I feel like an outcast when I have to bring my own vegan food to a gathering

Being vegan is, in many ways, a tremendously empowering experience. For many of us, becoming vegan shifted our whole way of thinking about and relating to the world, making us feel more connected with our authentic thoughts and feelings and more engaged with life.

And yet, being vegan comes with challenges. Because of carnism, most people have a very limited understanding of what veganism actually is and of how vegans experience the world. And because many social experiences revolve around food, we can end up feeling disconnected from our loved ones as a result of choosing not to partake in certain shared experiences.

So what practical steps can you take to move toward greater connection in your relationships?

Understand connection and needs

In many ways, connection is about needs. We tend to feel connected (and satisfied) when our needs are being met, and we feel disconnected (and dissatisfied) when they’re not. The more of our needs that are met, and the more fully they are met, the better we feel in a relationship. And the needs that help us feel connected vary to some degree from person to person, so it’s essential to become aware of our own and other people’s needs. To learn more about connection and needs, check out our Sustainable Vegan Advocacy course.

We all need to feel that our values are accepted and respected. We also need to feel that we matter and that we can count on others. When these core needs aren’t met, we feel disconnected.

Accepting and honoring our needs is a very important first step, and we also need to learn how to communicate these needs to others.

Use whole messages

An effective way to communicate a need is to use the “whole messages” approach described by Matthew McKay and colleagues, which helps create an atmosphere of objectivity, respect, and trust. A whole message can contain four parts: an observation, a thought, a feeling, and a need. Here’s an example of a whole message related to this specific challenge:

You can use this approach whenever you want to share your thoughts, feelings, and needs in a respectful way.

Request a behavior change

Communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs through whole messages may be enough for your friends to understand that they need to change some behaviors to help you feel more included. Sometimes, it may be necessary to make some suggestions for behavior changes, such as asking for some of the dishes at your next gathering to be vegan.

Other Resources to Check Out

My partner isn’t vegan, and I feel uncomfortable having animal products in our home

I don’t know how to have a healthy conversation about veganism with my friends and family

I feel like an outcast when I have to bring my own vegan food to a gathering