S shared her experience with a family member who suggested she needed a hamburger following her Covid vaccine. S described feeling speechless, knowing from her experience that if she said something he would likely say he was just kidding, suggesting she is simply too sensitive. Boy, oh, boy, as someone who has heard some semblance of, “You’re too sensitive,” my whole life, I feel your pain. Rather than feel hurt and shamed by that statement, I’ve learned (over many years!) to embrace my sensitivity and see it as one of my greatest strengths.
I have to say, as a general rule, I don’t really buy, “I’m just kidding.” I believe it’s a way to deflect when someone feels called out. In the CWAFV approach, instead of avoiding that discomfort, we’re really going to try to lean into it. One possible way to respond is to inquire deeper into the statement, basically overlooking whether or not it was said seriously or in jest. “I’m wondering if you think I would be better off if I were not vegan. Is that true?” This statement could lead to a deeper, more meaningful discussion. It could clear the air and clarify some misconceptions about a vegan diet. We’ve covered how our own willingness to be vulnerable is important but this experience raises our awareness to the fact that, where it goes depends also on your relative’s willingness to be vulnerable. If he is simply not ready or willing to go there, you’ll know because he will keep deflecting. It’s okay. He’s going to communicate his boundary and you can proceed gently, with compassion and respect for his boundaries. It’s fair enough to say, “I think a burger is the opposite of what would make me feel good,” and leave it at that. In this way, you speak your truth and leave it to him to respond if he wants to pursue it further.