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As per the title I am looking for a word, phrase, or expression which signifies liking something, taking pleasure, or being content with something generally considered negative.

For example, the media often demonises the long-term unemployed benefits-dependent portraying such individuals in a negative light but these people may be content with their life and do not aspire to improve their living circumstances in line with society's expectations.

Example sentence: Their __ attitude defies societal expectations.

Edit: Ideally the word/phrase/expression would try to remain judgement-free covering what is generally considered bad, but is not actually bad for you (although there could be long-term less positive effects). Using the example above the 'bad' would be considered less disposable income/opportunities in life. A colleague just suggested 'the boiling frog' apologue where you gradually become desensitised to negative expectations you no longer feel the pain.

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    To clarify: It is only considered bad, but it's not actually bad for you? Mar 3, 2023 at 13:32
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    The title screams guilty pleasure, but the example is funding you have paid into that labels you entitled. Mar 3, 2023 at 13:45
  • Correct @Heartspring although I suppose there could be long-term less positive effects. Using the example above the 'bad' would be considered less disposable income/opportunities in life. A colleague just suggested 'the boiling frog' apologue where you gradually become desensitised to negative expectations you no longer feel the pain.
    – gred44
    Mar 3, 2023 at 13:46
  • @gred44 Please edit in that last comment, since I didn't necessarily get that from your question (and some upvoted answers don't seem to fit that description, either).
    – Joachim
    Mar 6, 2023 at 14:09
  • I'm very confused what kind of word OP wants. When I read the question title I was expecting to find a search for a word to describe smokers or self-flagellists, or any of 101 other types indulging in self harm. Relaxing on a below-minimum-wage dole handed out by a beneficent state, what's bad about that? Mar 7, 2023 at 16:44

6 Answers 6

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Perhaps complacent is the word you are looking for?

A complacent person is very pleased with themselves or feels that they do not need to do anything about a situation, even though the situation may be uncertain or dangerous. [...] [disapproval]

Jobless workers dispute claim that unemployment benefits foster complacency

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A neologism that may work here is goblin mode:

Their goblin mode attitude defies societal expectations.

It was last year's Oxford Languages Word of the Year:

‘Goblin mode’ – a slang term, often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’ – is ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’

The key to this word is that it describes not just indulging in pleasures but doing so in a way that rejects conventional expectations. To someone who expects people to work, someone unapologetically not working would be pursuing a kind of goblin mode.

Many articles around the same time glossed goblin mode through the pursuit of pleasures that may set aside norms around responsible time-keeping, hygiene, or cleanliness:

It's mindlessly binge-watching television without worrying about the time. It's eating snacks in bed without a care about leftover crumbs. And it's wearing the same pair of pajamas all week while working from home. Welcome to "goblin mode." (NPR)

While it is a casual term often seen on social media, it has made its way into major news publications too, like when The Times of London published an opinion piece in which the author said too many people had embraced goblin mode "in response to a difficult year." (CBS News)

Many people adopted goblin mode, giving in to lazy behaviour, during the pandemic. (BBC News)

As seen in the last two examples, the word can be glossed as an embrace of a negative (e.g., lazy) behavior. It can also defend those relaxed norms, if an author is confessing their own goblin mode:

I might define goblin mode as “unbridled domestic liberation” or “a complete shedding of the mask of public life” or, my personal favorite, “staying home and getting weird.” Whatever you call it, I’m grateful for my newfound ability to go goblin mode. Now get out of my house so I can act unhinged. (The Atlantic)

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I think contrarian may fit in your sentence:

Disagreed with by most people, or liking to express opinions that most people disagree with:

  • Among academics in the field, she takes a contrarian view.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

In your example:

Their contrarian attitude defies societal expectations.

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What about:

Their self-inflictive/self-immolatory attitude defies social expectations.


Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines self-inflicted as:

Self-inflicted: A self-inflicted wound or injury is one that you do to yourself deliberately. eg: He is being treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The word inflictive seems to me a rarely used word, and as such self-inflictive is rarer in usage. But (hopefully) it is grammatically sound and usable.


NB: If there was a word such as inflicto-philic, or better, self-inflicto-philic, I'd have complacently handed it over to you.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 3, 2023 at 17:51
  • I think self-destructive is more common, if you want something along these lines.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 7, 2023 at 15:55
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In the particular context of such unemployed people, the word unambitious would work well. Cambridge defines it as:

An unambitious person does not have a strong wish to be successful, powerful, or rich

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  • Why? This was flagged as LQ. How can you elaborate?
    – livresque
    Mar 3, 2023 at 18:34
  • Added a bit more info and a definition
    – alphabet
    Mar 3, 2023 at 18:39
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Liking something, taking pleasure, or being content with something generally considered negative implies feeling no shame.

From Oxford Languages:

shameless - adjective (of a person or their conduct) characterized by or showing a lack of shame; barefaced or brazen. "his shameless hypocrisy"

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