Listen, I get it. If any of this applies to you – trust me you’re not alone.
When I began facing the realities of the world I live in and contemplating changing my entire life (to reflect a new set of ideas in conflict to everything I'd been told my entire life) it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.
I didn't want to seem like I was judging anyone. I didn't want my friends and family to see me as some "smug vegan" looking down on them and every meal they consumed. Nothing could be further from the truth and the idea anyone could think it affected me deeply.
I’ve always been a people-pleaser. I want to make people happy, cause as little damage as possible and make others lives easier, wherever I can. The ideas of which, work both brilliantly and ironically with concepts of veganism.
Veganism embodies doing our best; trying to screw up the planet as little possible, hurt the least amount of animals and be as good to our own bodies as we can. On the flip side, veganism can also mean segregating yourself from your friends, looking like a smug asshole, being difficult at parties and saying “no” to innocent looking things like cupcakes and mini-muffins. No one wants to be the dick in the office saying “no” to Stephie’s birthday cake. Whether you’re “dieting” or politely pointing out that the cake is made of pain and torture, no one wants to be that guy. And if you do? Well, you probably are a smug vegan.
I'm convinced a lifetime of people pleasing made it easier to be a likeable vegan. I've never wanted to rock the boat, stand out in a negative way or make people feel bad about themselves. Many vegans tend to push this idea they are "right" while others are "wrong" and wonder why no one wants to discuss veganism with them ever again!
I admit; I find pushy, judgmental vegans almost as annoying as meat eaters. Surely the end goal should be encouraging this lifestyle? Saving animals? Am I right or did I get lost along the way? Is the goal saving animals and the planet? Okay great, if we can agree on that, can we also agree that being aggressive and rude and preachy is NEVER going to convert ANYONE? I've never seen a successful execution of "I yell at you, tell you you're wrong and you want to be like me".
Being a Scary Vegan
Your approach will usually dictate how people react to you. If you go at someone, guns blazing, defenses up and ready for war, that's most likely what you will get back. Many vegans, I'm sure subconsciously, go at meat-eaters in this way. I've watched kind, loving people with the best intentions act in a way that will do NOTHING for their cause.
Who would want to join a group that seem defensive, angry and miserable? That's not appealing. I want to be part of a group who seem intelligent, well-read, logical and kind. If you are receiving negative reactions, try and assess if you are being overly intense or defensive when you talk about your lifestyle.
And I promise - I GET IT.
I get the passion. I get the anger. I get the frustration. It hits me hard. But, I reserve my anger for people who are cold and arguing their point absent of any compassion. Don’t go attacking any Tom, Dick and Harry for eating meat because chances are, they are either very minimally aware or haven’t had THEIR personal light bulb moment yet.
It could even come from you.
I've been so surprised in the last four years who will come and ask questions. It has even been that same cold person convincing me "they don't care".
How To Encourage (and SEIZE) a "Light Bulb Moment"
My ethos (after the first few “scary vegan” months) has always been: positivity rules.
If someone asks “why are you vegan”, which can be a genuine question or someone trying to get a rise out of you, my response is always along the lines of: “it was the best decision I ever made” or “I did way too much research", which can prompt follow up questions depending on your delivery.
My veganism is a relatively new-found lifestyle, so I cannot and SHOULD NOT judge anyone who hasn't found the right trigger yet. Even if someone doesn't want to become a vegan, they will absolutely have a compassion trigger. Something that makes them understand, even if they don't want to commit.
You can show someone a million animal-cruelty videos and get nothing. Then, randomly, they can see a vegan cartoon or listen to a celebrity they respect and their blinders are ripped right off. I’ve heard so many examples of meat-eaters getting suddenly affected by something I never would have predicted.
We are all different. That’s the most beautiful and frustrating part of life. We are all going to care about different things. Your greatest power is that when someone has their light bulb moment, they may think of you, the closest vegan they know and make a point to talk to you. When this happens, try not to jump out of your skin in excitement, try play it cool, but it is the greatest feeling ever.
No pressure – but you are a part of something really important.
You are a part of trying to save animals, end factory farming, save the planet and get everyone a hell of a lot healthier. So, if you find yourself in a conversation with someone about veganism, whether it’s horrible and negative or whether it’s tiny amount of curiosity, try and be cool about it. Try and be as nice as possible so people don’t think they have to change their entire life or suddenly become a raging hippie to join the club.
You don’t’ have to do ANYTHING to join the club apart from buy different stuff, care about shit and not eat rotting corpses.
Sounds like a fantastic club to me.
1) Throw Vegan Dinner Parties
They work. Get friends around and cook them up a delicious, wholesome vegan feast! It doesn't need to be fancy or impressive, just yummy and abundant. Most people imagine vegan food is boring and will result in starvation. As long as you debunk those two things, you're onto a winner.
2) Show off Your Lunch Box
There's a great smug cloud that forms when your lunch looks like this while every one else is eating cold ham and cheese sandwiches..... muhahaha.
3) DON'T SHARE ANIMAL CRUELTY VIDEOS EVERY DAY
If you have the guts to post about animal cruelty in your news-feed - I salute you! Truly I do. I have my blog for that and keep my personal page pretty people-friendly. I applaud those who share important information and remind people what atrocities are happening BUT - I'm not sure about doing it every day. If you sandwich animal cruelty posts amongst a fairly normal, every-day Facebook profile (my friend Jasmine is a great example) I imagine you're more likely to impact people. You don't want to be "that friend I blocked" ;)
4) Take The Piss Now and Then
Most cool people take the piss out of themselves now and then. Vegans are cool. Vegans should take the piss out of themselves occasionally. End of story.
Overall - remember that being a VEGAN is an important, beautiful and incredible part of who you are, but it shouldn't make you feel alienated from everyone around you. Show your passion, show your brilliance, show your knowledge, but share it in a way that feels inclusive and kind.
Compassion is key. You don't want to give voice to the MOST frustrating vegan stereotype: "vegans care more about animals than people!" (even though it's kinda true sometimes...) har har.
Hey, who doesn't cry more when animals die in films than people? They're the INNOCENTS! We just have made that connection a little earlier than everyone else ;)
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