A few months ago, I posted an article on MindBodyGreen discussing my decision to temporarily move away from a vegan diet and eat some meat in order to try a new way of helping my chronic illness. I published the article thinking that highlighting the importance of listening to what your body needs when we're flooded with diets and dietary labels would be appreciated by almost everybody.
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the article reignited the vegan-versus-carnivore debate. The comment section was filled with post after post either praising my decision or informing me that I should be ashamed of my decision, and (in spite of not knowing me) telling me how disgusting it is that I didn't give a vegan diet a good go. Some people interpreted my dietary swap as low-fat vegan to full-blown Paleo. For me, though, there was no labeling, merely the introduction of a few animal-based products in place of bean products, which were upsetting my stomach.
For me — a 21-year-old from Sydney who's never been confronted with that kind of abuse before — it was a lot to take in. I could have very easily wept, retreated, and been bullied into eating in a way that didn't serve my body. But I refused to let someone who doesn’t know anything about my life tell me about who I am as a person. There were times when I considered asking MBG to take down the article, but for every cruel or critical message, there was someone thanking me for giving them the courage to listen to their body or ditch the labels on their diet. That's what made the post worth it.
Fortunately, I have a loving and compassionate support system of family and friends. Ultimately, though, it was something inside of me that needed reassurance, a reassurance that can only come with self-love. A few months ago, in the midst of the deep difficulties that come with undiagnosed chronic illness, I found Gabrielle Bernstein. Her warmth and love is palpable, and having come from rock bottom, she understands that we aren’t all “sunshine and rainbows” every day, that happiness is a journey and something we must work at every day.
I began to pray. I recited my positive affirmations every morning, and reassured myself that “I give my body exactly what it needs to heal. I am strong. I am healthy. I know myself, and show myself love through listening to my body.” I repeated by mantras, said my positive affirmations, and said my prayers every morning, every night, and whenever I needed a gentle reminder in between.
This isn’t a post about which diet worked better for me — for now I'll keep that private. This is for anyone who is filled with self-doubt because of the opinions of others; who believes they should be ashamed for acting in a way that's different from everyone else. Who feels as though they cannot be their true self because of what people will say.
To them I say: fill your life with gratitude. Say thank you. Crowd out the negativity. When someone questions you, gently remind yourself that you listen to your body, and that no one knows what you need except for you. When someone criticizes you, respond with kindness, say thank you, let them know you'll take the comment into consideration. Know that they just want you to follow what works for them, so give your thanks, then let it go. Get on with your beautiful life.
Everything is a lesson, sent to teach you something amazing about life and yourself that can only be learned through experience.
Whether you're someone who is criticized, or someone who may be critical of others' life choices, know that we are all unique individuals. We all deserve the chance to be and do what makes us happy, in peace. And know that no matter what anyone else says, as long as you're happy with who you are, you'll always be in a safe place.