Let’s talk about guilty pleasures. Snatched moments of pleasure tinged with a guilty “I shouldn’t really be doing this" feeling, but going ahead with the juicy delicious-feeling thing, regardless. We all know what that feels like.
I would say it’s generally the less happy among us who believe in indulging in “guilty pleasures”. Why? Because the genuinely happy do it differently. Happy people believe, quite simply, in enjoying their pleasures with no guilt attached.
I do a lot of speaking about wellbeing and happiness and there is a question I am asked a lot on this topic. At some point I will inevitably and conspiratorially be asked “Do I have a wine sometimes?” as if it’s a guilty pleasure that I couldn’t possibly admit to indulging in. The answer I always give is OF COURSE I ENJOY A WINE SOMETIMES!!! Do I regularly get off my face like in my younger days before I was wellbeing-pro? No. But I do get pleasure from a glass of wine over a meal, or over shared confidences with a great girlfriend. Do I feel guilty about it? No, I most certainly do not. It’s something I enjoy, and for me, it’s in balance with a healthy lifestyle, and it adds richness and enjoyment to my life. Why would I feel guilty about that? It’s all pleasure when I choose to do it, and I enjoy every sip.
We are here on this Earth, in this life, to do good and to feel good. We are meant to feel good!
Why block that flow of pleasure? If something brings you genuine pleasure, and is in alignment with your values, why not just enjoy it; suck every ounce of joy from it, guilt-free. A good life is about DISCERNMENT of what we put in, not DENIAL of all things enjoyable. When we wear the hair shirt of denial and cut ourselves off from things that bring joy, that’s when we feel the need to cheat ourselves and sneak in a guilty pleasure. How much better to come from a place where we are honest with ourselves about our sources of genuine joy and connection, and discerningly include them in our lives loud and proud, guilt-free.
Guilt can come in many guises. For example, guilt that comes up because we are acting unethically, or lying, or cheating or whatever — now that’s USEFUL GUILT. That’s guilt generated by our inner self to stop us breaching our own values and integrity. It’s a handbrake to give us pause — is this really the right choice for me? Is this choice in alignment with who I am? This guilt is like a big red flashing “stop: think” sign just when we need it most. Guilty pleasure though? Now that’s not a useful application of guilt.
Feeling guilty because we are about to have a dessert? That’s not useful.
Either 1) choose to have the dessert and enjoy and savour the pleasure of every single mouthful, or,
2) discerningly choose not to have it and enjoy the feeling of restraint because that choice came from honouring your body’s signal of not being hungry or the commitment you made to yourself about eating less sugar. Enjoy the feeling of pride of honouring your body and your commitment.
But the guilty pleasure option of having the cake and swallowing it down with a nice big swig of guilt and a sprinkling of self-hate? Now that really is self-defeating. And that’s not really pleasure, is it? The momentary pleasure is neutralised by the emotional backlash. Eat the cake and love it, or don’t eat it and love that choice too. Just don’t eat it and feel guilty. When you think about it, it’s a ridiculous waste of emotional energy.
A lot of guilty pleasures are guilty because we don’t think others would approve.
Again, that’s a really erroneous application of guilt. If you like dancing round to Taylor Swift, who cares what they think of your secret teen pop addiction. Whether it’s “cool” or age-appropriate, or not — so what! If you like it and it brings you pleasure that’s good enough. You don’t need anyone else to approve or even understand. It’s your thing. It’s your pleasure. It’s part of what makes you the gloriously quirky, unique individual you are. No need to feel guilty about that.
Ultimately, guilt is a poisonous and superfluous attachment to pleasure. Why do that to yourself? Why mar a beautiful or pleasing thing, interaction or experience with the heavy emotion of guilt. If it pleases you then make it pleasure, all the way.
As the legendary rocker and Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl said,“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you *$^$#$* like something, like it.”
So, be unapologetic about what brings you pleasure, and include it with cunning regularity in your life. Guilt-free. Allow yourself pleasure — don’t try and sneak it into your own life through the back door like a stolen ciggie behind the bikesheds. Claim your pleasure in full.
Louise Thompson is a life coach, author and corporate escapee. Read Bite articles from Louise or visit louisethompson.com for more.