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, while the other argued for freedom of taste and that guilt was inappropriate when applied to something like a song or a band.
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 like foods that weren’t good for you, or if you were watching TV shows when you needed to be getting work done, but the anti-guilt case was made where there would be no tangible, material loss. 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, so 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 you to spend your 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.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.