This post is by Contributor Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT*
Being a vegan for close to a decade has been a wild ride. In 2010, vegan was a dirty word that people wanted to distance themselves from, the options to dine out were limited, and feeling included in any type of group outing where food was involved felt like an overwhelming and difficult task.
As a child, I was not interested in eating animals. I can remember back to times when I was conditioned to believe that “milk makes strong bones” and chicken and cows were necessary parts of any athlete’s diet. I didn’t want to but I ate what I was told to eat. Even still, I fussed and refused to eat eggs, any type of seafood, or pigs. I forced myself to eat chicken and different pieces of cows even though it was not what my heart wanted.
When I was in grad school, I got more into natural and holistic health and ended up inadvertently watching a documentary called “Earthlings” that a friend recommended. I didn’t realize what the content of the documentary was but I was eating a steak at the time and within 20 minutes of starting the movie, I declared that I was a vegan (as did my partner at the time). I was obviously not vegetarian before or anywhere close to it and I didn’t know what being vegan really meant, but the movie instantly opened my eyes to the atrocities that I was engaging in through my lifestyle.
My initial reaction was disbelief but over the next couple of years, I became very angry. How could I have been literally fed these lies for so long? I was in disbelief that the people who were supposed to be caring for me would encourage me to engage in such practices. I was angry at everything and everyone – animal agriculture industries, cultures and traditions that keep us blindly following these practices, companies and people that profit off of the torture of animals, family members or friends who made fun of my new lifestyle without trying to understand or accommodate me, the list goes on and on.
As my anger intensified, so did my desire to get loud. I decided to get involved with animal activism. I didn’t realize at the time but I ended up quickly getting involved with some pretty serious and equally angry people who regularly engaged in weekend-protest activities of all kinds (all legal!).
Although it felt great in the moment to get my anger out by yelling into a megaphone, it didn’t do much for my personal relationships with just about anyone.
Veganism is a message of spreading peace, love and compassion, yet I was spreading anything but. I was spreading anger! I was the stereotypical angry vegan and I realized that I was quite literally scaring people away. While I was yelling things that sounded to me like, “LOVE ALL ANIMALS AND KEEP THEM OFF YOUR PLATE,” others were perhaps interpreting, “BEING VEGAN MAKES YOU SUPER ANGRY AND AGGRESSIVE!”, therefore achieving completely the opposite of what I was trying to achieve.
Too many years and lots of severed ties later, I finally realized that I was pushing away and judging those in my life that mattered most. I wasn’t being respectful in my demand for equality and respect. And although yes, I got many people to adopt a vegan lifestyle, I also polarized a few that didn’t want to consider veganism just to spite me (yes, someone told me this!).
Luckily, I am a psychotherapist and am able to cultivate awareness around my patterns and communication styles. Over time, I realized that I just didn’t feel good with all the anger and that it wasn’t serving me or anyone else anyhow. It was doing the opposite of serving me! I was able to change my approach so I could be more inclusive of those in my life and not make them feel like I was going to judge them for their beliefs. Compassion for all beings, right?
The old adage is true: “Practice what you preach.”
For someone who is preaching the ultimate lifestyle of love, equality and peace, my activism now mirrors that. I use my voice to inspire and activate others through my podcast and social media platforms versus being nasty towards or condemning others. Sure, I still share a fiery post here and there that sparks conversation, but I rarely get negatively caught up in the comment debate that inevitably ensues. I try to engage my family and friends in loving conversations about my lifestyle in hopes that they can understand parts of me more thoroughly, but not by force. Everyone is on their own path, walking at their own pace.
I am more able to connect and share with the people in my life and my values and beliefs are more often considered when I am with these people. My brother hosted me at his place last week and bought lots of vegan goodies for me to have the next day. We hosted an all-vegan BBQ at his place (this was unheard of even last summer). Friends take me to vegan restaurants and call in vegan take-out when I’m around. People have stopped taunting or teasing me about my beliefs in an effort to get a rise out of me. Overall, there is more peace, love and compassion being passed around, and I know that these qualities all lead to compassionate connections being made in their own time.
Psychologist Melanie Joy does an amazing job of covering communications between vegans and nonvegans, and her book on the topic helped me immensely in understanding how my tactics were actually damaging my relationships, therefore not helping animals at all. The book is: .
Spoiler alert: my brother loved the vegan BBQ and wants veggie patties for their next one!
*This post by Contributor Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT
Rima is an entrepreneur, licensed marriage and family therapist, vegan lifestyle advocate & yoga teacher from Los Angeles. Rima promotes an overall program of wellness through mental, physical & spiritual health and nutrition. She approaches each client from a unique perspective as each client is unique and collaborates with them to understand their needs and goals.
Rima hosts the “The Rima the Jungle Girl Podcast” from her jungle house in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, where she also hosts adventure, healing, and couples retreats (complete with an on-site vegan chef). She is a Gottman leader and offers Gottman relationship workshops at her couples retreat. Rima works on-line with international clients and clients from California through teletherapy. You can find her ator on Instagram @rima_danielle.