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Dealing with What Others Think
When I am around omnivores I sometimes get the impression they think I feel I am superior to them just because I am vegan. I don't do anything to encourage this line of thinking, but maybe they get this notion because I don't eat the same foods that they do. How should I handle this?
Whether or not we are vegan, most people ponder what others are thinking about them. Occasionally these musings are accurate, and other times they turn out to be merely a projection of our own self-consciousness. It is impossible to know if our feelings are correct without asking people outright what they are thinking about us; however, this is not considered proper etiquette.
When vegans interact openly in "mixed company," it is not unusual to feel conspicuous. Although diet may be the most noticeable difference between vegans and omnivores, there are deeper, more pervasive distinctions, most notably the underlying values that motivate vegans to choose a harm-free diet in the first place. Because these values are generally all-encompassing, it makes sense that at times vegans may find themselves at odds with the perspectives of omnivores. Although we may not willfully express consternation about opposing positions, it is conceivable that our attitudes are reflected in our expressions, stance, voice, and mannerisms. When others seem to respond negatively to us, it may be that their reactions are reasonable based on the unintentional but overt cues we have provided.
Still, there are instances when vegans are not being judgmental -- consciously or unconsciously -- but the company around us seems uncomfortable or on edge in our presence. At these times it helps to remind ourselves that we are not responsible for how others respond to our veganism. As long as we treat nonvegans with respect and compassion, we are not accountable for their uneasiness or any misperceptions they may have about how we view them or ourselves.
If you are in a situation where you feel that others think you believe you are superior to them because you are vegan, be sure you aren't giving them any justification for this idea. Be kind, considerate, and thoughtful in their presence without pandering; simply be a vibrant example of the vegan ethic. Then, as long as you are doing your best, accept that whatever anyone else thinks about you is their problem, not yours.
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