Feeling bad about feeling good or, debunking the idea of guilty pleasures

By |Published On: November 21st, 2017|

A few months ago in one of the interviews I did for Mums in Heels I asked a lady about her guilty pleasures and her immediate answer was chocolate and ….jewelry. If you ask me I would have said something similar: chocolate and shoes. Another friend of mine’s guilty pleasure is shopping and …..you guessed it – chocolate. This reminds me about a story CNN did a few years back entitled We men don’t have ‘guilty’ pleasures. According to that article, for men, “obsessions are points of pride, not shame.” So I wonder what is it that makes us women feel shame over all kinds of tiny hedonistic infractions while men would guiltlessly devour mountains of pizza and beer and never think twice about it. And why is guilt and shame always revolving around food and shopping?

Well, sloth and gluttony are venial sins for a reason. In religion the true danger of gluttony is not that it will lead to flabby waistlines but that it will lead to flabby souls. In the bible physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, we are probably also unable to control other habits, such as those of the mind (lust, covetousness, anger) and unable to keep our mouths from gossip or strife. Despite that the concept is very much rooted in religion, subconsciously we do believe that eating has a lot to do with control. I doubt anyone can feel guilty over one piece of chocolate, it is more the fact that we can’t stop at that one piece.

guilty pleasures

Image courtesy to Food Coach NY, Why one bite is never enough

I believe pretty much the same is relevant to spending money and shopping. I recently read a study that eight out of ten women are overcome with guilt after a shopping spree. They feel ashamed of themselves within hours of splashing out on new clothes, shoes or accessories. So if you are someone’s husband you don’t even have to say anything when your wife enters the house with a bunch of shopping bags in hand, the guilt is already there.

guilty pleasures

Yet the question about why women experience the feelings of guilt and shame more than men remains. First I like to look at guilt as some sort of protective mechanism. Despite that guilt is a painful and toxic emotion for both body and mind, it keeps us aware of what we may be doing wrong. And here is the thing: Guilt shows up when we think we are doing something wrong, something that is not aligned with our values and beliefs. The same goes, without saying, about shame. That’s why I actually like to look closer at those situations when I experience guilt and analyze why it shows up. Let me give you an example: There are days when I come back home after a grueling day at work and as soon as I put my kids in bed I feel it’s time to reward myself. So I open a chocolate bar and pour myself a glass of red wine. On some nights I think I deserve it all, so I don’t feel guilt if I wolf down the whole bar. But there are days when I can be very cruel to myself. That happens when I am not happy with my performance or my behavior or my day overall…For me emotions like guilt and shame are always related to the core beliefs and perceptions we have of ourselves, to the way we handle self-talk, to our capacity to feel self-compassion and self-acceptance. For me owning everything you are and you do is crucial to get rid of guilt and shame. Wanting to be a certain way will always bring you a sense of failure at times, anxiety, dissatisfaction and guilt or shame. Eventually you will feel trapped in a vicious circle.

For some reason I feel that men are much more confident and tolerant of the way they are and they are not trying desperately to change themselves all the time. Of course societal pressure and norms come to mind, but men don’t have this obsessive idea about themselves, how they should appear or look. This could be why they don’t feel as much shame as us women.

So how do we get rid of guilt and shame? I think letting in such emotions to some extent in our lives could be healthy, but there is no point of allowing them to conquer and ruin our overall experiences. That’s why recognizing why we feel guilt is important, accepting and forgiving, letting go of control are only a few of the ways. You will be surprised how fast guilt will disappear from your life.

Another method and treatment for guilt, recognized by cognitive therapy is teaching people to rid themselves of their “automatic thoughts” that they’ve done something wrong. People constantly plagued by guilt are also taught to recognize their “dysfunctional attitudes” so that they recognize when they are going through such mental a process as catastrophizing (making the very worst of a bad situation) or overgeneralizing (believing that if one bad thing happened, many more must have as well).

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About the Author: Tsitaliya Mircheva

Tsitaliya is a writer and fashion journalist for more than 20 years. She founded Mums in Heels 10 years ago and keeps growing and evolving together with her community or fashionable mums and responsible consumers. Fashion and Wellness are her most favourite topics to write about.