Guilty Pleasures: 5 Steps To Overcome The Unnecessary Shame.7 min read

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As a kid, I sucked my thumb. I only stopped when I started getting shamed for it. I don’t think I would have ever stopped by myself. Why should I? 

I believe this comes into play in many forms of addiction.

If you’re addicted to smoking, society and health professionals can nudge you to stop. Your religious community may threaten you with hell, and medical professionals might warn you of serious health complications if you continue. 

Naturally, with sufficient reasons, you are most likely to stop, or at least slow down.

But, there’s little to no pressure to stop habits like masturbation, playing video games, or watching reality TV shows. However, deep down, many people still understand that too many of those are considered “not good”, hence they indulge them with a sense of some lingering guilt. Hence the term, “guilty pleasure”.

The Truth About Resisting Guilty Pleasures

There are many forms of guilty pleasures, but it is important to realise that the guilt (associated with the pleasure) is only a product of the mind. 

Consider this: many celebrities indulge in smoking – which is harmful to their health – but, you don’t see them fighting it. Some are even proud of it.  Yet, some kid watching porn and masturbating is riddled with guilt, despite it having some health benefits.

A lot is said about overcoming guilty pleasures.

But, the real question is, do you really want to stop it? Is it really bad or are you just trying to avoid punishment by society (or, at least, the community you belong to)?

Let’s just face it, lies, threats, and fairytales don’t always work. For many people, it may work for a while (by mostly making them feel guilty), but they ultimately fail. 

It often fails because many guilty pleasures are born out of our primal drives. To overcome them will mean denying ourselves of our very nature. It is almost as difficult as overcoming hunger. We may fast for a few hours or days, but ultimately we must eat. 

Similarly, some people overcome their guilty pleasure by finding some other healthier or less guilt-inducing ways to fulfil similar needs, addressing the root cause without completely denying natural instincts.

In case you missed the point I was making: Resisting guilty pleasures is hard. And, it is easier and better to think of ways to replace them, than to deny or try to eliminate them by sheer strong will.

How To Stop Feeling Guilty For Your “Guilty Pleasures”: 

My guilty pleasure was porn. I used to feel shame about it so much that I found myself lying about seeing it, and soon I started gradually drifting away from my friends (because I felt dirty, as they were mostly religious). 

However, over the years, I’ve learned how to overcome that guilt, and here is what I did.

Question the Source of Guilt: 

Ask yourself: Do you genuinely want to stop a guilty pleasure, or are you just trying to avoid societal punishment? Take some time for introspection. Understand the root cause of your guilt and whether it aligns with your own beliefs. Perhaps, you might even have to question your own beliefs to see if they are true and helpful.

For example, ask yourself, “Is it bad to drink alcohol?”. For me, the answer was, that it is okay as long as you don’t get wasted or allow it to get in the way of something important. Same with porn.

Accept your pleasures: 

Look around, there are people who might have similar “guilty pleasures” who seem to relish and even celebrate it. For instance, many prominent and well-respected individuals in society drink responsibly. If you have a lot of guilt associated with drinking, you can take a cue from them – accept your choices and even take pride in drinking responsibly. 

Having a full understanding of your actions and their consequences can help you embrace them without shame. This can empower you in dealing with guilty pleasures.

Change your community: 

A classical intrapersonal conflict trilemma pops up whenever hard decisions need to be made. The trilemma is, are you going to suppress your desires and struggle with internal conflicts, express your desires and battle the external/intrapersonal conflicts, or are you going to just leave and hopefully find a community that accepts you and your values/beliefs/pleasures? It’s your choice. 

Understand Primal Drives: 

Some guilty pleasures are deeply rooted in human nature, especially those tied to primal drives like sex and food. Acknowledge and understand these drives. Find out why you feel the urge so strongly, and you may make peace with your pleasures.

For instance, you may find yourself drinking, or viewing porn because you feel empty and lonely. Perhaps you lack a sense of purpose or need some affection in your life. And, perhaps, your guilty pleasures are coping mechanisms which have kept you sane till now. Perhaps you shouldn’t feel shame but gratitude for them. And, perhaps, you need not stick with them, and should move on to…

Find Alternative Outlets: 

If you think a guilty pleasure is no longer needed or actually bad for you –  maybe it adversely affects your health, finances, or social status – consider finding healthier ways to fulfil similar needs. Look for alternative outlets that address the root desires without completely denying your natural instincts. 

For instance, someone who watches porn and masturbates all the time may get a girlfriend to have sex with. Smokers may replace cigarettes with chewing gums (perhaps, nicotine-flavored), and people who eat too much junk may choose to eat more fruits instead.

This proactive approach encourages a constructive channelling of impulses.

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Conclusion: Your Perception Shapes Whether Your Actions Bring Pleasure or Shame.

Douglas Wilson famously said, “There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.” and I think there is truth to that. Even though many people feel shame about their actions, there is no particular action that is entirely shameful on its own. It is often the perception of the individual and the culture of the people that end up making an action shameful or not.

For instance, Interracial relationships were historically met with prejudice and discrimination, but today most people don’t really care. Also, in the past, many people abhored rap music due to its explicit language, themes, and perceived connections to social issues. However, as perceptions evolved, rap has become widely recognized as a legitimate and influential form of artistic expression. Religious rap music is even a popular genre today.

So, I think the better question to ask yourself is whether your actions are helpful or not. If they are, perhaps it is time to start working on your mindset about it.

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Dick David is a freelance SEO content writer and editor with over 7 years of experience in content writing, digital marketing, and sales. He is the founder of Pawns Digital Agency. Throughout his career, he has authored over 4 books, published hundreds of SEO articles attracting thousands of monthly visitors, ghostwritten numerous works, and edited hundreds of content pieces across various industries. Currently, he works with Robert Taylor Media and has also worked with Tobi Digitals and Branditechture Design Agency, among others.

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