I wanted to annoy other people. I was pretty sure that it was the correct thing to do. I was confident that I had the right to do it in the language I use to push through awkward decisions. It would make my life easier if I did this, but it would also result in the disapproval of other people. I told myself that I could do this. I can't. I can hang on a second. It is for God's sake. Tomorrow I'll do it.

This particular dynamic is something I see coming up all the time. British and Australian people are more likely to struggle with certain types of assertion than Americans. The majority of Americans can either change their minds about something or turn it down. It's almost impossible for the Brits and Australians to deliver a clean decision when they know it will cause anger or disappointment.

A friend on the east coast who had agreed to attend a wedding in California wanted to back out when her circumstances changed. A friend dealing with incoming renters wanted to tell them their last-minute requests for furniture removal were not reasonable. My own situation, in which I wanted to pull my kids out of a summer camp they weren't enjoying, which I knew would be viewed by the organizers as "quitting" All three of us were unwilling to upset those on the other side of the exchange.

This situation has a lot to do with how frightened we are of being disliked and the lengths we will go to escape it. I avoided the awkwardness of turning them down by having all of my relationships with them. I said yes, regretted it, went back in to say no, freaked out, and said "Actually, don't worry, it's fine". Failing to get what you want is the worst outcome.

The jury isn't out if I seem to be over this. The early signs are likely to be related to the Pandemic. After two years of not travelling or going out much, many of us are getting invites and opportunities that are different than they were before. Expectations didn't stay the same. There were changes to the plans. We were used to being let down. "No got easier" was somewhere in there. Now is a good time for a hard reset on boundaries.

I think my willingness to do difficult things is due to my age. I don't have the time to fantasize about how much someone dislikes me. We think other people are more fragile than we are. We underestimate the space we take up in the minds of our friends and family. There are people with lives. They are just as obsessed with themselves as we are. If you don't go to a friend's wedding because you don't want to miss out on something, you're right. The bride will get over it if she is angry.

Before you say or do something that you are frightened to do, you have to be comfortable with the consequences. You have to respect the other person's right to be annoyed and assume that it will pass quickly. It's important to believe that the result is worth a few moments of feeling bad. It's okay.

My kids went to camp. I was ghosted by the event organizers. There was nobody dead. There it is. The thought of what if they cross with me might no longer be a factor in my decision-making.

Brockes is a columnist for the Guardian.