Happy Herbivore Blog

August 11, 2011

The Secret to Handling Confrontation and Dealing with Negativity

When I went vegan I had all these assumptions about how my friends would react to my new lifestyle. I figured there would be some teasing, some peer pressure trying to get me to “cheat” and all the annoying questions like “where do you get your protein?” but what I never expected was the open hostility.

Now, I have to interrupt and say that most of my friends were pretty awesome about it. Some were curious and the rest had a “whatever floats your boat” mentality but (and this is a big but!) some people were down right angry. It went well beyond simply being negative, or not supportive. It was as if my new lifestyle insulted them at their very core; that I had deeply, deeply offended them by putting plants on my plate. 

One particular “friend” said, “well I guess we can’t hang out anymore.” For the others, my veganism just became a source of tension between us. One "friend," for example, cancelled our dinner plans several times in a row. Finally, I asked if she was mad at me for something and she became angry instantly. She complained about how much I changed and couldn’t I just go back to the old Lindsay? When I asked her what that meant she said “the one who ate real food!”

Another “friend” just stopped inviting me to her parties and my lack of invitation was causing awkwardness among our mutual friends. For the better of the group I opted to talk to her about it. She said “Oh well I’m not vegan. There’s nothing for you to eat so I didn’t invite you.” Is that all a party is? Eating? There is no socializing?! I told her she didn’t have to cater to me; let me worry about what I’m going to eat. But of course, I was never invited again. As a result, I stopped trying to socialize with her (I know when I’m not welcome) and the pinnacle end of our friendship was when she sent me a heated email saying she was going to buy and throw away meat just to make up for what I’m not eating. 

I couldn’t understand why my vegan diet bothered her so much and why someone would waste their own money and “food” because of what someone else is doing? 

It was hard for me back then. I couldn’t see beyond those painful moments of rejection but now I have perspective. It’s been (almost) five years. I’ve had far more positive experiences than negative ones and I’m coming from a different place. I finally understand why my vegan diet bothered these “friends” so much and having this understanding is the secret to handling confrontation and outward negativity, even when that negativity isn’t about what is on your plate.

When people act this way towards you, it’s because your mere existence makes them reflect back on themselves and they don’t like what they see. They then attack you to make themselves feel better.

It also reminds me of peer pressure and the driving force behind it -- the comfort in conformity. 

Back in college, a friend of mine wasn’t much of a drinker and it was remarkable how often people (myself included) tried to get her to drink. “Just try this drink you’ll like it!” the question isn’t why wasn’t she drinking, but why was it so important to me (and others) that she have a drink? Was her abstention making me feel guilty about my own consumption? Would I have felt better about my choices if she drank too? If so, I guess I had some inner conflicts I needed to resolve... 

Which brings me to my grand point:

I like that saying, the worst thing someone can say about you, reveals a little truth about them.

I've looked back at the times I’ve been negative towards others and realized, even when my points were factual, or valid, there was always that tiny, lingering stench of jealousy or whatever I was being negative about revealed a hole deep within me. It brought light to one of my fears or something I lacked confidence about. My negativity had always unmasked me. 

I hope by sharing this that the next time you're confronted with negativity you will be able to see through it a little. 

I’m a long ways from taking negativity as a compliment, but it seems to sting less now that I have this perspective. 

Thoughts? Any similar experiences or realizations?

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