Self-Compassion is Essential
I think self-compassion is essential for anyone who considers transitioning toward a vegan lifestyle, especially for ethical reasons. I don’t believe that the majority of people who still consume and use animal products do so because they don’t care, or because they don’t love animals. Opening our eyes and hearts to the way animals raised for food are treated is extremely painful. Great sensitivity and love for animals may, in fact, be at the root of many people’s resistance to facing the hard realities of this issue.
Before I became vegetarian, and then vegan, I found it extremely difficult any time I was exposed to information about the mistreatment of animals. I still do, and to this day I have not been able to watch some of the most graphic depictions of the horrors of animal agriculture.
Besides sensitivity and a desire to avoid emotional pain, other self-defeating attitudes I believe slowed my own transition to veganism include perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking, and self-judgment.
An attitude of self-compassion, of refusing to stay in a place of guilt and self-recrimination for my past, and still imperfect, behavior—consumption and use of animal products—is essential. The conditioning most of us have been raised with, the powerful marketing and misinformation from industry and regulatory sources, and the societal normalization and collective denial around animal products are all extremely potent forces. (For a deeper exploration of these topics, I highly recommend the book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” by Melanie Joy, PhD.)
Progress Rather than Perfection
A commitment to “progress rather than perfection,” a principle found in 12-step programs, also has been immensely helpful to me on the vegan path. As Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of joyfulvegan.com has notably said, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.” An attitude of doing my best and feeling good about my efforts is both motivating and sustaining.
The Importance of Kindness
If you are interested in learning about and pursuing ethical veganism, I recommend showing kindness toward yourself in all of your efforts. Facing the realities of animal agriculture is a brave and difficult endeavor; applaud yourself for any willingness you are able to muster, and be cognizant of safe-guarding your emotional and psychological well-being as you undertake becoming more informed. Engage in nurturing self-care practices, such as yoga, meditation, massage, bubble baths, and any other activities you find delightful. And rather than becoming overwhelmed with feelings of guilt or hopelessness, celebrate all of your efforts, however large or small.
Benefits of Veganism
Becoming vegan is rewarding on so many levels, with benefits including improved personal health and a less destructive impact on the environment. Most rewarding of all, I feel, is the sense of integration and alignment that comes from not contributing to the misery of nonhuman animals who, like us, just want to be happy and not suffer.