Are you nice to yourself? It’s a loaded question: Sure, research has shown that thinking kind thoughts about yourself has psychological and physical benefits, but acting out of kindness can be pretty subjective. After all, declaring how much you love yourself and actually putting self-love into practice are very different scenarios. So how can you tell if you’re genuinely treating yourself with kindness?
Take this quick test from Kristin Neff, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of self-compassion and associate professor in human development at the University of Texas at Austin. As she shares on the mindbodygreen podcast, one question can assess your affinity for self-love.
A quick test for self-compassion.
Allow Neff to explain: “A very simple way is just to ask yourself the question, ‘How do I treat my good friends?'”
Let’s say a friend confides in you about how they’re struggling or feeling bad about themselves. How do you respond? Do you brush off their concerns or treat them with compassion? For the sake of this self-compassion test, let’s imagine you talk to them how you talk to yourself whenever you’re personally struggling: Would that person still be your friend after hearing what you have to say?
It may sound obvious, but if that person would feel hurt by your words (or decides to abandon your friendship altogether), chances are you aren’t too kind to yourself. It’s a common scenario: According to Neff, most of us are way more compassionate with others than we are with ourselves. That’s why you may easily give a loved one grace when they make a mistake or fail—and you may be hard on yourself for following a similar pattern.
“For some people, it’s really eye-opening to see, ‘Wow, [if] I say to my friend what I say to myself, I don’t think they would be my friend anymore,'” she says. For some, that quick test can help them take a step back and realize that words do matter—even the ones in your head, directed toward yourself.
Treating yourself with kindness has some significant benefits for both mental and physical well-being. But the first step toward self-compassion is becoming self-aware—before you can treat yourself with kindness, it’s important to realize when, exactly, you’re hard on yourself. Only then can you effectively course-correct.