Living with food allergies can mean having limits and concerns that differ from those of other people. You may find yourself needing to say "no" more often than you did before you had to worry about allergies to certain foods. Do you have a tough time being direct with others about how you feel? It's not unusual to feel awkward or self-centered when turning down a request or an invitation. You may feel at the mercy of the other person's need.
Using "I" statements can help put you back in the driver's seat of the situation. An "I" statement directly communicates your feelings and sets a clear boundary, allowing you to focus on activities that are safe for you and allow you to manage food allergy-related reactions like a rash or itching. For instance:
I don't feel like going.
I'd rather do something else instead.
I can't do it this week.
Whenever I attend that event, I have to worry about exposure to food allergens.
At first, you may feel vulnerable about using direct "I" statements when saying no. Your true feelings are exposed, and you may be judged for using your food allergy as an excuse. "I" statements can also be freeing! You don't need to pretend or tell a white lie. It's ok to communicate directly about what you need.
Using an "I" statement is a way of taking responsibility for your feelings. You are not blaming or accusing the other person. You are being honest about your needs and making sure they are recognized.
Members of MyFoodAllergyTeam shared some of their experiences with communicating directly:
"I really need to learn to be my own best advocate when it comes to allergy management."
"I'm so sad today. I have not been invited to my boyfriend's grandma's birthday dinner."
"I switched GPs within the same practice and I finally have one that is taking things seriously."
Have you used "I" statements to set boundaries? How did it feel?
Share your stories about direct communication in the comments below or on MyFoodAllergyTeam.