How hard is it to be a vegan in a non-vegan environment?
I mean, it’s easy when we have our online tribe, right? We give each other tips and hints, and constant support that makes us confident that we made the right choice.
In non-vegan surroundings, however, it’s hard being the different one.
No one in my family is a vegan. When we get together for a lunch, they can’t stop telling me I have to start eating something. My aunts are the worst.
The most common comment that I get is this one: “It’s no wonder why you’re dizzy all the time.” The truth is, my blood work has just fine for five years now. These people are convinced that I’m not healthy just because I’m not eating the way they want me to eat. They simply decide to ignore the fact that I am much healthier than before. So they keep insisting: “Just try the lamb, please!”
When we get together for lunch with my colleagues from Aussie Writings, the same situation occurs. These are some of the most common questions I get:
Saying that I’m a vegan is not a problem for me. However, I often found myself saying: “Sorry, I’m vegan.”
Wait, what am I sorry for? I’m not sorry for being vegan. Why should I even apologize for it?
This brings me to a major point: we should stop apologizing for being vegan! We’re proud of that choice and there’s nothing wrong with that.
One of the major reasons for going vegan is non-violence. It’s one of the yamas, and it means being kind, compassionate, and non-hurtful to yourself and those around you. The principle is mainly focused on people, but it also encompasses our entire environment. By becoming getting, we stop being part of the violence towards animals.
Somewhere along the way, however, some of us forget the importance of being kind and compassionate towards people. We judge them for their choices. We judge them for hurting animals and we don’t understand them. Most vegans have been guilty of this attitude somewhere along their journey, whether we like to admit it or not.
From my own point of view, these people don’t comment our choices because they want to make us feel uncomfortable. When you say you’re vegan, they usually start questioning their own lifestyle. They try to convince themselves they could never do that because it’s not the right way to live, so the only way to defend that attitude is by attacking the vegan in some way.
Just understand them. When you stop being afraid of the comments you’re about to get, you’ll stop apologizing for your personal decisions.
At family gatherings and restaurants, the vegan usually has to eat a sad salad while everyone is having an “exclusive” meal. There are not many options for you. That makes other people uncomfortable. If you’re at someone’s house, the host will feel like they are not welcoming you well. You want to make them feel better, so this situation leads you to that horrible sentence: “I’m sorry, I’m vegan.”
You should not show in any way that you’d like to be elsewhere. Yes; there are great vegan restaurants and creative dishes everyone could prepare at home, but do not mention them. Just say that you’re enjoying your salad very much, and it’s what you usually eat anyway.
Saying you’re sorry you’re vegan is an extreme. Trying to make people feel guilty during a meal is another extreme. They are your friends and family and you should just try to enjoy the time together. I know it’s hard seeing dead animals all over the place. But we cannot expect to see all-vegan food everywhere. Instead of expecting people to appreciate your choices, just try to make that favor for them.
Trust me on this one: there’s no point in getting into discussions. If someone is interested in your diet, you may talk about it and maybe you’ll inspire them to try. If you’re dealing with aunts like mine, just ignore the comments. If you keep arguing, they will lead you to apologizing because you’ll just want to calm things down.
So at the end, we should just keep being who we are and accept other people for who they are. Sure; we’d like them to change. Sometimes we just have to focus on our own contributions towards a kinder world, and we should definitely stop apologizing for them!