Mind+Mood: Damaged Goods?
July 01 2010 12:00 AM ET
When the third client in a week referred to herself as 'damaged goods,' I had to ask whether this was some kind of a trend or maybe just that the summer was bringing heat, humidity -- and thoughts of love.
A client who I'll call Jenn said it best: 'I really want to meet someone and start a relationship, but I have to ask myself if being HIV-positive doesn't make me damaged goods in the eyes of the guys who might be interested in dating me.'
I won't pretend that disclosing your HIV status -- and the potential of rejection -- isn't a real issue. But if you're looking to fall in love, thinking of yourself as the last choice isn't exactly putting your best foot forward.
>Whose team are you on? Talking to yourself day in and day out about how bleak your chances are of finding the right person is self-defeating. Decide now to build yourself up, not tear yourself down.
>Trade up the little picture for a bigger one. Being HIV-positive doesn't mean you are a walking medical diagnosis. You are still a human being with a multitude of talents, interests, qualities, hopes for the future, and yes, a few interesting quirks. Look at yourself with a wide-angle lens that includes everything that you bring to a relationship.
>And while you're at it, look for a new picture frame. Is your self-talk something like, 'Sure, I could be a great partner, but''? That's like putting a masterpiece in a frame you picked up at the junkyard. Maybe it's time to do some active reframing. Kick the 'but,' so to speak, and use self-talk that goes something like, 'I have a lot to give, and I'm ready to share myself with someone who's ready to share himself with me.'
>Don't read minds without a license. Romantic chemistry is always a mystery. You are always going to find some people who are naturally attracted to you and others who aren't. When you run into somebody who isn't, don't assume you know why and then beat up on yourself. After all, you know -- when you assume something -- what it makes out of you and me. Smile and keep circulating.
>Gather your posse around you. Life isn't all about being in that one special relationship. While it's hard not to think about what you want, don't forget to appreciate what you have. Be a friend to the people you care about; be open and generous, and enjoy the love you already have in your life.
>Take your eye off the ball. Sometimes what we are looking for pops up when we finally stop looking so hard. Be yourself, enjoy your life, follow your passion. You might discover that when you're simply enjoying your life for what it is -- without the agenda of having to find that one true love -- you are so interesting and attractive that all kinds of opportunities to meet new friends and, who knows, perhaps potential love interests, will present themselves.
Get out and enjoy the world around you. Life is beautiful. And so are you!
McClain is a licensed counselor in New York City with a speciality in coping with chronic and life-threatening health conditions. His books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breaking Bad Habits and Empowering Your Life With Joy, and he is a frequent contributor to health-related publications. He is also on the board of directors of Miracle House, a nonprofit that serves patients and caregivers who are visiting New York City for HIV or cancer treatment. He welcomes e-mail.