foot in the door so they can ask for more later? Not long ago an acquaintance asked me for help with a small online event. It was a very simple task that was to be done during the event, which I had already planned to participate in anyway. As it turned out, what I thought was to be a five-minute task turned into more than two hours of work (mostly outside of the actual event). By the time I was done, I was annoyed and vowed to never say yes to this person again. I realize now that I should have asked more questions upfront to make sure that we were on the same page about what she was expecting. We probably both would have been happier for it.
- Can I think about it? Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have to say yes right now or the offer will be pulled away from you, the best option probably is to say no. Chances are that if someone (usually a salesperson) is presenting you with a buy now or lose the opportunity scenario, you will usually be better off to say no. But, it’s not just sales people who do this to us. Sure, there are a few valid scenarios where a quick decision is the only way. For example, if your friend has an extra ticket for a show tonight; they can’t wait around for you to make up your mind. In cases like that, check your calendar and your energy envelope quickly to see if it’s an option. But most of the time, that need to make an instant decision is a false need. There should be time for you to really consider the ask and decide if saying yes or no is in your best interest.
- What do I really want to do? What you want to do matters. It’s important. Why is it so often seen as selfish or rude to just say, “No, I don’t want to”? Too often we say yes to things because we think it’s what someone else wants, and we want to make them happy. But is it what you want? I’ve heard so many stories – and been involved in too many to count – where Person A has said yes to something, thinking it’s what Person B wanted, only to find out that the only reasonPerson B suggested it was because they thought it was what Person A wanted. Really take time to consider whether the thing you are being asked to do is something you really want to do. If it’s not, and if it’s not one of those cases where no isn’t option, then say no.
- Would I do this for myself? For that matter, would you ask someone to do this for you? Too often we end up doing things for other people that we wouldn’t even do for ourselves, let alone think to ask someone else for. Often, we do these things without being asked at all, but rather because we offer (out of a misplaced desire to be loved, to be the good friend/child/parent, etc). But seriously, why are we doing things for others that we wouldn’t even do for ourselves? I love my mom and would do a lot for her, but I can barely clean my house, so I’m not going to offer to clean hers. That said, if I can afford it, I might offer to pay someone to clean hers.
- Will saying yes harm me in any way? This is a big one for those of us with fibromyalgia. Too often saying yes will actually cause us physical, mental or emotional harm, whether now or in the long run. My mom is the queen of saying yes way too often. Rather than finding out if someone else could do it, she just goes ahead and does it, assuming no one else will. On the other hand, when it comes to things that may harm her or her children, she knows how to make the right choice. I can learn a lot from that.
- Am I being taken advantage of? How many times have you said yes to a situation only to have that same person come back and ask for something else, then something else, and so on. Once they’ve discovered that you will say yes, they are going to keep asking. I know some very nice people who allow themselves to be taken advantage of time and again. They are kind-hearted people who just want to help others. What they don’t realize is that by continually saying yes, they may actually be harming themselves and those who love them.
What other questions do you find it helpful to ask yourself before you make a commitment?
This article, originally published December 5, 2016, was updated on December 4, 2019.
Julie Ryan, a regular contributor to ProHealth, is a fellow Fibromyalgia Warrior, freelance writer, and blogger. In addition to Fibromyalgia, Julie is currently diagnosed with Endometriosis, Migraines, Cluster Headaches, and Hypothyroid. She shares her journey, along with inspiration, and information on her blog at http://countingmyspoons.com