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50 Guilty Pleasure Examples: A List of Guilty Pleasures

Guilty pleasures are defined as things we love but feel bad about loving because they are not particularly well-regarded. These things bring us joy but might be considered low-brow, embarrassing, or even shameful. As a result, we might keep these guilty pleasures to ourselves and only enjoy them in secret. A few guilty pleasure examples include binge-watching a TV series, playing video games for hours, or having breakfast in bed.

“A guilty pleasure is something that we enjoy, but we know we’re either not supposed to like, or that liking it says something negative about us,” explains Sami Schalk, PhD, an assistant professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Why do we sometimes feel so bad about the things we enjoy the most? The answer to that question can be a bit complicated, and the exact nature of the guilty pleasure itself can sometimes play a role. Some activities are socially frowned upon. Others involve interests that have been devalued for various reasons. In other cases, social factors and marginalization can even play a role. 

Let’s take a closer look at what’s behind this tendency to guilt ourselves and others over the little things we enjoy–and what you can do to feel a little less guilty about your own guilty pleasures.

Guilty Pleasure Exampes: A List of Guilty Pleasures

A woman smiling while she enjoys one of her guilty pleasures

Not everyone feels “guilt” about the same pleasures, but there are some common examples people frequently cite as examples of life’s little joys that they might not want to admit to loving.

Some things you might find yourself feeling guilty or even embarrassed to admit to enjoying include:

  1. Watching reality television
  2. Playing video games for hours on end
  3. Going on shopping sprees
  4. Buying yourself a treat after work
  5. Reading celebrity gossip
  6. Scrolling through social media
  7. Singing in your car
  8. Checking out your ex’s social media profiles
  9. Procrastinating
  10. Eating or drinking right out of the carton
  11. Popping pimples or picking skin imperfections
  12. Having dinner delivered when you don’t feel like cooking
  13. Taking a long bath
  14. Sleeping in during the week
  15. Falling asleep in the middle of a movie
  16. Binge-watching a TV series
  17. Reading a book during the day
  18. Not working out
  19. Listing to songs or music that other people think are lame, boring, or uncool
  20. Taking selfies
  21. Wearing socks with sandals
  22. Arguing with strangers on the internet
  23. Listening to musicals or show tunes
  24. Reading erotic novels
  25. Reading or writing fanfiction
  26. Gossiping about people you know
  27. Eating at fast food restaurants
  28. Watching daytime talk shows
  29. Having an extra slice of dessert
  30. Dancing in your living room
  31. Following along with celebrity feuds and rivalry
  32. Working on your laptop while you are in bed or on the couch
  33. Hunting for your dream house on Zillow (or checking out how much the people you know paid for their house)
  34. Listening to the same song over and over again
  35. Eating breakfast in bed
  36. Singing in the shower
  37. Having a midnight snack
  38. Buying unnecessary gadgets
  39. Watching cartoons as an adult
  40. Making secret Pinterest boards for all of your guilty pleasure interests
  41. Reading your horoscope
  42. Buying lottery tickets
  43. Bringing your own snacks into the movie theater
  44. Playing RPG games
  45. Eating an entire pizza by yourself
  46. Watching and listening to ASMR or mukbang videos on YouTube
  47. Collecting action figures or other collectible items
  48. Eating your favorite comfort foods for dinner
  49. Buying more books even though you have a pile of unread books at home
  50. Doing TikTok dances

What are your guilty pleasures? To identify yours, think about the things that you truly enjoy but might not feel comfortable sharing with others. These are often the activities or pleasures you allow yourself to indulge in when you have some time to yourself.

Why We Feel Guilty About Our Guilty Pleasures

So why do we sometimes feel bad–or are made to feel that we should feel bad–about the things that we enjoy? The explanations behind why these pleasures are so often connected to feelings of guilt and shame are complex and varied. 

Social expectations often play a significant role. If social norms don’t view an activity as valuable or acceptable, we may feel bad about ourselves for enjoying it. The ideas we’ve internalized all of our lives about what society considers “good” and “bad” affect how we perceive and value what we do.

However, researchers have also found that feeling guilty about the things we enjoy can actually sometimes make them feel even more pleasurable. Essentially, feeling guilty enhances our enjoyment of the activity. 

According to Schalk, guilty pleasures are often connected with certain marginalized identities. Consider how things that are often considered things that women enjoy–think pumpkin spice lattes, makeup, and romance novels–are often dismissed as basic, trite, and unimportant.

Devaluing the things people enjoy sends a message that society also doesn’t value those who enjoy those things. 

It’s also why certain types of media–like sports–escape the guilty pleasure stigma, while other forms of entertainment–like dating shows–are labeled “trashy TV.”

The distinction between socially acceptable and stigmatized forms of entertainment, such as sports versus reality TV, highlights how societal norms influence what is considered a guilty pleasure.

Should I Feel Guilty About My Guilty Pleasures?

We all have them–but should you really feel guilty or ashamed of the things you enjoy? The answer to this question depends. In most cases, our guilty pleasures are really things we should feel bad about. As long as the activity isn’t hurting anyone, isn’t interfering with your ability to function in your daily life, and doesn’t hold you back from reaching your goals, then there probably isn’t actually any harm.

Still, you might find yourself keeping your guilty pleasures to yourself because you are afraid of what others might think. 

If your guilty pleasures are harmful, destructive, or interfere with your ability to function, then it is something you need to address. For example, if your interest or behavior makes it impossible for you to maintain relationships, attend school, or function at your job, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

How to Stop Feeling Guilty About Your Guilty Pleasures

Experts suggest that we should drop “guilty pleasures” from our vocabulary. The bottom line is that we shouldn’t feel guilt and shame about things we enjoy that aren’t harmful or disruptive. 

Enjoy Things In Moderation

Guilt can sometimes be a sign that something is out of balance. You might be feeling bad because you know you are enjoying one thing too much, while neglecting others too much. For example, you might feel bad about enjoying an extra slice of dessert because you’ve been skipping your workout and eating more fast food lately.

The key to enjoying your guilty pleasures is to do so in moderation. Have the extra slice of cake, but make sure you stick to a balanced, nutritious diet most of the time.

Worry Less About What Others Think

If your guilt stems from worrying about what others might think, examining why you feel this way is important. 

Is the activity really that shameful, or are you just unsure of how others might react? Or is your social support system failing you in some fundamental way? 

Examining why you fear other people’s reactions can give clues about what steps you should take next. It might involve sharing more and being more vulnerable and open with the people in your life. 

In other cases, it might involve seeking new friendships with more supportive and less judgmental people. You may find it helpful to seek a sense of community with other people who share the same interests.

Evaluate Your Guilt Triggers

Pay attention to the things that trigger feelings of guilt. Do you feel embarrassed or ashamed because of perceived personal shortcomings? Was there a relationship in your past that might have contributed to these feelings? Once you understand these triggers, you can start taking steps to address them.

Practice Self-Acceptance

Focus on accepting yourself, including all of your quirks and idiosyncrasies. Remember that your personal preferences are unique and that you don’t need the approval of others to enjoy them.

Key Points to Remember:

There’s usually no reason to feel guilty about your guilty pleasures–as long as these activities are harmless and don’t cause distress or disruption to yourself or others. The key is to find ways to enjoy these pleasures in healthy ways–such as treating yourself in moderation. If you are struggling with feeling judged for the things you love, try seeking a supportive community of people who share your interests, tastes, and hobbies.

Related reading:

Image of a woman watching tv and having snacks

Sources:

Goldsmith, K., Cho, E. K., & Dhar, R. (2012). When guilt begets pleasure: The positive effect of a negative emotion. Journal of Marketing Research, 49(6), 872–881. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmr.09.0421

Houben, K., Roefs, A., & Jansen, A. (2010). Guilty pleasures. Implicit preferences for high calorie food in restrained eating. Appetite, 55(1), 18–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2010.03.003