Say Goodbye to Your Guilty Pleasure

03/20/2015 01:17 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015

The concept of the guilty pleasure has existed for ages. Ever since the beginning of time, we've been chastising each other for listening to the Backstreet Boys, binge-watching Glee, guzzling glass after glass of red wine and putting Nutella on every food group. We've done these things in solitude, and justified our heinous behavior to our friends and family all in the name of "guilty pleasures."

But why do we feel so guilty about these things? If you feel bad about doing or liking something, does that really make it more socially acceptable than it would be if you genuinely enjoyed it? Somewhere along the way, we took it upon ourselves to determine what hobbies, activities, and preferences of ours (and those of our friends) are socially acceptable and which we should keep under wraps as "guilty pleasures." Somewhere along the way, we decided this was okay.

Blame it on the liberal environment of college, or maybe just my coming of age, but I can't help but be confused by the idea of the guilty pleasure. It's not that I don't have any of my own (after all, I've been known to fib about the amount of One Direction I listen to around my musically mature peers). I realize that the forming of one's opinions and judging of others is simply human nature, and no one is above that. However, I wonder how such a concept remains prevalent today in a society that at least attempts to embrace individuality.

But maybe that's just the issue. As a nation, we spend billions of dollars a year trying to look, dress, act, and sound exactly like each other. Whether we admit it or not, nearly every one finds themselves conforming in some way at some point. And when we do make attempts to embrace individuality (e.g., being "hipster," liking unpopular or "underground" music, dressing uniquely) they turn into completely overdone, clichéd stereotypes applied to the masses.

Think about how ironic it is: We crave the idea of individuality, but the second someone steps outside of what we've decided is "socially acceptable" for them and says they like reading Fifty Shades of Grey with a bottle of wine on weekends, we make them feel guilty about it because their idea of fun doesn't match up with ours. All in all, we humans kind of suck at the whole "acceptance" thing.

While I realize world peace is a long shot, acknowledging others' guilty pleasures as genuine and valid interests -- and not something to feel embarrassed about -- may be a good starting place when it comes to improving relationships with our family and friends. After all, how can we be expected to be accepting of society if we can't even be ourselves around those we're closest to?

However, acceptance comes from within. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: you've got to love yourself before you can fully love others. That means that next time you're digging through your old Backstreet Boys CDs, binge-watching Glee, or downing Rocky Road ice cream straight out of the carton, cut yourself a break. A guilty pleasure isn't guilty until you deem it so. Maybe if you're not so hard on yourself, your friends won't be either.