Today on the radio I heard a debate between two writers who were discussing the issue of ‘guilty pleasures.’ One was defending the guilt, arguing that it serves a purpose –that it keeps us on some kind of track.
The other argued for freedom of taste, without limits. He felt that it was not society’s business to judge our personal interests and that guilt was inappropriate when applied to something like songs or musicians we love.
The pro-guilt argument was somewhat beside the competing point in that the two men seemed to agree that the guilt was appropriate for things that we feel are truly not good for us, like addictions, really unhealthy foods etc. etc.
But the anti-guilt case was made in every case where there would be no tangible, material loss. Why feel guilty about anything if no one had to surrender anything more than their beliefs about something or someone?
Our guilty pleasure are no one else’s business. And nor are theirs, our business. Everyone should feel welcome to disagree with us. They can either change their view or agree to disagree, but they have no business telling us that we should change to their views.
So it’s one thing to feel guilty for eating your brother’s dinner because you know he will actually experience hunger as a result, and the guilt is likely to motivate you to be more compassionate in the future. But guilt makes no sense if the only price is paid inside your own imagination.
Saying that a singer or a band or a song is a guilty pleasure makes no sense because we should feel no guilt about our own tastes. Just because your friends don’t like onions doesn’t mean you should feel guilty because you do. Likewise with clothes or music or movies or TV shows or anything else that’s a personal choice.
All this is what makes junior high and high school so agonizing for 95% of students; because they actually spend a lot of time thinking about what the other kids are thinking of their choices. The healthy 5%—the really cool kids—those are the ones who couldn’t care less about what the other kids opinions are.
An opinion is just a thought expressing someone’s personal preference. It has zero meaning or value outside of the head that’s thinking it. And because the cool kid doesn’t dwell on the insult or judgment in their own consciousness, it ceases to exist in their reality and they can move through life happily and with much greater ease than most people do.
Like whatever clothes you like. Like whatever food you like, whatever music, movies, singers, dancers, authors, books, TV shows, friends, cars, sex etc. etc. etc. Like whatever you like. That’s the freedom of being you.
No one makes those choices for you but yourself. And no one else’s opinion matters. The pretending-to-be-cool kids can throw all the insults out they want, but if the kid being insulted understands that those are just spoken thoughts and they have zero actual impact on anything meaningful, then they are free of any pain or suffering.
You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You can like whatever colours, fragrances, places, people and things you choose to. Those preferences are what causes you to be you.
Those define you in the outside world. So don’t make them and then second-guess them. There’s literally no point in that at all.
The opinions others have about you will say far more about them than they will about you. Try not to judge others, and if others judge you, just focus your consciousness on anything other than voluntarily replaying their hollow opinions.
There’s too much great stuff in this world for any of us to spend our time dwelling on crap like that.
Be free, be strong and keep a clear head as much as you’re able. Do that and your life will not only be good, it’ll also truly be yours.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.