Musician and blogger, Amanda Palmer, gave this TED talk back…
I’m going to preface today’s article with a confession, this is pretty huge for me, and I’m hoping all reading this can appreciate where I am coming from. I’m going to talk about my life as a vegetarian for a few paragraphs, but please don’t let that put you off, I’ll get to the crux of things soon enough.
For the last four years I have been a vegetarian. Recently, unbeknownst to most people, I have stopped and am now eating meat again. This is the first time I’m sharing this news en mass, so to any of my close friends and regular followers who might be surprised or disappointed, let me explain the background behind my choice.
I’ll start by answering the question I received the most during my four years as a vegetarian, ‘why don’t you eat meat?’. Most people wrongly assume my first choice was an ethical one, although to a small degree it was. The real reason for becoming vegetarian was completely unplanned and, to some people, may be trivial – my dog died.
I know that sounds crazy. It’s ok, I didn’t fully understand my motivations at the time either. I just did what felt right to me, under the premise that if I lived in a country where food supply was plentiful enough to justify not eating meat, then I wouldn’t eat meat. And my journey as an accidental vegetarian turned out be eye opening to say the least. I got to experience what being judged was like from both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
Over the last four years, when informing people of my diet choices, I fielded statements as, “eww, what the fuck for?”. I found dating a challenge because the majority of guys couldn’t fathom dating a girl who didn’t eat meat. This was despite the fact I’ve never told anyone they had to change their diet for me and that I’ll happily to cook meat for people at meals times.
But then there were incidents that made me understand why some people might prefer to avoid me. Vegetarians and vegans have a reputation for being overly judgmental, and some of this belief is justified (some of it isn’t).
I’d often go to parties to have people eating meat look at me with guilt-filled eyes, people would even apologise for eating meat in my presence – which didn’t at all gross me out, so much as it made me feel bad that they didn’t feel accepted simply because of the stigma attributed to my life choice.
Again, I don’t altogether blame these people for feeling they needed to walk on eggshells around me, because all too often people use their path in life, as a moral high ground or as a way to judge.
“Judgment is just a recipe for suffering: start with our dissatisfaction over how a person happens to be and mix in our desire for them to be otherwise. To make that suffering nice and rich, be sure the desire clings tightly to the dissatisfaction.” – Toni Bernhard
This isn’t a piece to bash vegans and vegetarians – this is a piece to bash judgment in general – more specifically judgment doled out by taking the so-called ‘higher ground’. Religion, diet, appearance, money, lack of money, whatever – many use these as leverage to not only control others, but to make them feel ‘less than’ in the process.
There’s a certain amount of ego boosting going on when ones uses their ‘stuff’ to not only define who they are, but also devalue who another is. The sinister thing is, I’ve often seen these same people use their ‘good deeds’ to ‘balance’ the other questionable deeds they might be doing.
My confession comes by way of me saying I don’t care about the potential judgments as much as I care about making decisions based on what’s right for me at any given time. This isn’t selfishly motivated, it’s about living a life that is true to me and in this case, my physical wellbeing. This was my thinking when I stopped eating meat, and it’s the same now I have started again.
Anyone who has read my last feature post will know I’ve recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. I’ve mentioned that over the last year chronic fatigue has played havoc on my life, but I haven’t mentioned the muscle and bone pain, or that my life as a dancer and entertainer and business owner has pretty much ended (although I have extra time to write, which isn’t such a bad thing).
My decision to eat meat, again, was not made lightly. The fact I’ve written multiple blog posts featuring vegetarian recipes is a testament to that. I am letting go of this large part of my way of life, because for personal and medical reasons my diet no longer fits.
Sometimes our attempts to control other people stem from our own weaknesses, not our strengths. If we can learn to better understand ourselves and try to come to terms with our own limitations, then we are less likely to interfere with other people. That’s usually good for them, and it’s usually good for us. – Tim Hill
The last thing anyone needs, particularly someone dealing with difficult circumstances is judgment, including judgment thinly veiled as advice. During my last year of health complications, I’ve had numerous people needlessly dispute things such as my taking antibiotics. Yes, I understand the hesitance, but there are times when alternative medicine just isn’t going to cut it. And I understand the ‘should, and shouldn’t’ statements often come from a kind enough place, many times people share what they believe will be helpful.
But to do so indiscriminately, and when it is least wanted, is not much different than the creepy lurker at a nightclub who might approach one hundred women in a night, and celebrate winning over one person. Meanwhile he berates or completely forgets the ninety-nine others he’s managed to piss off in the process.
New age, alternative, and religious groups are rife with such tactics. If you’ve ever been out walking your dog, only to be stopped by someone selling you Jesus, you’ll know what I mean.
There’s nothing wrong with believing what you want to believe, hell, maybe it’s not all that bad to want to share it either. But there’s no reason to force feed people the idea. This is doubly true if they’ve already said no (and sometimes multiple times). And if you feel the need to speak your ‘truth’, first ask yourself if the circumstance is appropriate.
If no one in your vicinity is listening, let it go, move on to people who are. Don’t deny others their chance to walk their own path and make their own discoveries, and they might just join you one day. Or they might not, it’s their choice.
Do not make other people’s individual choices your problem – this rings true to the general public, just as much as those you hold dear.
Ask yourself if you could still love those around you – be they loved ones or strangers – without judging them? Can you love them when their choices and attributes do not mirror your own? Can you believe the world is big enough for all types and opinions? And that what works for you may not work for other people?
When we stop judging, others are able to feel accepted and this makes us more approachable. We are less likely to be blindsided by the truth simply because we’ve scared those around us into believing their truth will only result in us beating them down with our own rhetoric.
Moreover, with a less judgemental approach you’ll be happier, less stressed out. People will be more likely to entertain your thinking simply by seeing that your life choices make you happy. There’s no need to be pushy, mean or downright insulting. As the saying goes, live and let live, you’ll be better for it.
Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.
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