Lifestyle is the attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and behavioral orientations of a person, family, or group. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous article, The Case of Miss R. in 1930. It has become a popular term in today’s lingo.
We have come a long way from that day. The contemporary lifestyle of most people in industrialized nations is often described as “the mass culture”. In this lifestyle, there is no room for individualism or uniqueness. Everyone is so similar to everyone else, that each person is treated as if he or she were part of the same group. This results in accepting and respecting others within the mass culture, as well as seeing and being influenced by those outside the mass culture.
This type of lifestyle is based on accepting mass media messages about what is right and wrong, good and evil, right and wrong. However, the word lifestyle is not suitable to be used in this context. Rather, it describes the mental attitude of an individual toward various aspects of daily life. Adler described the word as a “psychological term used to characterize man’s relations with life, especially with his environment”.
Lifestyle in the twenty-first century has become part of the mainstream definition of individual psychology. For example, Carl Rogers, who wrote many books on human growth and development, used the word lifestyle in one of his books to describe the process of exploring self. The book described the “weekly schedule” as being a lifestyle. Similarly, Murray Bowen, in his book The Power Pause, characterized his approach to living as a “work schedule”, using the lifestyle approach.
There are two main schools of thoughts that attempt to separate lifestyle from the individual’s psychology. These are: minimalist lifestyle, and the highly motivated lifestyle. Minimalists believe that “life style” or the “lifestyle” as they see it, has no influence on people’s behaviors and decisions. Therefore, they do not believe that the individual’s behavior is affected by their lifestyle. They believe that all change results from the changes in the individual’s environment.
The other school of thought, which is also from the psychological perspective, is that people have to try new things in order to experience growth, and that some changes are good. In the case of the vegan lifestyle, both of these views are from a psychological perspective. Many people that go on vegetarian diets in order to save animals often do so because they feel like they want to help the planet. However, the vegan lifestyle also contributes to environmental sustainability.
On the other hand, the highly motivated vegan lifestyle choices tend to believe, “All lifestyle choices are important.” Therefore, when making decisions about what to eat, how to behave, how much to spend, etc., they place a high importance on these types of lifestyle choices. It is a little like a super hero or supervising your local family business. You feel strongly about following your values and doing what you know is right, even if other people are against it.
This article is an attempt to separate the lifestyle from the person’s identity. I call this “deconstructing the self” as it helps to shed light on the ways in which our mass culture degrades and trivializes the individual by labeling them with labels such as: lazy, corrupt, stupid, bad, ater, criminal, etc. By taking the time to consider the individual’s lifestyle choices and exploring what those choices translate into for the vegan, we will be able to more accurately evaluate both the Vegan and the mass culture that celebrate animal products and lifestyles.