If you gave up trying to ride a bicycle the first time you fell on two wheels, or the second or third time for that matter, you’d have never graduated from a tricycle. That’s right: You would totally be riding a tricycle still. If mistakes or setbacks happen as you shift towards veganism – and they will, they just will – do your best to dust yourself off and chalk it up to a learning experience. In other words, onward, my friend.
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My first year on this path meant quite a few slip-ups as I built a deeper core commitment as well as gained some essential know-how as a vegan; I am very grateful that veganism was important enough to me that I didn’t just give up. Many of us can have a very all-or-nothing approach when we try to adopt change and developing a radically different way of existing in the world can be challenging; it should be expected that we’d experience some tumbles along the way. It’s also not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to figure out the many entrenched and complicated ways our society uses animals for our ends and to untangle those various knots, not to mention all the persuasive social, cultural and personal factors that compel us to return to the familiar. It can feel like a very steep learning curve but I promise, you will get more skilled if you stick with it, especially with a forgiving but also unflagging attitude of determination.
“Progress, not perfection” is a cliché but it serves as a great reminder that veganism is not about our egos but our sincere efforts to live in alignment with our values of compassion, justice and creating least harm. It’s not about crossing a finish line to cheering crowds and winning a medal; it’s about being committed to doing our best, being humble and willing to forgive and learn. An all-or-nothing attitude has undermined many well-intentioned people. Beating yourself up for accidentally eating honey, for example, will not end animal agribusiness. Quitting because you made a mistake, however, will assuredly reinforce the oppressive systems you are against. I can tell you quite honestly that even after nearly 22-years as a vegan, I am not perfect at it. I don’t expect I will ever be, that’s how deep this stuff goes. Veganism is a practice, though, and as a practice, it gets easier and easier the longer we do it.