I think I am what a lot of people would call a pretty flaky person, in fact I know I am. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, and it’s only in recent years I’ve been able to discover why that might be.

In the past, my flakiness has reared its shiny head when I would have friends, and others, demand time and attention from me that realistically I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, live up to. It would be occasions like promising to go on a night out with a friend or promising time and attention to a partner and in either situation often being unable to meet the demand.

A lot of reactions might be that I am a flaky person. I can’t live up to the promises I make. I can’t be depended upon.

But I know better, now. I know that it is not necessarily that I cannot live up to what is required in life, but that I have allowed – and contributed to – others to have unrealistic expectations of me. I would become overwhelmed with the demands being asked of me, I would choose the easy route in the situation to people-please and say yes. No matter what was being asked.

This just resulted in more problems. White lies to cover up the failure here and there, with a big dash of added anxiety and stress to my life unnecessarily each time.

As I’ve grown more into myself, I’ve come to the realisation that I hate lying to people. Not only morally, but it generally just got me in more sticky situations than I care to remember. A failed promise too many times over resulted in challenging romantic relationships and not meeting (dealing with) the unrealistic expectations I allowed others to set upon me resulted in argumentative friendships.

I prefer the more simple approach: be honest. Not because it’s morally the right thing to do, but because life just gets a bit simpler when you are. You don’t have to set unrealistic expectations of yourself or allow others to do the same, you don’t have to make promises you cannot keep, and best of all you don’t have to tell white lies to get yourself out of a mess, which always leads to more mess.

My prevailing message is this, it’s OK to be flaky, as long as you’re honest about it. You don’t need to say “yes” just because someone has asked something of you. You can, and should, take the permanent stance of “no, but I’ll try to make that a maybe”. This doesn’t make you an undependable person, this just makes you a person who will try to always provide realistic expectations of yourself and for others’ expectations of you.

With more realistic expectations, you are freeing up your busy mind from trying to articulately plan around everyone else and instead can focus on doing the things you want to do and when you want to do them. You owe no obligation to anyone, only to yourself.

I want to be a person that isn’t affected by the noise, pressure, and demands of others and instead gets to choose their own obligations. If that is the kind of person you want to be, too, then try giving it a go more often: say “no”.

Say “no” now and focus on what’s important at this moment instead. There’s always going to be more time later for “yes”