VWPA Advice #001: My Family and Friends are Ostracizing Me for Being Vegan!
I’ve noticed that people don’t invite me over for dinner/barbecues, etc. anymore and that the carnists don’t show up when I’m having something.
I want to let my friends and family know that they shouldn’t shun me.
First let me say, that is really hurtful and I’m so sorry you are going through that! Let me also say that everyone’s family/friend situation is different and very complex so take this with a grain of salt
I would recommend asking yourself these questions to start… Are these people that you definitely want in your life? (I know, basic question but sometimes your answer might surprise you). If your answer is yes, then the next question is, do you really want to attend these events that you aren’t getting invited to? Some vegans don’t mind going to events that have animal products and some vegans do. There isn’t a right answer here; it’s all about what you are going to be comfortable with. If you are ok going to these events then great! This will make things a little easier.
Now, try to decide who is usually easy to talk to, and sit down with them one-on-one and discuss your feelings. Let them know that you feel like you are being excluded and it’s hurtful to you. Let this person know that while you have made a change in your life that you don’t want it to impact your relationship with them. If you want, you can also confirm for them that you are going to be ok attending these dinners, BBQs etc. and that you understand they won’t be vegan events. I think sometimes the carnists in our life exclude us because they think that we won’t want to attend if animals are being served. They think that by not inviting us they are saving us from being in the awkward situation of either always saying no, or attending but being uncomfortable. It can be helpful to mention that you would still appreciate being invited and that it should be your decision whether or not to attend. Hopefully this will start to resolve the situation; if this person starts to invite you to group events again it can prompt the others to do the same. If that doesn’t happen then have this same conversation with your other family members and/or friends.
Now if you are not going to be comfortable going to events where animals are being served, this scenario changes just a bit… I would still recommend sitting down with those that you are closest to and want to maintain a relationship with, but the conversation is going to be a little different. Let them know that you still value your relationship with them and want to continue it but that because of your veganism, you are not comfortable being around animal products. Talk to them about new and different things that you guys can do together, things where maybe food isn’t the main focus. This can also relate to holidays, maybe instead of showing up for Christmas dinner (with that horrible roast) you just show up for opening presents (or whatever activities you all do together).
Hopefully by having these conversations, they will see that you are committed to continuing your relationships with them, so they will put in the work to make you feel safe and included.
One last thing, just remember that you don’t NEED their validation! You are doing something amazing and compassionate, so don’t let them make you feel that you need to beg for their attention or apologize for being vegan! A relationship is a two way street, they should want to make it work with you as much as you want to make it work with them.
. . .
Let me second Callie’s sentiment that this is a hurtful situation and that I’m very sorry you are experiencing this. It never feels good to be ostracized from a social group, and especially when it’s for doing something you feel is morally right.
I don’t necessarily have anything different to suggest for strategies – I think Callie did a fantastic job of outlining that you need to decide what environment you are willing to be in, and gave some excellent strategies for being in those environments with your friends.
What I will do is suggest you think of this situation a different way to give perspective on how your friends and family are kinda being assholes, but doing it in a way that is totally normal and human and can (hopefully) be worked through with you and them both using your words to talk through their kinda being assholes.
Let’s pretend you are someone who just gave up drinking. Maybe you have a problem with abusing alcohol, maybe you are like me and alcohol makes you feel really shitty and triggers disordered eating patterns. For whatever reason, let’s pretend that you’ve decided for your mental/emotional/physical health to stop drinking for a time, or forever.
It is easy to imagine your friends and family having the same reaction to that scenario as to your veganism. They might be uncomfortable around you, they might be worried you are judging them for what they are consuming, and they might think you don’t want to be around the thing you’ve recently sworn off. So, they might scatter, leaving you bewildered and wondering why you’ve been abandoned when you’ve done something so good for yourself. Everyone should be happy for you!
The thing is, most people seek constant external validation that what they are doing and how they are living is ok. Giving up drinking, being vegan, choosing not to participate in perpetuating stereotypes or “isms”, being ok with how you look and who you are – all of these things cause you to become a mirror. A mirror that makes people confront what they are doing and how they are living. Secure people are ok with that – they may take a hard look at themselves and make changes, they may see a reflection that they totes love. Either way, secure people are happy with you living by your values and respect you for it.
Insecure people, on the other hand, find their reflection disturbing. When everyone is doing the same thing, there’s an unspoken agreement that whether or not that thing is the right thing to do, it’s the thing to do. By being the one not doing The Thing, you highlight that maybe it’s not the right thing to do, and that maybe y’all shouldn’t be doing it. Even if you’re not saying it, by sin of omission you BECOME MIRROR!
Maybe you have a friend who says “that’s so gay!” a lot, and one day you decide to say, “Hey, saying that’s so gay isn’t cool and can be really offensive or ostracizing to some people. Maybe stop saying that?” If your friend is secure, they will say, “Oh shit. I never even thought about that, you’re right! Thank you.” or they will think about it for a while and process what you said and realize that gay is a word that they shouldn’t use in this way. An insecure person will mope and pout and try to point out that you’re being a killjoy and that you should loosen up and “take a joke.” Then they probably won’t want to be around you as much. If all of your friends are like this, you might find yourself being left out of stuff because you are the “word police” and they “just can’t have fun” around you. But, really, they are just being insecure assholes, right?
(Side note: let’s everyone please stop saying “retarded” about ourselves, others or shitty situations. I hear it all the time from otherwise compassionate, intelligent, beautiful people and it kills me. It’s very insulting and, given the current prevalence of disabilities, it’s likely hurting someone within earshot.)
I bring this up because it helps me to understand why people do what they do – it enables me be more compassionate to them while also being more secure in my choices. Additionally, it helps me to categorize people and figure where they fit, or don’t fit, into my life. And it’s ok, as we evolve and mature, for relationships to change. Sometimes people who used to be warm fuzzy sweaters become crotch-eating, muffin-topping jeans. That’s life, and it’s normal.
Use Callie’s scripts for speaking to your people. Hopefully, when they hear that you are hurting, they will show up for you and make things work. However, they may not and you may be forced re-evaluate their importance in your life. Either way, make sure to go out into the world and find like-minded people to surround yourself with who can reaffirm for you everyday that you are a good person doing a good thing and that you deserve to feel loved and welcomed and respected.
Don’t be afraid to re-purpose crotch-eating jeans into sweet sweet jeans-sandals:
Rock on, warrior princess!