I remember the teenage angst of not knowing whether what you liked was “cool.” Indie band that you’re actually the last to hear of? Pop song that’s too mainstream? TV show that’s too juvenile?
As an adult, I don’t have quite the same social anxiety about sharing my likes. Now I find I couch anything in danger of getting an eye roll under the umbrella of “guilty pleasure.” Calling it a guilty pleasure is like getting in front of the criticism, like saying, “Oh, I know you don’t think this is cool or sophisticated, and neither do I. It’s a guilty pleasure.”
But now I say: No more! I am rejecting the title of guilty pleasure. It’s self-care. And here are five reasons you should consider doing the same.
I want to celebrate the things in life that bring me pleasure. Y’all, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world is ON FIRE. I think it was during the dumpster fire that was 2020 that I truly embraced dropping the “guilty” from my pleasures. It felt difficult to find happiness and comfort as the world was plunged into uncertainty (and I was deeply pregnant and then postpartum with twins). I certainly kept up with the news but was always on the lookout for a way to escape, as many were last year.
Now it is more important than ever to embrace finding what feels good. Celebrate the little pleasures and teach our children to do the same. In a culture that rewards over-working and stress, it can feel counter-culture to embrace pleasure.
I find the social construct of guilty pleasure to be inherently sexist. Think about the things our culture considers guilty pleasures: sappy pop music, reality television, and eating ice cream straight from the carton. Furthermore, these things all are typically associated with the female sex. You never hear dudes talking about how watching Ranger games is their guilty pleasure. Not that guys can’t have guilty pleasures, too. It’s just their guilty pleasures also may be those associated with a female sensibility.
So what if I watch The Bachelor as if it is a sport and spend more than a few hours listening to podcasts analyzing that week’s gameplay? You know what I call that? A hobby. Yes, if you had to ask this mom of two 14 month olds what her hobby is (sadly, grocery shopping does not count), my solid and unabashed answer would be The Bachelor. I don’t have an ounce of guilt or shame in saying it brings me great pleasure.
3. Grow Up
I’m in my 30s, and I can’t be bothered with what other people think. There’s a creeping realization as you hit your 30s that you’re the adult in the room. And you have two kids. And you still don’t pick up the clothes from your bathroom floor (sorry, Mom), and you’re still not exactly sure whether you’re doing your taxes right, and you’re still looking around for someone older and wiser to help you figure it all out.
This is also the stage when you may wonder, am I supposed to have developed adult interests? But then you find yourself listening to Olivia Rodrigo and watching Cruel Summer (while still rocking the side part and skinny jeans because no one can make my five-foot self go back to a center part and low-rise jeans) and feel like you may be judged by both Gen X AND Gen Z.
But this is when I try to silence an inner critic and just let myself like what I like.
These “guilty pleasures” are often part of our self-care. Normalize this and normalize finding self-care that works for you. Again — parent of toddler twins here. My current self-care is intentionally not complicated. I have needed to find self-care that works for me in this season of life. Right now, this looks like reading a romance novel instead of high brow literature, watching some soapy TV, and listening to podcasts about gruesome murders while I fold my children’s tiny laundry. These are the things that currently help me keep my head afloat on a daily basis. Are they the most sophisticated way to spend my time? No! But that is not a problem to me.
I want to do it as an example for my kids. I hope to raise kids who don’t purposely withhold pleasure from themselves. I want them to have dessert without feeling like they have to “earn it.” I want them to step out in nature for the sheer joy of feeling sun on their faces, not because someone told them they have to play outside. I want them to know what they like and what makes them feel good.
It is also important for me to raise my kids without guilt’s cousin, shame. One of the ways I want to model this is not being hard on myself about being perfect. I want to show them mommy makes mistakes.
I also don’t want them to see me punish or withhold things from myself.
To that end, what do they learn by seeing me sneak a brownie, calling it a guilty pleasure? Or not own up to what they know is my favorite television show? I want them to proudly be themselves at all times. What better way to teach that than try to be proudly myself too?
What pleasures are you going to be embracing without the guilt?