No Guilty Pleasures

Urtebetetzeak. by Jaione Dagdrømmer (CC BY-NC-ND)

Urtebetetzeak/Jaione Dagdrømmer (CC BY-NC-ND)

. . . whenever I would feel such happiness―my guilt alarm went off.
―Elizabeth Gilbert
We’re so concerned about doing things “the right way” that we lose any sense of pleasure in doing things the wrong way. ―Ryan O’Connell
whatever good there is to get
get it & feel good ―Ntozake Shange


There’s guilt and there’s pleasure. But there are no guilty pleasures.

Whether it’s ice cream, sex, or video games, pleasure is an immersive experience.  Guilt―your inner critic―yanks you from the visceral world of pleasure.

Guilty pleasures are what we call things we enjoy but feel self-conscious about, like reality shows and deep-fried Twinkies. But there’s a big difference between chagrin and disapproval.

Maybe you don’t want your friends to know about your fantasies. There’s nothing wrong with keeping some predilections private. Shame, on the other hand, means you don’t approve of what you’re doing. And you can’t enjoy something and regret it at the same time.

People undermine their own choices every day:

I’m on a diet but I want chocolate, so I’m going to eat chocolate but feel bad about it.

Which accomplishes . . . nothing. Not only did you cheat on your diet, but you cheated yourself of the pleasure of eating chocolate.

If you want to eat chocolate and decide to eat chocolate, enjoy the chocolate.

If you want to eat chocolate but decide you’d rather honor your diet, don’t eat the chocolate. Then congratulate yourself for taking good care of your whole self, not just your fleeting urges.

The bottom line: guilt is a signal. Like grief or hunger, pangs of guilt are your body’s way of telling you something. In this case, I don’t think [insert dubious choice here] is such a good idea.

So use your guilt. Not to manipulate someone else or flog yourself, but to make choices you feel good about. Be straight with yourself; honor your  own wishes. It’s okay to change your mind. If you make a choice and have second thoughts, choose differently. But don’t do one thing and then kick yourself or pine for something else.

Make up your mind. Honor your decisions. And enjoy.


  1. Interesting concept … no guilty pleasure. I like it! Actually, I came to the same conclusion when I went on this diet (healthy eating plan). If I go out to a restaurant, am on a trip, or simply have plans that includes ‘straying’ from the proscribed foods, I totally enjoy my ‘adventure,’ I know I will go back to my ‘plan’ when the occasion is over, so I do not stress or feel badly about my decisions. It’s a good life-style choice.

What do you think?