I have a problem; one that I planned to leave back in high school.
I really, really want to be liked. By everyone and anyone! My friends, colleagues, even total strangers. I’m so scared of judgement that I have two “Home” playlists on my IPod: one for just me and one for when someone is over. Yep, it’s bad.
I am so eager to please that it’s a personality fault. If someone gives me a chair that is uncomfortable, I will not say anything. If someone wants a favour and it clashes with my best friend’s birthday, I will actually feel bad about refusing.
Where this all stems from I do not know, but for someone who spends her life trying to keep everyone happy, going vegan was an interesting choice.
All of a sudden, friends thought I was judging them. All of a sudden I was a dinner guest with “special requirements”. I was the freak at work who refused Jenny’s homemade cookies because “I don’t eat dairy” and didn’t take a slice of Sarah’s birthday cake. I suddenly had to defend myself to those around me and when my spluttering explanation was met with anything other than smiles and rainbows, I felt my easy, likeable universe crumbling.
For a die-hard people pleaser, awkward social situations are not ideal and I needed to find effective ways to navigate them ASAP. After all, veganism should bring joy and positivity into our lives, not awkwardness and resentment, right?
So, here are some personal top tips I have put into practice after years of far too many mistakes (and debates)!
If asked “why vegan” (especially if they have attitude) open with phrases like “for me” and “personally”. If you pitch your vegan diet as something that has made your life better, it’s hard for others to judge you and say that you’re “wrong”. I used to open with animal cruelty facts and, well, it just never went down well. When people ask me now why I’m vegan, I open with something like: “it’s the best decision I ever made. I feel fantastic.” This is more likely to lead to follow up questions and keep the conversation going. Talking about how diary fuels the veal industry? Well, I’ve found it a conversation killer.
Many may disagree with me on this one, but I say try not to spam your personal Facebook page with graphic photos and vegan quotes. Post them occasionally, of course, but maybe not every hour on the hour. I had a phase of filling friends’ newsfeeds with animal cruelty petitions and all it resulted in was people avoiding my posts! Not exactly the best thing for my cause or social life! People are far more likely to respond when information is used sparingly and thoughtfully. Wait for articles that you think people are really likely to look at, or a story you know a friend will respond to.
Try and avoid vegan debates at family dinners. This especially applies if you don’t live at home and these dinners are a special occasion. It never goes down well when my brother and I have veggie debates around the family. Of course we respect each other, but I know that our passionate opposing views end up putting a sour tinge on the evening. It’s never nice arguing with our family, so I say: hold your cards close to your chest if the conversation is going there. Especially when someone pulls out: “of course I’d kill Buster if I had to!” Just leave it.
And, the most obvious top tip? Well, it’s cliché, but something I often need to remind myself: treat others the way you would like to be treated. If you don’t want to feel judged, make sure you aren’t outwardly judging others. It’s hard to turn a blind eye to people making unethical choices, but try to put out there what you want to get back: understanding, compassion and positivity!
It’s true I try my best to be liked, but not everyone is going to like you all the time (especially in the world of blogging, yikes!), so all we can really do is stay true to ourselves and hope for the best. Every time I feel someone roll their eyes at me after remembering “oh, you’re a vegan”, I try to just smile even wider. Yes, I am. And I’m proud of it. After all, if I’m going to be disliked for something – might as well be something I’m proud of, right?