Don't pretend the red flags aren't there. Don't make them beautiful by sewing them into a cape you can wear as you fly towards danger, or through the clouds of sorrows you don't need.
The first time that small part of you says "no" is the first time you should listen. You may tell yourself that you are mistaken. That the world is too big and eccentric and interesting for you to dismiss a person for how you feel. But how you feel is what you have. It is your instinct; the animal part of you that still lifts its ear in your slumber to listen for the sound of something out of place. Something you must learn to pay attention to.
You can question yourself endlessly when it comes to what politics you should have, what opinions you ought to hold, and what sort of person you intend to be, but if any part of you whispers to walk away because something is wrong, you need to hear it.
Sometimes your flags are only tentatively fluttering signposts written just for you. A polite cough from the part of your being that is paying enough attention. You read them and you understand this person does not belong in your heart or your bed but they will not harm you, if you stand one step further away. There are a lot of people we aren't meant to be close to, and it doesn't make them bad or wrong. It just makes them bad or wrong for us.
Other times your flags will be the colour of the roses climbing the walls of every fairytale tower any woman has ever been cursed in. That is when you need to run. That is when you mustn't look back just because whatever is behind you glitters. So does sunlight on the surface of the water above the hungry shark and over the slippery, tangling weeds.
I know this because I have good instincts and yet there have been times when I have held those flags in my hands like fallen bunting, and felt myself falter with the weight of the word "perhaps". Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I should wait a little. Perhaps I am going to help them. Perhaps it is unkind of me to think this. Perhaps my discomfort or my sadness is less important than being considerate. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. Martyrs are made that way and your heart, which is the greatest treasure you have, is not well-protected by perhaps.
It is ok to believe you are too important and too sincere and too hopeful to allow your boundaries to be overstepped or your standards to be lowered. To be certain that you do not have to entertain anyone whose existence doesn't in some way make you happier. That it is not your job to be the person who trusts them first, or forgives them most or allows them closer. It is not your job. Not now. Not ever.
And of course you can choose to do what you wish, but don't lie to yourself while you do it. Robbing a bank would be a bad idea, but how much worse it would be if you fooled yourself into thinking you were merely attending a cake sale, in a statement balaclava, even as it happened. Keep your eyes open while you let the red flags dance unheeded on the nearest telegraph pole. Understand, at least, that they are there to protect you. Even when they are the last thing you wish to see.
You matter enough to treat yourself with the tenderness and decency you have so often reserved for others.
You matter enough.