I know of few things I hate more than awkwardness and tension. I'll do anything to fight it. I put “lol" after very serious messages to make them seem less intense. I use humor to lighten the mood. I let things happen that aren't okay and make myself believe that it “wasn't a big deal."
Except do that for too long, and you'll really get screwed over. Do that for too long, and you'll forget that you are allowed to say no, that you're worth standing up for, that what happened was a big deal and it's okay to admit that.
One of Rupi Kaur's poems says “you pinned / my legs to / the ground / with your feet / and demanded / I stand up."
To say it like my fellow young people: what a mood.
We are allowed to stand up for our needs, even if they don't fit what's “socially acceptable" or done politically. We are allowed to change our minds and avoid time with people who hurt us. We are allowed to say no. One of my favorite quotes is “You can't pour from an empty cup."
But this isn't always easy. We can say no and people ignore it. We can say “I don't want to; that hurts me" and people may say to “put up with it" or make other excuses. We may feel the need to let our boundaries be broken for the sake of other aspects of our mental health that just can't fight anymore.
I understand that some people may fight their hatred of awkwardness and tension by pushing past their boundaries or asking others to do so. At many social functions -- like holidays with family, for example -- it can feel so much easier to try to make sure everyone shows up and “acts normal." Going out of your comfort zone can definitely be a healthy and beneficial thing, but asking others to do so in a way that asserts power and ignores their needs is where I draw the line.
Going forward when someone asks you to stop is definitely not okay. Consent is crucial in so many areas, have that be sharing a story, interacting with someone's body, or whatever else. I believe in the APA Code of Ethics: first, do no harm, and second, try to help. Listen to someone's needs, be with them at the moment, and help how you can.
In trying to work with people who push us, several effective communication strategies exist. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, contains a module called “Interpersonal Effectiveness" that lays out many of these strategies.
For example, DBT provides the acronym “DEAR MAN," a layout of guidelines that can help you obtain what you want. DBT also provides “GIVE" which entails how to keep a relationship and “FAST" on how to maintain self-respect. Many more acronyms, exercises, and information exist -- they're all over the Internet and can be found in bookstores.
But what happens if these don't seem to work? If people mow us over time and time again, if we're too young to truly have any power or means to fight back if we receive the message through these situations that we are unworthy and will continue to feel disrespected?
We fight for ourselves; we do our best. We believe that every step and victory is a big one. We do what we can. We reach out. We refuse to be hard on ourselves or blame ourselves when things don't go our way. We know we deserve the best and don't feel guilty for it.
This journey will not be linear. It will not be perfect, nor will it always feel positive and empowering. However, we will find ourselves stronger with each step. We will hold onto hope and give our time, attention, and love to those who deserve it. It may be awkward, and it may be filled with tension, but it will be worth it, I promise you.
In summary, a quote of Nisargadatta Maharaj:
"All you need is already within you, only you must approach yourself with reverence and love. Self-condemnation and self-distrust are grievous errors. Your constant flight from pain and search for pleasure is a sign of love you bear for yourself; all I plead with you is this: make love of yourself perfect. Deny yourself nothing -- glue your self infinity and eternity and discover that you do not need them; you are beyond."