We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are.
First of call, congrats on your new lifestyle. Whether you are on a minimalist or a zero waste journey, you've made a choice for yourself. Unfortunately, while this new lifestyle is making you happy, others in your close circle may not understand it and may judge and criticize you. Of course, this isn't fair, but as we know, we are the only ones that have control of our thoughts and our actions. It's hard to change other people's minds especially if they are not ready to change.
There is this concept call "tall poppy syndrome" where people of "high status are resented, attacked, cut down and/or criticized simply because they have been classified as superior to their peers" (Wikipedia.) I'm not saying this is the case, but I wanted to put some perspective and bring up the fact that some people treat us differently sometimes because they may see our new lifestyle as being superior to theirs, more importantly, they may feel threatened or rejected. Their perspective is not our fault, but we can respond in a way that is more inclusive and more educational. Zero waste or minimalism is for everyone and the more we everyone understands that the better we will be. There's a reason why it's called a journey because all of our paths are different.
Listen and Stay Calm
When people tease us or tell us that what we are doing doesn't matter or is inconsequentional, our first instinct may be to attack. Let's not do that. Take a deep breath and stay calm. Listen to what they have to say. A lot of the times, people don't understand the minimalist or zero waste lifestyle because they are not familiar with it or have a one sided view. Responding in anger won't help settle the situation so it's important to remain calm and listen to their point of view. We all lead different lives and we don't have to agree on everything, but it's important that we listen to understand someone else's perspective.
Listen specifically for what bothers them about your new lifestyle? Are you perhaps imposing your new lifestyle on them? Are you being "high and mighty?" Listen for specific points that you can address with your own actions or with an explanation to help them understand better why you have chosen this new lifestyle.
Offer Personal Facts
Sometimes people don't understand the impact of a new lifestyle because they have not gone through it. Provide some examples of how this has changed your life. By making our lifestyle changes relatable, it will be easier for others to understand. For example, one of my goals was to stop buying bottle water so that meant that on certain outings, I would need to excuse myself to refill my water bottle instead of buying one from the bar. This wasn't a big deal to me, but others thought it was unnecessary. I calmly explained that my personal challenge was to stop being dependent on bottled water. I gave a few stats about how and where I refill my bottle. I gave a figure about how much money I've saved, how much plastic bottles I've given up and how I now know where the best water fountains are. I focused on my consumption, on how it affected my time, my bottom line. Don't judge others, don't bring up their negative actions. Focus on your own actions and what you've been able to do.
Accept The Mindset of Others
Many people have lived with their habits for years. It won't take one or two interactions to change that. When they are ready to accept, they will, but until then, don't make yourself go crazy explaining yourself at each turn. Continue on your journey. Lead by example and continue to use your energy for positive changes. This is true for our parents or older relatives. Imagine living the way they've been living for 60 years and then asking them to stop doing a habit that's been ingrained for decades. It's difficult to do, but what we do have is the opportunity to educate and lead by example without being overbearing. Want them to stop using plastic bags, make sure they see you carrying yours at all time, provide tips on how to remember to bring bags, provide extras to keep in the car. Help people change their habits if they are open to it, otherwise, let them come to their own conclusion.
Be True To Yourself
Do you! If living YOUR version of a zero waste and minimalist life is making you happy and allowing you to do the things that you want to do, then do so. It's your life and your own happiness that matters. Continue to do what you are doing. Let your actions shine as an example. Stay positive!
You and I and many others have taken a step to reflect on our current situation and change it. This takes honesty and a hard look into our current habits, values and thoughts. Changing this is not easy. A lot of people will not be ready to do this introspection so understand this. Do you and do what you can do improve yourself, help others and be kinder to the planet. There's nothing wrong with that.
“This, in a nutshell, is what “self-improvement” is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.” Mark Manson
How have you dealt with people being judgmental on your minimalist or zero waste lifestyle? Got any other advice to offer others who are new to this journey? Let me know below.