06/20/2012 01:21 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2012

What it Means to Really Love You

Ten years ago, while I was attending a retreat in which we were delving into our negative beliefs about ourselves, a woman said, "I just realized I've been living with an emotional abuser my whole life. It's me. I'm the abuser." Her words hit home and changed the way I perceived my own negative self-talk.

How many of us routinely berate, criticize, judge or blame ourselves? It can feel perfectly normal and true because we've been operating from this place of negativity for a long time. A good question to ask yourself is: Would you be friends with someone who speaks to you in the way your negative thoughts chatter to you?

What does it mean to really LOVE you? Countless books are written about our relationships with other people: soul mates, spouses, children, friends and parents. But how much attention do you give to your primary relationship with yourself?

This is the most important relationship you will ever have. You are the one constant in your life from birth to death. If you routinely criticize or judge yourself as less than or indulge in negative self-talk that seems impossible to stop, you are not in a loving relationship with yourself. The consequences of your negative self-talk seep into your life, relationships, and the world at large. The truth is you will project your beliefs about yourself onto other people, and into the situations that arise in your life; how you feel about yourself colors your view of your world and the people in it.

Recently I taught a workshop titled "Love You -- An Inside Job" along with my friend and co-founder of Love 365, Kelly Smith, at the Center for Living Peace in Irvine, Calif. We decided to create a workshop series to explore all aspects of your relationship with yourself. We noticed, generally, people had a willingness to support and care for others but didn't extend the same kindness and consideration to themselves. Often they ended up feeling resentful, empty and overextended. Ultimately, you can't give to someone else what you deny to yourself. They compared their negative beliefs about themselves with their critical thoughts about people in their lives. Interestingly, many of their complaints about themselves were characteristics they found distasteful in others. Relationships are mirrors for us and reflect back the aspects in our own self that we need to examine. It can be uncomfortable to observe our negative thoughts about ourselves, because we believe them.

In the traditional wedding vows we promise our partner, "to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live." How many of us can say we love ourselves unconditionally, honor and respect ourselves and cherish ourselves?

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself" comes to mind. It stands to reason: If we are having difficulty loving ourselves, then how can we love our neighbor? This may well be the root of the intolerance, destruction, and fear that pervades our world.

Is there an insidious belief underlying our human conditioning that we are not worthy of love? Or have we forgotten that we are love and that everything else is a manifestation of fear?

What if we didn't believe our negative self-talk? How would our lives change?

When we love ourselves we open to the beauty life is always offering us. We live in the flow of love. And, as we change ourselves, we change the world.

The good news is that everything starts and ends with you. You have the power to change the voices in your head.

For more by Suza Scalora, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.