My psoriasis started off as a small spot on the top of my left arm when I was diagnosed at age 10. At that moment, I had no thoughts about how different my life would become. I was young and optimistic. I’d never heard of psoriasis and the effects it could have on someone’s body before.

But it wasn’t long until all of that changed. That tiny spot grew to cover the majority of my body, and while it took over my skin, it also took over much of my life.

When I was younger, I had a really hard time fitting in and struggled to find my place in the world. One thing I absolutely loved was soccer. I will never forget being on the girls’ soccer team when we made the state championships and feeling so free, like I was on top of the world. I vividly remember running around and screaming on the soccer field to fully express myself and get out all of my emotions. I had teammates that I adored, and even though I wasn’t the best player, I really loved being a part of a team.

When I was diagnosed with psoriasis, all of that changed. The thing I once loved became an activity riddled with anxiety and discomfort. I went from being carefree in my short sleeves and shorts, to wearing long sleeves and leggings underneath my clothes as I ran around in the hot summer sun, just so people wouldn’t be freaked out by the way I looked. It was brutal and heartbreaking.

After that experience, I spent a lot of time focusing on everything I couldn’t do because I had psoriasis. I felt sorry for myself and was furious with people who seemed to be able to do it all. Instead of finding ways to enjoy life despite my condition, I spent a lot of time isolating myself.

These are the things I thought I couldn’t do because I had psoriasis.

I remember the first time I went hiking. I was in awe of the fact that I got through it and actually enjoyed it. Not only did my psoriasis make movement challenging, but I was also diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at the age of 19. The psoriatic arthritis made me never want to move my body again because it was so painful. Whenever anyone asked me to do something that involved moving my body, I would respond with an “absolutely not.” Going on a hike was an epic accomplishment for me. I went slow, but I did it!

Yes, I was terrified to date. I thought for sure that no one would ever want to date me because my body was covered with psoriasis. I was very wrong about that. Most people didn’t care at all.

I also found that true intimacy was challenging for everyone — not just for me. I was afraid that people would reject me because of my psoriasis, when little did I know, the person I was dating was also afraid I’d reject something completely unique to them.

I know this might seem dramatic, but for me, it was very real. There were about six years of my life where my psoriasis was so debilitating that I could barely move my body. I had no idea how I was ever going to hold a job or even get a job at that time. Eventually, I created my own company so I never had to let my health dictate whether or not I could work.

When my psoriasis was severe, I did all I could to hide it. Finally, I reached a point of learning how to truly own the skin I was in and embrace my scales and spots. My skin was perfect just the way it was, so I started showing it to the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely terrified, but it ended up being incredibly liberating. I was insanely proud of myself for letting go of perfection and being so vulnerable.

Although it was uncomfortable at first, and I certainly had a ton of resistance to it, I was deeply committed to a happier experience for myself.

Every time I’d have the opportunity to try an activity or go to an event, my first reaction was to say “no” or “I can’t do that because I’m sick.” The first step to changing my negative attitude was to acknowledge when I said those things and explore if it was even true. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a lot of the time. I’d avoided loads of opportunities and adventures because I’d always assumed I couldn’t do most things.

I began to discover just how incredible life could be if I started to say “yes” more and if I started to trust that my body was stronger than I was giving it credit for.

Can you relate to this? Do you find yourself saying that you can’t do things because of your condition? If you take a moment to think about it, you might realize that you’re more capable than you thought. Give it a try. The next time you want to automatically say “no,” let yourself choose “yes” and see what happens.

Nitika Chopra is a beauty and lifestyle expert committed to spreading the power of self-care and the message of self-love. Living with psoriasis, she’s also the host of the “Naturally Beautiful” talk show. Connect with her on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.