My friend shoved the paperback under the coffee table as if it were contraband. Her Guilty Pleasure, as she called it, was hardly shameful stuff, just a dog-eared paperback, and I wondered why we feel so guilty about some of our choices.
In this bleak summer, maybe it’s time to put the guilt away and see, read and hear what we enjoy.
It certainly feels like our need for escapism has been dialed in, and many of us gorge ourselves on TV shows, movies, books, and music that we might consider junk food from our cultural diet. My friend’s book might not have been eligible for a Pulitzer Prize, but she described it as a great read and was happy to share it.
Everyone has their Guilty Pleasure, roughly defined as something they enjoy, although they inherently understand that it is not generally held in high esteem or even considered odd. I get the impression that a guilty pleasure as a concept is a fairly new social construct. It coincides with the ubiquity of social media, where our film/book/music choices are more than ever the subject of public discourse.
While we could once hoard or watch the Mills & Boon books on the bedside table beaches on video with a bucket of ice cream without blowing a whistle, nowadays it feels like we’re looking over our shoulders in our decisions. We are more aware than ever of the “cool” choices we “should” make. It all feels a bit like keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to cultural curation.
But why should we feel guilty for something that makes us feel good? Why are we ashamed to see something that lifts our spirits or throws us off a daily diet of relentless bad news? I also wonder if women can take that shame a little more. If yes, what drives it?
Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley believes the problem stems from the human condition itself: our brains are hardwired for problem solving and productivity. People are constantly looking for ways to improve our lives.
She describes taking time out to observe what we call our guilty pleasure as the psychological equivalent of lounging in the sun. But many of us can’t do this without feeling guilty because we feel like we should be like the hamster in the wheel and work hard to improve.
“When you look at kids, they tend to have a pleasure — they don’t have a guilty pleasure. At some point we became socialized to tell ourselves that we should always produce to the point where we can’t switch off,” says O’Malley.
While she suggests that vacations are self-determined meaningful times in which to give ourselves some well-deserved downtime, many of us don’t allow ourselves to enjoy everyday things without feeling guilty. O’Malley believes the answer lies in a two-pronged approach: having an awareness of what you’re doing and also some self-compassion.
Our lives are messy and our choices reflect that. Our cultural choices are a bit like our food choices — we can’t always be healthy. When it comes to nutrition, there has been a move away from labeling food as good or bad. Nothing is inherently bad unless you eat it every day. The same should apply to our other consumptions.
Without the joys – let’s just stop blaming them – life gets a little joyless. Where the guilt comes from in the first place, maybe we need to get over it.
when it’s watching island of lovebinge watching Sweet magnolias Or belt out Celine Dion’s hits while they vacuum, I say do it. Life is hard enough, and those pockets of escapism away from life’s supercharged productivity that we’re used to are worth it when they bring joy.
Downtime gives our tired and stressed brain time to reset and rest. The time we spend watching or reading something that makes us happy can make us more capable for the tasks at hand.
When our choices aren’t harming or affecting anyone, it’s time to remove the guilt, because if we keep it, we’re only ruining a fun and joyful activity.
Let this be the summer of guilt-free fun. Let’s debunk the myth that whatever brings us joy is somehow inherently bad or worth less.
To each their own, and with that in mind, I’m off to see when the new season of Virgin River meets Netflix. The untouched mountain scenery, shady dialogues and unhappy lovers are good for my soul.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/time-to-enjoy-our-pleasures-without-feelings-of-guilt-41843826.html Time to enjoy our pleasures without guilt