As I write this, the number one most emailed article on the New York Times is a blog post by Tara Parker-Pope on the importance of self-compassion for making a change such as losing weight or quitting smoking.
Clearly the post strikes a chord among the typical self-critical, stressed out reader, but it also is followed by an avalanche of negative comments, saying things like: “Oh good grief! Americans think so highly of themselves as it is. Really there shouldn’t be more encouragement,” and “If we don’t hold ourselves to high performance standards, how can we, ethically and morally, expect others to meet those standards?” These comments reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of what self-compassion is, how it contributes to (not undermines) self-accountability, and how it differs from self-esteem.
I recently gave a 15-minute talk at the Stanford Happiness Conference about the importance of self-compassion and the research on how it helps us maintain—not abandon—our standards and succeed at our goals, as well as increase happiness and decrease depression. Watch it here: