For most of my adult life, I’ve been quite a sociable person. The thought of empty diary days used to make me panic – surely I ought to be doing something useful?!
Having chronic illness and two small children have forced me to slow down and pace myself. When I first had to do this, I struggled with worry about what other people thought of me and was concerned my friends and family would think I was slacking off. None of them ever said anything to make me feel this was, but I know it’s hard to understand something you haven’t experienced.
For a while, every time I felt I needed to say “No” to meeting up with a friend or cancel plans that had already been made, it would make me pretty anxious. I’d feel like a rabbit in the headlights and think, “What am I going to say? What’s my excuse?!” Needing to rest didn’t feel like a good enough reason. I felt I had to give an explanation that would be fully understood as I didn’t want anyone to feel rejected or think I was being flaky.
But recently I have stopped worrying about excuses. That internal panic rarely happens anymore and others’ perceptions of me don’t bother me as much. I’ve realised I’m happy to give my reasons as they truly are, whether or not the other person is able to understand them.
I’m not really sure what has brought about the change, maybe I’m just becoming a bit of a veteran! But I think the distinction between excuses and reasons is important; the former implies trying to preserve and control your reputation, while the latter is just about laying the truth out and letting people take from it what they will.
Next time you have to cancel plans because you know you need to rest, say it like it is, without worrying about how it comes across. Maybe you’ll have a helpful conversation with someone. The worst that can happen is that someone takes offence. But that’s really nothing to do with you.