The Science of Willpower

Secrets for self-control without suffering

The Power of Self-Compassion

Self-compassion contributes to, not undermines, self-accountability.

The number one most emailed article on the New York Times, at the time I'm writing this, 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.

It is striking that the article is the most emailed -- clearly it strikes a chord among the typical self-critical, stressed out reader -- but also is followed by an avalance 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:

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For more information on self-compassion, I highly recommend the website of Dr. Kristin Neff, a professor at UT Austin who specializes in self-compassion research.



Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., is a health psychologist at Stanford University.


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