Being Brave in the Face of Controversy.
Bravery requires equal parts strength, determination, and love. Some will say acting out of love makes you weak, but I disagree.
Taking the step into veganism was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. Not that it was a hard choice to make ethically. (That part is a no-brainer.) What’s truly difficult for me is how reactive people can be about my choices.
Nothing can be more daunting than attempting to face a volatile person with love. The fear of being hurt by wearing our hearts on our sleeves outweighs our desire to be compassionate. It’s so much easier to focus on the mechanical aspects of perseverance, like strength and determination. But if your heart isn’t behind it, then you’re just going through the motions of bravery without any of the actual benefits.
Right now, I can’t say that I am super confident telling someone that I’m vegan. In conversations, I tend to shrink away from the ‘vegan’ label. Or I change the subject when people ask me about it. Which, if you know me in person, is the complete opposite of how I normally tackle sensitive topics.
But why do I do this? Well, because I don’t want to deal with people’s reactions. I’m scared of potentially being met with anger and hostility. Or worse. People have treated me like a sub-human after learning that I don’t eat animals, often dragging out their contempt for years.
I need to be brave, now more than ever.
Bravery in the Face of Belittlement.
Veganism is a trigger topic for people on both sides of the debate.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen how people can get whipped into an absolute frenzy discussing the validity of vegetarianism and veganism. The same person who wolfs down a double Big Mac, fries and a gallon of pop every other day is all too willing to tell me “oh, a vegan diet isn’t healthy. What would you even eat? That’s too extreme.” Or the dreaded: “
Of course, they will look at you like a third eye suddenly sprouted on your forehead if you do answer those questions truthfully. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is a biologically-optimum diet for humans—“Sure, but lions eat meat!” (But you are biologically nothing like a lion..? Does this mean you will start eating raw zebra flesh and killing your
I get it. It can be like talking to a brick wall sometimes.
Presenting people with the hard truth, whether about diet or otherwise, is almost always met with defensive excuses on the receiving party’s end. And I understand that reaction. I really do.
Veganism is putting a lit stick of dynamite into the standard nutrition guide that most people “follow.” It’s also making them take an
unpleasanthard look at the repercussions of factory farming.
How to Have A Productive Talk About Being Vegan or Vegetarian.
Having a productive conversation about veganism or vegetarianism requires bravery on both sides. That means being able to really listen, apply empathy, and re-phrase your thoughts so that the receiver doesn’t feel the need to get on the defensive. And to do that successfully requires love and compassion on your end. Charging into conversations with only determination to win won’t get you far in the long run. And ultimately, it leaves a bad impression on the receiver.
For some people, protecting their comfort level is more important than personal growth. And that’s ok. They still deserve to be treated with
What to do When People Get Defensive.
In many cases, there is something else behind this defensiveness. Bringing up the topic of veganism, and by association: healthy eating, animal abuse, and environmental destruction, is a sudden reminder of poor choices that have negative effects both personally and globally. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. No one wants to dwell too long on any of those topics if they realize that they are contributing to these problems. Let alone the thought that they might have to change some of their buying habits or adjust how they eat. Many stubborn people are creatures of habit and will view even incremental changes as too disruptive. And sure, that may seem like a symptom of laziness, but really, it is a symptom of fearing the unknown.
The only way to counteract fear is to meet it with compassion. My most productive conversations are those where I echo the person’s concerns back to them, and explain why there’s no reason to be nervous. I also re-iterate the fact that various food advise is thrown and shoved down our throats from the time we are young, so it’s easy to question when something “against the norm” is brought up. I think it’s good to ask questions, so long as people are willing to listen to the answers.
When To Change the Subject.
Lastly, I don’t push when things get uncomfortable. If someone is getting particularly hostile or upset, I change the subject for them. There’s no point in arguing with someone who is only looking to “win” and not converse.
Leading By Example.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”– Maya Angelou
The best way to lead is by setting the example yourself. Sometimes, you don’t need to explain yourself or why you make certain choices. Your actions will speak on your behalf. So don’t forget to treat others with the same kindness you would wish for yourself.
I like this option
The vegan community is a big place, and there are different niches for various aspects of it. Vegan fashion blogs, vegan makeup, vegan foodies, vegan activism etc. For me, I’ve found great support from a solid group of vegans on Instagram. Talking to like-minded people can help you keep your sanity when it feels like the world is bringing you down.
Being brave isn’t always easy. But know that you are never alone! Veganism is only growing in popularity, something I never thought I’d live to see.
If there was a time to lead by example, now is the time.