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Guilty Pleasures Are Essential for a Happy Life

Internet culture and TV have embraced the concept of a guilty pleasure. However, even today, it is quite limited in its description according to many. This is due to the fact that the majority of guilty pleasures showcased online or in movies, as well as TV shows, have to do with eating unhealthy food or watching “Mean Girls” for the 20th time in a row.

However, the fact is that a list of guilty pleasures is never-ending. Every human being is an individual, thus as the french would say, our jouissances are varying as well. This French term is being used in English more and more to define a wider spectrum of guilty pleasures. However, the majority of translations offer a very narrow definition, limited to physical pleasure, which the French would surely oppose.

After all, the point is that whether you eat a big mac meal from Mcdonald’s for breakfast or pay an unreasonable price for a glass of wine at the airport - all of them can be described as guilty pleasures.

Why did the concept emerge?

As guilty pleasures are widely discussed and even used to create internet memes, the reason behind their existence is not widely known. Even worse is that no one really questions the background of this widespread phenomenon.

They are not called guilty pleasures without a reason. These activities actually bring joy and happiness to people. Then why should anyone feel guilty about them? Yet, they remain a big taboo. A poll conducted in the United Kingdom found that one in three keeps their guilty pleasures a secret from the closest. Moreover, almost 18 percent admitted that they are embarrassed by their activities.

Modern society is more diverse than ever before. The general public can be divided into an uncountable number of groups representing different identities. However, a word identity is mainly used to describe social communities according to race, ethnicity or sexuality. In reality, identities are also quite individual. We belong to many different big groups and every one of them put together is what makes us who we are.

Social groups and identities vary and so do their views over different concepts. Thus, something that is acceptable to one group might not be for another.

Take one of the most taboo topics such as wagering as an example. All of the negativity associated with it has seeped into the majority of social groups. It’s safe to say that around 90% of the world population frowns upon gambling while the remaining 10% glorify it. When we look at it from an objective point of view, it really does look like a guilty pleasure or just a pleasure. Just as somebody would pay $40 to go watch a movie for two hours, so would somebody pay $40 to go play some cards for 2 hours. This was one of the concepts that Norwegian companies (in Norwegian called Norske bookmakere) were trying to push in their country to somehow de-vilify the people that would actually wager. The population’s mind may have changed at some point, but the government still remains firm.

The difference between these social groups creates enormous pressure for people with contradicting views. Being judged is what usually creates guilt. This especially is the case if we are being criticized by a big number of people or by those closest to us.

This might sound a little confusing, but imagine, a committed Christian mother who is a member of a progressive book club. This is a possibility and probably there is someone alike out there. activities she performs within one community, might not be natural for another. Such situations lead many people to be discreet about certain parts of their lives with others.

Social norms also make us feel guilty

Even in modern times, there are many topics that are not up for discussion. Unlike in case with different social groups, here the judgment is coming from the general public, which is more difficult to handle. The majority of people aspire to fit into the norms that are simply given without an explanation. Beauty standards, eating rations and a whole set of the ‘right life choices’ are put on the table to follow. If someone decides to step aside from this ‘true path of life’, they are immediately put under pressure by some people around them.

However, guilty pleasures still make us feel better than many other pleasurable activities we perform on a daily basis. Here, we should evaluate the role of pressure in increased levels of happiness. If there was no one looking at us with judgmental eyes while watching “Sex and the City” on a train, would it still feel as good? The answer is - probably not.

Our guilty pleasures surely make everyday living better. Every one of them is something special to us, boosting happiness and making us feel more valued. There is nothing wrong with having guilty pleasures, they are even essential for our happier lives. These small or big activities make us feel better and provide some alone time which sometimes is much needed. In the end, whether with the sheer enthusiasm to challenge social norms or simply because we want it, doing things that make us feel good is essential and we should not feel guilty about them.


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