Vegans are often criticized for their decision to not eat animal products.
The criticism comes in various forms. Sometimes people are just teasing, but remarks can also be rude and insulting.
Moreover, it can be frustrating for vegans to have to justify their decision continually.
Some feel that those who continue to consume animal products are the ones that should be criticized and not them. (This used to be me🙊).
So, I certainly understand the desire to lash out at people or attacking them for their lifestyle choices after they criticized yours.
Still, I learned that this is not a good or productive way to handle the situation.
More so, one of my main motivations to go vegan was to show compassion towards all living beings. Yes, that includes humans who are rude to me!
So, rather than lecturing or counter-attacking, I found the best way to handle criticism for being vegan is by responding in a kind, respectful, and compassionate manner.
In this post, I'm sharing some of my learned lessons, to help you deal with criticism gracefully and compassionately as well.
While this article is about dealing with criticism for being vegan, keep in mind that more and more people are warming up to the idea of veganism. So, don't be afraid to share that you are vegan (or scared to even go vegan) because you fear being criticized.
Sure, some people will comment on it and tease you. However, there will also be many people who are curious about your lifestyle. And also, many who respect, accept and support your decision to be vegan, even if they are not vegan themselves.
Why someone criticizes you
When you want to handle criticism kindly and compassionately, it helps to think about why someone might be attacking you in the first place.
Thus, let's talk about some of the common motivations.
A lot of your friends and family likely mean no harm when they negatively comment on your lifestyle.
They simply want the best for you and are genuinely concerned about your well-being.
Remember that your family/friends have been eating animal products all their life, so it's hard for them to imagine a balanced diet without it.
Further, someone who has always eaten animal products may have difficulty imagining what to eat when you don't eat meat.
Moreover, meat and animal products are omnipresent in the media and advertising.
As a result, many people believe that consuming them is necessary to survive and thrive.
Furthermore, horror stories of vegan gone wrong make great stories, so they pop up routinely on (social) media.
For those reasons, it's quite understandable that loved ones worry about you.
Particularly if they don't know a lot about veganism or how easy it is to meet your nutritional needs on a vegan diet.
Another reason why people might criticize you could be that deep down, they know they would benefit from making different dietary choices*.
Thus, your being vegan may remind them of their failures to make a change, and they let their frustration about their own struggles out on you.
*This doesn't necessarily mean that their goal is to be vegan. However, most people are aware that they would benefit from eating more plant foods and reducing their consumption of animal products.
Further, sometimes people may make comments that come across as criticism, but all they are doing is friendly teasing.
So, it always helps not to take everything people say so seriously.
Along the same lines, keep in mind that if people (especially friends and family) weren't teasing you about veganism, they likely would tease you about a different topic ("when are you getting married/having kids," etc.).
Also, remember that most of the time people criticize you for being vegan, it's not a personal attack.
They likely make these comments whenever they meet a vegan.
There are many reasons why people may criticize you for being vegan. However, most of the time, the intention is not to be malicious.
Family and friends are often genuinely concerned about your well-being but haven't found the right way to express themselves. Other times, you being vegan may remind the other person that they haven't made changes yet, but should, and they let their frustration out on you.
Moreover, sometimes people don't want to criticize you but rather tease you, so don't take everything super seriously. Further, it's likely that if you weren't vegan, people would criticize you for something else.
Alright, now that we discussed various reasons why people might criticize you for being vegan, let's talk about how you can learn to better handle criticism for being vegan.
Know your why
Before you go to an event where you expect people will criticize you for being vegan, remind yourself why you choose to be vegan before you go.
Also, think about all the benefits you've been experiencing.
This will help you stay strong and compassionate among criticism.
Moreover, it will prepare you for all the questions regarding why you are vegan.
Don't get caught up in a discussion.
If somebody criticizes you for being vegan, don't get angry or engage in a heated discussion.
Instead, kindly, briefly, and in a non-judgmental way, explain why you are vegan and what benefits you experience.
It is crucial that you stand by your decision to be vegan.
But do not engage in arguments, give a long detailed answer, feel insulted, or stubbornly defend your choice.
You most likely will not be able to change the other person's mind at that moment, so why waste your precious energy on it.
Succinctly explain that you are doing very well, are healthy, and your blood work is excellent.
Don't engage in a heated discussion when someone criticizes you for being vegan. It most likely will not change the other person's world view. Instead, briefly explain the benefits you've been experiencing since going vegan and that you are healthy and your blood work is fine.
Counter-attacking isn't productive
When someone attacks you for being vegan, it may be satisfying to inform them about the negative impact of their dietary choices in return.
However, only in very few circumstances will it lead the person to reconsider their actions.
Most of the time, it will only cause conflict. As a result, the person may close their mind towards veganism even more.
Trying to convince someone of your views in an already negatively infused conversation likely won't plant a seed.
The person isn't going to walk away thinking what a pleasant conversation, maybe I should think about what they said.
Moreover, and most importantly, if you want someone to respect your dietary choices (and not criticize you for them), you need to respect theirs.
When someone criticizes you for being vegan, it may be tempting to counter-attack. However, that will only very rarely lead to a productive conversation. Moreover, if you want someone to respect your dietary choices, then you need to show respect for theirs as well.
Try to focus on the positive in the conversation
When someone offers criticism for you being vegan, try to focus on the positive, even "selfish," aspects of veganism in your response.
So, topics such as health benefits you've experienced, the delicious food you are enjoying, how you have more energy, etc.
Avoid talking about the negative reasons that may have motivated you to go vegan (like factory farming, environmental degradation, etc.).
I encourage you to talk about the positive aspects because people tend to respond better to positive arguments than negative ones.
Whether we want to admit it or not, but most are at least a little bit selfish.
Thus, sharing with others how veganism may benefit them is much more effective than talking about how it may be better for the environment.
The other person might leave the conversation, thinking they want to experience these benefits as well. As a result, they could try to eat more plant foods.
The positive aspects of being vegan are a much more convincing argument to try veganism than is focusing on the negative motivations behind going vegan (factory farming, etc.). If you tell people about the fabulous benefits you've been experiencing, you may inspire them to try veganism.
Don't get offended easily
If people make jokes about you for being vegan or tease you, try to take it lightly.
Instead of feeling annoyed, angry or insulted, laugh or if you are quick-witted, counter with a funny response.
When people joke about you or tease you, they usually mean no evil, so don't take it personally or literally.
Instead, have fun with it or join in by making fun of yourself.
Give others time.
Teasing, criticism, and so on, tend to be the most intense when a person first finds out that you are vegan.
But the longer you are vegan, the more the people around you get used to it, see it as a part of you, and accept it.
As a result, criticism and teasing usually become less and less.
Now, I'm not saying it subsides completely.
But at least in your close circle, once people grasp that being vegan is not just a phase, the criticism and teasing decrease and could even turn into curiosity.
Seeing that you are healthy and thriving as well as kind and respectful to those around you also helps.
In addition to being kind, compassionate, and respectful in your conversation with others, it also helps to be patient. Most of the time, the people around you just need some time to adjust to the idea that you are vegan. Often, once you've been vegan for a while, people will criticize you less and sometimes may even become curious.
Don't let others guilty-trip you
Often, at gatherings centered around food, people may want to pressure you into eating a particular dish that includes or is made from animal products.
They try to do so by heavily criticizing you or trying to guilt-trip you by being insulted when you are not eating what they provided.
Sometimes, there may also be gently teasing or a little nudging. Regardless, you should not let others shame you into eating something that you don't want to eat.
You are likely not sitting there, forcing them to have a bit of your fantastic vegan meal (though their loss).
So, stand firm in your decision to be vegan and kindly explain that it's not because of the cooking that you refuse the meal.
Decline with gratitude and assure the person that the dish/dessert likely tastes excellent.
If that doesn't work, respectfully and compassionately say that you think the person is overstepping and directly ask them to stop.
Explain that you offer everyone your vegan food, but you don't force anyone to try it, and you expect the same in return.
Don't let others guilt-trip you into eating a non-vegan dish by heavily criticizing you or being insulted if you don't comply. Always decline with gratitude and reassure them that the food likely tastes excellent.
Some people just won't change their views and opinions.
No matter how respectful you are to others, some may still be rude to you.
There will always be people who want to convince you that what you are doing is wrong and that you need to change.
So, if a conversation is unhealthy or going nowhere, it's okay to just walk away from it.
You can even say that this is not a topic you wish to discuss further (let's agree to disagree) and let it go.
You don't have to justify your choices continually. Why spend your precious energy on someone who just wants to suck it out of you.
No matter how nice you are to others, there will always be people who are not nice in return. So rather than wasting your precious energy, respectfully excuse yourself from the conversation and explain that you wish to not further discuss this topic with the other person.
Let me help you: What are you criticized for most often?