Saying no is a powerful thing. We live in a world where we are often pressured to do things we really don't want to do, and one benefit of being more comfortable in my own skin is using my right to say no. There are hard choices to make, every single day, on how I will spend my time, money and energy, and I love experimenting with my newfound freedom to prioritize my nuclear family above some of my obligations.
Every time I consider a request and say no, I feel more confident in myself. Sometimes it becomes very hard, and you must fight guilt and fear of being punished for your decision, but part of being an adult is standing up to that kind of forceful expectation, and living with the fall-out. Mostly I have to manage my own anxiety when I feel pressured and I say no anyway. Usually the intensity of the situation fades in good time, and if I feel I did what was right for me at the time, I have to learn to accept that not everyone is going to agree with me, and that's okay.
Saying yes to one thing means you say no to something else. It's not meant to be taken personally. Everyone has to decide based on what works best for their own needs. There is a time to give, when you don't feel like giving, but there is also a time to stand up for yourself and your family, and say no to things that don't bring you life or joy.
I'm learning that it's okay to invite people to things, as long as I'm comfortable with their answer, be it yes or no, and not punish them for it. This takes some practice in the kind of world we live in, and particularly in a small town, where every person is invited to a million and a half things every week. My evenings with my family are precious to me. When I was younger, I longed to flee my house and escape in the evenings, but now I want to hole up and relax after my busy days and be snug as a bug in a rug (I'm not saying we have bugs, or even rugs for that matter, but I'm sure you know what I mean).
We all have to find the line that we are comfortable walking. Saying yes to everything because you feel pressured to do so is not the way to go, because eventually you'll burn out and hit a big brick wall. Saying no to everything is also a tough stance because soon you won't be invited to anything. Finding the balance that works, and not being fearful of the consequences of saying no, seems to work well for me.
I know there are hurt feelings along the way, and people have to manage how they feel when their request is respectfully declined. I can't take on that responsibility or I'll go crazy with guilt, and live my life to please other people, and I've discovered after many years of trying, that's a dead-end road leading nowhere.