We’ve all had a guilty pleasure or two. Maybe it was a cringey TV show that we enjoyed a little bit too much, maybe a song we listened to ironically until it became a bit too unironic. Perhaps a snack so gross it wound up coming back around to be delicious, or a movie so egregious that it ended up being a fantastic watch. Though we often wonder why we enjoy these things, we should really be asking ourselves why we feel guilty for enjoying them.

With the (hopefully) obvious exception of things that are legitimately harmful to people, our harsh judgment toward ourselves and others over what we enjoy does nothing but harm our individual expression and enjoyment. Sure, your Spotify Wrapped might be significantly less aesthetic on your Instagram story if you listen to all the One Direction, Disney, and early 2000s nostalgia hits that your heart desires, but why punish yourself for an entire year just to prove that your taste is trendy? Truly, what’s the point? Who are you proving yourself to, and why do you feel the need to?

It’s natural to want to appear “cool” to other people — whatever that may mean to you. With the cultural tendency and the means to share literally anything and everything you enjoy via social media, we perfectly curate the media we consume to match some sort of imagined ideal aesthetic — a trap that’s much too easy to fall into. Think Troy Bolton in “High School Musical:” you’re perceived as one type of person, so you are embarrassed or ashamed to outwardly explore things you enjoy that don’t neatly fit into this image of yourself. Don’t fall into the trap!

The other side of this is intentionally avoiding the stereotyped interests associated with the type of person you identify as. Think “pre-teen girl who loves boy bands but refuses to give in to being a Boy-Band Girl.” Or maybe “teenage girl who would rather die than admit she likes pink.” Guys, don’t be the Not Like Other Girls girl — you deserve better than that. Wear pink until your skin is stained with it, do your makeup for three hours every morning if you enjoy it, dance your damn heart out to Big Time Rush, or BTS, or whatever makes you happy. Life is seriously too short.

My point is, the things that hold us back from openly enjoying our “guilty pleasures” often come from completely unfounded places. This is especially true for young girls — there is nearly nothing a young girl can do without being made fun of, and made to feel guilty for enjoying. If you’re not harming anyone, and you are getting happiness from something, then why bother holding yourself back from it just to preserve some kind of curated image of who you’re supposed to be?

People are complex and silly, and life is hard enough as it is. If you’ve found something that eases the stress of life even just a little bit, hold onto it for dear life. Marathon the Twilight movies. Read a super cheesy romance novel instead of War and Peace. Blast punk rock until the neighbors submit a noise complaint. Chuck that guilt right out of the window with absolutely no regrets, and do whatever the hell it is that makes you happy.

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