When I adopted a vegan lifestyle over five years ago, it was a crash course in unexpected change plus an extreme wake-up call to the unethical nature of animal agriculture and its harmful impact on our humanity as well as our planet.
Having spent the ensuing time learning what to eat and how to prepare plant-based foods, reassessing my clothing, bags, shoes, household cleaners, cosmetics, toiletries, splurging on a Vitamix and refurbishing my home with sustainable products wherever I could, it has taken even longer to find a way to peacefully co-exist with those who don’t follow, understand, or agree with my lifestyle.
At first, I didn’t show enough tolerance for those who challenged or dismissed me. I was on the right path, after all. They were unenlightened, brainwashed by the media, or they didn’t “get it.” My false sense of superiority and a certain lack of compassion undoubtedly helped me navigate what was often a lonely new road.
Whether faced with typical questions like “How do you get your protein?” or passive-aggressive or blatantly aggressive queries like “What would you do if you were on an island with nothing to eat but an animal?” I was often defensive and spouted any ethical or nutritional tidbit I had grasped in order to stand my ground – without ever feeling confident justifying myself to “non-believers!”
Luckily, I began to connect with the vegan community through Meet-Up groups, Main Street Vegan Academy (all hail Victoria Moran!), and more recently on Facebook. Ironically, this presented a whole new set of stumbling blocks since being around so many accomplished and active vegans made me feel inadequate.
I needed to find peace with whatever I could offer while following my path, and stop comparing myself to anyone else’s journey. How? With time.
It took years to get comfortable enough in my vegan skin to realize that I don’t need to defend or preach about my beliefs and that I can walk my walk however I choose – whether by “sofa activism” (signing petitions and donating money) or hands-on work: becoming a vegan chef, coaching clients, opening eateries, writing blogs or books, speaking at vegan festivals, attending rallies or rescuing animals.
It began to sink in that I already did “more” simply by becoming a vegan. That is a profound decision for each of us. Every person I speak to about my reasons and beliefs (nowadays in a gentler, kinder manner) reinforces the certainty that we can teach by example. Each step may seem small, but every single one changes the world for the better.
I am more relaxed when speaking to others or posting on Facebook nowadays; even when someone disagrees with or disparages me. I envision getting off the sofa to become more of a hands-on activist as well as giving myself permission to sit back down on the sofa whenever I need to.
Every vegan saves animals and resources each year because of the choice we made. Many animals receive food, medical care, safe shelter and loving homes because of the organizations and causes we support.
At times, I still wonder if my contribution will ever be enough. In those moments, I strive to show compassion not only to animals and other people — vegan and non-vegan alike – but also to myself.
Each moment we are alive brings possibilities, challenges, and opportunities to learn, do and be… more.
Barbara Becker is a certified Vegan Life Coach Educator (VLCE) and Reiki Master.