I’m seeing this complaint a lot in the groups I’m in for plant-based eating or herbalism! We discover transformative knowledge that changes our life and we get so eager to share it with everyone we care about, convinced it will change their lives too.
We want to help others get better health too but when we enthusiastically share all that awesomeness, we don’t get the response we’ve hoped for. People are reluctant to try, brush it off, or flat out don’t believe us. We’re hurt or confused or frustrated – why wouldn’t they want to try this amazing thing that could help them??
Here’s the thing though. We’re all on our own individual journey and it’s not up to us to decide what approach other people should take, even when we’re sure we know best. What you’re sharing just may not resonate with someone at this point in their journey, or there may be barriers to taking this new approach, and it’s nothing personal!
When you have health problems, everyone and their uncle has an opinion on what you should be doing, swearing it’s going to solve everything. It can be exhausting to hear all those opinions and try to sift through endless approaches while also dealing with health issues. There’s so much conflicting information and it’s hard to know what to believe. Chances are you’re not the first or the only person swearing you have the solution!
Another problem sometimes is that the person you’re trying to share with may not have asked for your opinion and as a result, just isn’t going to be receptive to what you’re saying. It’s kind of like cold calling to try to sell someone on something in the sense that the person hasn’t expressed interest yet and you have no idea if they’re even receptive. If you take this approach, keep in mind how it feels when people try it on you, as well as that the success rate is often low because the goal is to spread a specific agenda and ‘convert’ the other person.
I know that I don’t follow every piece of health advice I’ve gotten though the person sharing truly believes it will help me. In my personal experience, some things people have recommended to me definitely worked for them but didn’t work for me. It’s good to take into consideration that we may not actually know best or understand what the person has already tried, everything that’s causing the problem, or where they’re at.
I see this kind of attitude too sometimes when people swear that if a relative had eaten plant-based, or done something else, that relative wouldn’t have gotten cancer or some other health problem. I think it’s a dangerous path to assume we have all the answers, based on what we think we know. It could very well be something else that caused the cancer or health problem. There’s so many factors that contribute to health problems and a holistic approach doesn’t hyper-focus on just one of them to blame. When terrible things happen our instinct may be to try to make sense of it and pick a factor to blame but this may not always be the truth or a supportive approach for your loved one. I love this article from Fat Free Vegan about her experience with cancer, her thoughts on how plant based eating fits in, and the effect of judgement.
I think if you approach sharing with this attitude of being right and feeling that the person has to do what you say or else they’re to blame for their health issues, you’re much less likely to be able to connect with someone and truly support them. I’ve found it more helpful to set ‘ego’ approaches aside and try to just be there for someone in whatever way they need in that moment. There are many paths to health and many different ways for us to support!
If sharing advice with your loved ones isn’t going how you’d hoped, it’s good to take a step back and think about why this might be and how you can approach supporting them differently. We each have our own journey and we’re all at different places in our lives, with different contributing factors, and different bodies. If they’re interested in what you’ve shared but find it hard to follow through and you’re frustrated by this, what are their barriers to success? Can you channel some compassion and think back to times on your journey where what you were doing wasn’t aligned with your goals? I still have lots of these moments of knowing better but not always doing better!
A willingness to listen and truly hear someone has to be the foundation for any discussions and sometimes it’s the best way to help. I think the ultimate goal is for people to feel empowered and heard, to approach these conversations with compassion, and to give people space to make their own decisions. For me, I know I’ve been ‘preachy’ and patronizing in the past (sorry everyone!!) but ultimately I realized it’s way more important to let go of thinking I know best (since I don’t) and try to spread love and support, rather than judgement and tension.
If you want to help your loved ones, you already are just by being yourself and living the way you’re living! By letting your light shine, the people in your life will know they can reach out to if they’re interested in learning more about your approaches to health. If you feel you absolutely need to share, ask first if they’re open to hearing so it’s a dialogue. Most importantly, remember that it’s nothing personal if someone doesn’t do what you truly believe can help them so try not to hold it against them or let it affect your relationships!
Now go forth and shine your light and spread your love and compassion <31