Being damaged means that something’s value or usefulness has been reduced. And that’s… kind of heavy.
But then I think about the “reduced 50 percent off” damaged goods shelf at the supermarket, filled with its dented cans of chicken soup, taped-shut boxes of cereal, and separated cans of soda. I have no shame in admitting that I search through those piles of smashed groceries looking for items my family can use.
When a product is only damaged a little bit, the insides are usually fine, and that’s what’s important: the content. It’s just the outer cover that’s a bit scratched up.
So, “damaged” doesn’t bother me; it reassures me that there’s value left over even after there’s been some kind of trauma. I focus on the good left, not the damage itself.
Of course, when we talk about people, most often the damage is not as easy to spot as a mashed container of potato flakes. Here are some signs that should alert you that you might be living your life from a “damaged” frame of mind. (You’ll notice that these signs tend to build off of each other and intensify.)
Here are 10 tiny signs you’re a little bit damaged:
1. You have low self-confidence
You certainly don’t like to be in the spotlight because you don’t want anyone to notice your faults. But because of this, you miss out on a lot of fun… like Karaoke!
2. You avoid social situations where you might need to interact with others
You are never quite sure of yourself when it comes to communicating with others, so you avoid parties, work gatherings, and even family reunions. Something just doesn’t feel right when you need to mingle and make small talk, so you choose to sit most events out.
3. You don’t trust others easily
Trust oftentimes must be built over time, but you have noticed that even when you’ve known someone for years, you still have a sense of fear and mistrust of sharing with them.
4. You don’t have many friends
Since friendships are built on communication and trust, the chances are you don’t have many besties. You are always finding excuses for why you can’t go out, and you’ve noticed that lately, the invitations have been dwindling.
5. You don’t fully appreciate all your great attributes
While most people have no trouble pointing out their best personality features and what makes them great, you instead tend to focus on all your negative qualities. When someone offers you a compliment, you’re quick to shoo it away.
6. You accept less than the best from yourself and others
You do a mediocre job at work and don’t expect praise for what you do. And not surprisingly, your acceptance of how things are just seems to bring more of the same. The same old, same old.
7. You’re so frightened of failure that you don’t usually take even calculated risks
Life is dangerous, and if you step out and try something new, you might completely fall on your face. You’ve learned to not even push yourself or try anything new because it’s safer just to stay right where you are.
8. You live your life in a state of stress and unknowingly create a chain of self-sabotage
Your stomach is constantly aching and you don’t sleep well. You don’t know why the whole world is against you, but you can prove that everything always goes wrong for you.
9. You often cycle through negative thoughts in your head
Now, even your thoughts seem to be conspiring against you. You hear yourself berating yourself, pointing out all your flaws and damage until you lose touch with a joyful state of inner harmony.
10. You’re not living your life to its fullest
Boom. This is as bad as it gets. You’re living a too-small life and not embracing or allowing the energetic flow of life to move through you. You have fully accepted that you are damaged in a way that can never be fixed or accepted.
…Until one day you do. For whatever reason, something shakes you out of being stuck in this notion of being defective and unlovable. You fully accept that you are damaged in your way, just like most people are. It’s what you decide to do with it that matters.
Remind yourself that you are the last judge and jury for yourself, and you determine what your value is.
I keep in mind that even the worst damage, even though it may not be able to be fixed perfectly back into what it was before, can still be crafted and molded back into a new shape, a new container, maybe something larger.
You can open up that crushed cereal box and put it in a Tupperware; you don’t have to accept your damage is permanent. You can hammer out dents, tape over rips, and iron out most wrinkles.
Of course, healing takes time. Start reversing all those signs of damage by picking one you suffer from and then fight it with all you’ve got. Commit to work on that one item: push yourself, get out there, make friends, take risks, trust…
Start living your life fully — damaged self and all.
Sheila Hageman is a writer who has appeared on The Today Show, ABC News, NBC News, and programs with Bill Cunningham and Anderson Cooper. Her writing has been featured on Salon, Mamalode, Mom Babble, and The Huffington Post.