eat the cake

William Liao
2 min readFeb 8, 2022


When we feel good and bad about the implications of our actions, we call the act a “guilty pleasure.”

The term “guilty pleasure” implies this constant, often-exhausting state of emotional tug-of-war, where we never quite feel completely guilty because part of us enjoys what we’re doing, and we never quite feel completely joyful because part of us feels guilty.

Taking a break while lamenting about how much work you’ve yet to do can be a form of guilty pleasure.

Silencing your notifications while lamenting all the messages you may or may not be missing is a form of guilty pleasure.

Here’s a personal favorite: eating a delicious slice of cake while lamenting the negative impact it might have on your physical health can be a form of guilty pleasure.

If you’ve ever experienced these thoughts, then you’ll also probably have observed that the ambivalent nature of the experience makes it, so the break doesn’t quite feel like a break, the silenced notifications don’t quite bring you the peace you were expecting, and the joy of eating the cake is almost immediately overcome with regret afterward.

It sucks.

Here’s a thought: if the ambivalence isn’t doing you any favors, then maybe it’s worth reaffirming and doubling down on why you make the choices you do to begin with.

You take the break so you can give your body rest.

You silence your notifications so you can focus.

You eat the cake because it’s freakin’ delicious.

And that’s justification enough.

When you make a decision, make a point to embrace it unequivocally — you will be much more satisfied with your choice.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (