I haven’t done a body image post in quite a while, and this is a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for most of that time.
In my eating disorder recovery post I mentioned the amount of personal strength it takes to change your entire lifestyle to fit your personal beliefs, and here I want to expound on that topic a little more. I would like to see all of us not only give ourselves credit for this, but do so without the fear of being seen as prideful or arrogant.
I’ll start with this: There is a difference between giving yourself credit for your achievements and being a prideful, condescending arse.
This is a difference that most of us aren’t taught, and has significantly less to do with how others perceive your behavior and more to do with how you view it. Being proud of yourself and giving yourself credit for the monumental achievement of being vegan in a carnist culture isn’t prideful, but considering yourself better than others who do not is. Whether or not being vegan is the higher moral high ground, it doesn’t make any of us more deserving of life than any other.
Many of us started being vegan for reasons other than saving the animals. I know ethical vegans, but I also know environmental and health vegans, vegans who started for weight loss and ended up volunteering at sanctuaries, and vegans who started because of their eating disorder and wound up finding spiritual fulfillment and seeking treatment because of the vegan community’s support. This is a big deal as well. The fact that you, yes, you, found a reason to decrease the amount of harm that you are doing to the planet and the animals, as well as to yourself, is an achievement.
Even when it feels like there’s still far too much to do. Even if it feels like you’re one in a million. Even if it feels like there isn’t a difference being made, YOUR consumer choices save lives every year. Because most store stock for demand, and by avoiding consumption of animal products you decrease the demand that much more. It really is a major accomplishment.
I know many of us already know this, so why am I drilling it into the ground? Because when someone suffers a negative body image, it can be difficult to see our accomplishments as what they are.
It can be easy to blame ourselves if we don’t “look vegan” the way that many of us picture our fellow vegans: rail thin, in your face, almost painfully fit and confident. But there is no “vegan image,” it is a lifestyle not a diet, and a lack of weight loss does not negate the accomplishment of sticking to a lifestyle you believe in.
It is easy to see the massive overproduction of animals and its continuation as somehow overriding our efforts in our own lives, trivializing our own contributions because it seems natural and there is so much left to do.
It’s easy to soak in all of the hateful comments we hear from omnivores day in and day out and stay silent out of fear that someone will perceive us as being “uppity” or “that vegan.” But we’re not.
We’re warriors in our own right, fighting a fight that not everyone can see, and every day is a victory against carnism in your own home. Even if you’re a minor in your parent’s house, every step you take towards that goal and every day you stay determined is a victory, scaled to your ability and budget at the time. We can only do as much as our time and means allows us, and being vegan in any situation is its own victory.
Please, even on your worst days, don’t forget this. Because you are strong, you have a beautiful soul, and every day you live makes that much more of a difference. Never be afraid to speak up. Never be afraid to feel pride at your accomplishments. Because no matter how you look, what others say, or how hard it is, you are stronger than you can imagine, just for keeping going in the face of it all. I’m proud of you. You should be too.