The Social/Personal Challenges of Becoming Vegan, Part One
Over the next several blogs, one of our colleagues, Peg Haust-Arliss, LCSW-R, will be writing about overcoming the challenges associated with becoming vegan.
Although progress continues, one may still face some judgment for becoming vegan. At best, new vegans will be viewed as a little weird, and at worst, they will be seen as assuming dangerous practices to their body, radical, or even un-American. New vegans are passionate and positive about making compassionate changes, but because some people are adamantly against veganism, staying on track can become challenging. Let’s take a look at common social and personal challenges that may come up, and how to handle them.
• You may have a strong desire to share, but feel uncertain and worried about how you’ll be received.
• Friends and family may respond with disapproval or serious concerns about your health.
• You may begin to feel disconnected from others because of your shift in beliefs/values.
• Your partner or your kids are not interested or refuse to join you.
• You may find what you have learned traumatizing or hard to reconcile.
• You feel you have to be “the perfect vegan” and feel guilty if you are not.
1. NON-JUDGEMENT: The defensiveness or even anger that you might see from others is a defense mechanism. Have you ever felt angry when someone was criticizing you? Some people may think you are judging them, even if you are not. No one likes to feel judged or be criticized, so it’s best to a keep a non-judgmental attitude. Don’t take it personally. No matter what your reason for adopting a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle, remember you were at one time eating an animal’s flesh and drinking their milk and wearing their skin, too. The best thing to do is be non-judgmental, even when YOU feel judged. Everyone is on an individual journey and at different crossroads.
2. TEACH, DON’T PREACH: People are going to ask you questions – maybe just one, or maybe a hundred. Look at it as an opportunity to educate. The best way is to simply tell your own story. For me it sounds like this:
“So you are a vegan? How did that happen?”
“Yes, thanks for asking! We took a trip to farm sanctuary just to do something different on the weekend. We hadn’t planned to become vegetarians that day; in fact we were going to go to Burger King afterwards. But, we learned a lot that day and what we learned lead us to the choices we made. So yeah, it was very eye opening.”
The conversation may end at that point, and that’s okay. Or they may ask you what you mean, and that’s your cue to give a bit more info, because they are welcoming it:
“What do you mean eye opening?”
“Well, to hear what the animals go through was painful to learn, but I am glad I know because I don’t want to contribute to another living creature’s pain the way I unknowingly had been. I have always loved animals, you know? Let me know if you ever want to learn more, I would be happy to share. If you’re really curious take a road trip; it’s such a great place.”
3. GET CLEAR ON YOUR WHY: If you are motivated to create this new lifestyle for yourself, get clear on your reasons for wanting to do so. Is it for the animals, your health, the planet, or all of the above? What will it mean for you commit to this empowering lifestyle? What could it mean for others and the greater good?
4. FIGHT THE KIND FIGHT: If you are vegan, you are likely very passionate about the truth, and want to share this important information with everyone. We are fighting for the animals, for their very survival. However, it is exhausting to fight a war. Therefore, I don’t think of it as war, because no one truly wins in war. It’s a good fight. And for me, I find the approach of a KIND FIGHT most beneficial. By this, I mean that I don’t try to win arguments or use verbal and psychological weapons. I remember my highest intention, which is compassion for all creatures – human and non-human – while I stand up for animals.
5. ONCE IS ENOUGH: If you are vegan because you bore witness to the atrocities of the animal agriculture industry, it was likely traumatic for you. Don’t keep exposing yourself to this traumatic material. You don’t have to relive what you already know. Talk to other vegans, if you can, so you know there are others who understand the pain and frustration you may still feel.
Stay tuned for our next blog, in which Peg will continue to go over strategies for overcoming the social and personal challenges of becoming vegan. While you wait, why not try a Badass Power Cookie? Our nutritious little cookie has everything you could want from a vegan protein bar!
Peg is an author, therapist, vegan health and lifestyle coach, and the proud owner of Fear To Freedom Holistic Psychotherapy. Her thriving private practice is located in the beautiful Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, where she offers in-person and online individual therapy and coaching, VIP Day Breakthrough Sessions, and Coaching Programs based on her book: Anxiety Breakthrough.
Peg resides with her husband and their four very adored and entertaining fur kids. She is passionate about animal rights and is on the board of ARAUNY, Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate NY. For fun and relaxation, she loves cooking, physical fitness, music, wine touring, spa days, walking the dogs, very amateur photography, and spoiling her husband, family, and friends any chance she gets!
Download free excerpts of her book and connect with her on social media, all on her website at FearToFreedom.com.