The last few months of my life have seen a lot of changes. I’m on a journey of transformation and development, and have started making some lifestyle choices that are finally aligning much more strongly with who I am. And this is fantastic. I’m feeling so much more at peace with my lifestyle, now that I am striving to purchase eco and ethically-friendly, have a 90% plant based diet and are continuing my clean beauty path.
But, understandably, this is a lot of change for my partner and family to keep up with. As beautiful as they all are, they don’t quite ‘get’ all of these choices. And that’s ok. It’s not ideal to me, but it’s ok. We’re all on our own path etc, etc. It’s taken a few months of us tiptoeing around each other to work out a happy medium between making changes that are truly important to me, and my respecting their lifestyle choices and the need to fit in around their lives, too.
I’m sure, like me, plenty of you have found it tricky to explain to other people why you’re changing things up in your life. Some issues, like ethical consumerism or sustainable purchasing aren’t even on most people’s radars. So the conversation of ‘yep, that’s a super cute dress but I’m not buying it because the manufacturer doesn’t support fair working conditions’ can be met with looks of shock and bafflement. As I’ve faced those looks a fair bit in the past few months, I thought I’d put together a little post outlining how I’ve attempted dealing with this lately.
Working Out Your Lifestyle Choices
Before you can explain why your making these lifestyle choices to other people, you need to know why yourself. And achieving a sense of smug superiority because you only produce one handful of plastic waste per decade isn’t enough. Your lifestyle choices should be decisions that align with who you are, and in my opinion, don’t harm others.
And your lifestyle choices will evolve. Five years ago, I moved to cruelty-free skincare. Two years ago, I moved to all-natural skincare. Six months ago, I began researching ethical consumerism. Three months ago, I moved to a plant-based diet. Things change and evolve as you do. Life isn’t meant to be stagnant. And I have very strong why’s behind each of these lifestyle choices. I have a driving force that encourages me to make certain decisions. For me, these are:
- Natural Skincare- I’m strongly concerned about the effects of putting chemicals into my body via my skin. I also have an MTHFR gene mutation which means my body struggles to detox. The less chemicals, the better.
- Ethical & Sustainable Consumerism- I do not believe my desire to buy a product should mean another human suffers as a result. I also wish for my consumer choices to have as little negative impact on the earth as possible.
- Plant Based Diet- I hate the idea of animals suffering, I don’t enjoy eating meat and I am concerned about the environmental impact of the meat industry.
Each of these choices has come about either due to my personal values or health concerns. And for others, their lifestyle choices will be completely different, which is fine! Some people prefer a raw diet, some people choose to meditate twice daily, and others manage to live completely zero-waste. None of those choices would work for me (although I sure do need to meditate more!), but that’s ok!
There are a few things to think about when deciding to make a lifestyle change:
- What are my values? How can I live in a way that aligns with what is important to me (human rights, sustainability, animal welfare, health concerns etc.)?
- How can this lifestyle change fit within the reality of my life (budgets, availability, daily schedules etc)
- Am I looking to make a a complete change (ie. do it ‘100%’) or am I happy with a more flexible approach?
Once you’ve nutted some of these things out, you can arrive at lifestyle choices that feel right for who you are, and are also realistic.
Helping Others Understand Your Lifestyle Choices
Ok, so you’ve worked out your why. Woohoo! Now we need those super-significant people in our lives to understand and respect your choices. Why is this important? Chances are, your choices are going to impact at the very least your partner, flatmate, family etc. They deserve to be made aware of these decisions, and how you’ve come to make them. It’s also a conversation that should be done respectfully.
Here’s what not to say:
‘Hey, hubby, I’ve decided we are only going to purchase Fair Trade from now on, so that slavery-tarnished coffee you love is really going to have to go. So throw it out. Now.’
This might be a better alternative:
‘Hey, hubby. I’ve been doing some thinking, and feel like I would prefer to purchase Fair Trade coffee from now on. This is important to me as I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of other people, and we are blessed with so many ethical alternatives. I know you love your favourite beans, so I’ll be purchasing my own Fair Trade coffee from now on. But, let me know if you’d like to share- I think you’ll love the taste of these beans even more!’
The difference is pretty obvious and so much less likely to result in a frustrated and offended husband.
So what are the best ways to introduce other people to your new lifestyle choices?
Don’t Impose Your Lifestyle Choices On Others
It’s fantastic you’ve seen the light and have worked out exactly how you want to live! But… that doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way. So before you rummage through your flatmate’s makeup collection and throw out every chemical-laden, animal-tested bottle you can find, slowww down. She might be perfectly content with her MAC products, thank you very much. And it’s not up to you to impose any thing else on her.
Understand That Your Lifestyle Impacts Others, Too
We don’t live in little bubbles filled with people who live exactly the way we do… thank goodness! How boring would that be? It’s so important to be mindful that your lifestyle choices impact those around you, whether that’s through the family budget stretching to accomodate different choices or multiple meals being served at dinner time. I’ve found that showing gratitude (particularly to mum who has been super accomodating with meals) goes a long way bridging any divides.
Be Educated About Your Lifestyle Choices
People are likely to have plenty of questions when you first discuss these changes. Eg. ‘but where will you get your protein from as a vegan??’ While it’s tempting to just roll your eyes at some of these questions, 90% of the time, they are coming from a place of love or concern. The more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to intelligently (and calmly) discuss any concerns your loved ones have. This doesn’t mean you have to know everything at once. If a loved one does have a concern a valid issue you haven’t yet researched, just reply with a calm ‘that’s a really good point that I haven’t looked into yet. I’ll do some research and let you know what I find out.’
Respect Must be Mutual
This is s a biggie. I’ll use the plant-based diet as an example because it’s by far the most touchy, and I bet many of you have dealt with this before. My partner and I are still living at home, saving desperately for a house deposit (thanks to the ridiculous Australian housing market), so this means plenty of family meals with my mum, dad and sister. All of whom eat meat. Now, if I’m going to expect them to respect my plant-based diet, I need to respect their meat-inclusive diet. Not that I like it. Not that I agree with it. But I do need to respect it. And yes, it’s taken me a few months to stop myself pulling faces like a picky three year old when I see them cutting into their steak. But I’ve learned to be respectful.
Set Clear Boundaries
Do not ask me why, because I cannot fathom a rational reason, but when I first began moving to a plant-based diet, my dad (!!!), my boss (!!) and colleagues (!) of all people started deliberately provoking me about my food choices. Completely out-of-the-blue comments like, ‘I’m going to your favourite restaurant tonight- Ribs and Grill’ and ‘mmmm, this lamb is delicious‘ whilst challengingly eyeballing me began to really aggravate me. For the most part, I can shrug off insensitive comments, but I refused to put up with deliberate and uncalled for provocation. That’s not ok. So, I started letting people know that it wasn’t ok. As I’m a complete introvert, people were a little shocked at first by my firm boundary setting. But it hasn’t happened since.
I’ve found this boundary-setting to be most called-for when it comes to food. For some reason, people jump from 0-100 on the Scale of Defensiveness whenever the words ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’ get mentioned. It’s quite bizarre, and it goes both ways. Very few people care if I only purchase goods Fair Trade, or if I only buy organic skincare, but they sure do care that I don’t want to eat animals. If anyone has a theory as to why, please let me know!
Offer to Share What You’ve Learned
This one needs to be handled delicately, and honestly, it can only really happen when the other party involved wants to learn.
The other night, my family and I were discussing the beautiful Spring weather here in Melbourne, and how the hot summer days aren’t too far away. My dad mentioned something to do with sunscreen, and I made a passing comment about finding non-toxic varieties. He looked up, slightly shocked, and said it had never occurred to him that there were toxins in sunscreens. The next thing you know, he’s asking me for recommendations. Now that’s something I wouldn’t have expected a year ago!
Moral of the story? Give advice when it’s asked for. Shoving advice down people’s throats is just annoying, which leads me to my next point…
Don’t Become a Preacher
No one likes that. It’s not the way to convert people. It is however a guaranteed way to seriously annoy people. The authoritative and better-than-thou preachy approach just does. not. work. What I’ve noticed does work is quietly doing your thing, and slowly the people around you will start to glance over and take interest. Your mum will start cooking a few more plant-based meals when you’re around. Your sister will tag you in an natural skincare post on Instagram. Your friend will ask you to help her choose a toxin-free face wash. Things that they would have never shown interest in before are gradually entering their sphere, and they want to share it with you too.
Don’t Aim for Perfection
As mentioned, I’m now 90% plant-based. Very occasionally I’ll see a meat-based meal that looks really good. And sometimes, I’ll see a dress that I just adore… but I know it’s not ethically made. So what do you do in those moments? You aim to live by the lifestyle that feels right to you, but sometimes, we aren’t perfect.
Once you’ve told the significant people about your lifestyle choices, there can be an awful lot of pressure to live by those guidelines 100%. Please don’t bend to this pressure. Just do what feels right to you. I know I feel like I can’t eat meat in front of my family now in case they make comments… which is ridiculous because they’re actually incredibly supportive of my choices. And that includes the right to choose.
I’d love to hear your experiences with helping other people adjust to your lifestyle choices. It certainly isn’t always easy, but hopefully with these tips, you can reach a middle-ground with your nearest and dearest.