Even though we’re witnessing an exciting and transformational time in veganism and animal rights, you may sometimes feel like the odd person out as a vegan.
Perhaps you’re the only vegan in your household, your family or your social circle. There may be some tension at family meals or social gatherings that draw attention to your vegan lifestyle. And this can sometimes feel a bit annoying, if not draining or isolating.
When I went vegan, I don’t think I had a single vegan friend or acquaintance. And for many new vegans, feelings of isolation can cause people to give up this lifestyle that’s so important to them.
I wanted to share a few strategies for how to stay focused and connected as a vegan. When you encounter the occasional naysayer or experience other types of challenges on your vegan journey, you have habits that help you remain engaged and connected to what’s important to you.
1. Resist the urge to disengage
It’s easy to encounter a setback and decide to withdraw, both from the situation and from people altogether.
First, recognize that you’re pulling back. Remind yourself that because of your vegan diet, you’re making a difference in your life and the world. Also take stock in what you’ve accomplished. Perhaps despite some temptations, you’ve managed to stay fully vegan for a month. That’s fantastic! Acknowledging how far you’ve come motivates you to continue and minimizes the original situation that bothered you.
If you’re hearing messages from people that aren’t supportive of your veganism, take time to listen to rather than tune them out. Even though you may not agree, let them know you take the person seriously. It will help keep the door open for future conversations and another chance to share your own experiences.
2. Learn all about it
Perhaps you feel a bit uninformed about a vegan lifestyle and wish you had better explanations when someone raises questions about how you’re eating. Learning and mastering your subject helps give you a sense of purpose and wholeness.
When I first went vegan and someone suggested I might “need” to consume cow’s milk or that I’d be lacking in calcium or protein, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Now I have simple answers, and science-backed evidence for most warnings people try to throw my way. I feel more knowledgeable and able to engage if someone tries to single out my lifestyle or judge my decisions. (I will say, this is a rare occurrence, but should it happen, I’m ready!)
Books like Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran, On Being Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and Vegan For Her by Ginny Messina are all great resources to feel more empowered and informed on your vegan journey.
3. Reach out and connect
The biggest bummer about feeling isolated is that it can easily lead to more isolation. Don’t settle into that place! Deepen current relationships and create new ones.
To find other vegans, you can participate in meet up groups, volunteer or join online chats. If there are no specific vegan meet ups in your area, don’t worry. Oftentimes you’ll find other veggie-minded kindred spirits involved in animal welfare, environmental or health-related activities.
But don’t limit your engagement to other vegans. For example, if there’s an omnivore bake sale in your area, bring your vegan goodies and see how quickly your treats are enjoyed. And don’t shy away from dining out as a vegan just because it’s not a vegan restaurant. Most restaurants will accommodate.
Sometimes the things we’re initially inclined to run away from are what we should actually be moving toward. Consistently being active and coming out of your shell positively reinforces your behavior. Feelings of isolation about your veganism will dissipate.
Be sure to express appreciation and gratitude for the small things that people do in support of your veganism that they might not even realize. When I visit my parents, they always stock their fridge with non-dairy milks, cheeses, and other vegan-friendly goodies. I really appreciate that and probably don’t say it enough!
Feeling lonely or isolated is normal. But pushing through and thinking outside of ourselves by being engaged and productive will help you build up resistance to future challenges as a vegan.
How do you break through feeling isolated as a vegan? Share below!