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I've never been susceptible to peer pressure. Today, when it comes to my diet and lifestyle choices (raw veganism, yoga, meditation and New Age spirituality and mysticism), my last concern is whether or not others agree with the way I live my life as long as those choices create a better quality of life for me.
I have the ability to drown out critical comments and continue to follow my intuition as I make the choices that feel right to me and are the most beneficial. I live my own truth, and that is good enough for me.
But for some, especially new vegans and those of you just beginning to embark upon a healthier and more stable you, criticism from friends and family can strike like a dagger in the heart. Why would the people who I thought loved me not want to support me? This is a common question swirling around new vegans’ heads as they dodge the criticism aimed at their ways.
Below are five ways to deal with criticism surrounding your plant-based lifestyle.
1. Don’t push your beliefs onto anyone. Rather, lead by example.
Most people are so profoundly misinformed when it comes to health and wellness because they have been exposed to, believed in, and never questioned the propaganda spread by the very companies that stand to profit off of their unhealthy lifestyles and ultimately, their future illnesses.
One option is to educate them in a docile, non-threatening way about why YOU have made changes in your life to better your health and wellness and focus less on why THEY should jump on board, too. Trust me, they will jump ship instead. Lead by example.
When they see the results you are experiencing, they will want a piece of it, too. It's easy to preach and become overzealous when you first begin cleaning up your act, but try to remember that if you don't want to be criticized, others sure don't either. If they ask, inform. Otherwise, silence is golden.
2. Embrace change with an open mind and help others to do the same.
Also, when certain individuals in your life (and you know who they are) watch you evolve into a better, more balanced, and healthier you, an undercurrent of jealousy and guilt can fuel their critical comments as they continue down the path of self-mistreatment. Ever heard the saying “misery loves company?” Well, so does the Standard American Diet.
Change is scary for most people. I've always welcomed change because it has meant becoming a better version of who I am right now. Just as obstacles are opportunities for growth, changes can be viewed as such instead of as threats to our comfortable routine. People in your life who love routine will be particularly uncomfortable when you start refusing cocktails and sugar and begin suggesting you hit up the local organic and vegan joint instead of your neighborhood pub or McDonald's.
3. Pick your battles and decide what is worth fighting for.
In order for conflict to exist, YOU have to engage in it. If your food-related conversations have become caustic, say to friends, "I’m sorry, but I’m not going to discuss my diet and lifestyle with you anymore. If you would like to talk to me, we are going to have to focus on a different subject from here on out."
Stand your ground. If they continue to fan the flames of your frustration, it may be time to temporarily or permanently cut ties with them so that you can focus on your health and well-being. Arm yourself with information, but also arm yourself with compassion and understanding. Many people will go through life stagnant and asleep, and they may unfortunately leave this world the same exact way.
4. Count your blessings and remind yourself why you changed your lifestyle.
If you are feeling particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, try to remember why you decided to embark upon this diet and lifestyle overhaul. Was it to feel healthier? Was it to reverse a chronic health condition? Was it to take a stand against animal cruelty? Was it to truly live your values of compassion, mercy, non-violence, love, and non-judgment?
Reminding yourself of the important moral, ethical, spiritual, and physical reasons you changed the way you eat, drink, think, and live can be a powerful tool in assisting you in renewing your commitment to veganism in the face of critical comments. Remember, you can always make new friends who support your choices. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals will allow you to feel connected to a sense of community during a time when you can begin to feel isolated from mainstream society.
5. Be proud of yourself and have fun!
Last but not least, be proud of yourself! Give yourself a pat on the back for all of the amazing life changes you are making. It isn’t easy to break old, unhealthy habits, to rebel against mainstream society, to differentiate yourself from family and friends, to take a moral and ethical stand each moment of every day with every action you take, etc. And, please, don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
Veganism is a beautiful, all-encompassing life practice that is rooted in health, beauty, love, compassion, intuition, the interconnectedness of all organisms, non-violence, mercy, non-judgment, and personal and spiritual growth and development. And, food, delicious food. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Veganism is not a death sentence. It is a movement toward an abundant life.