Dear Charlene: “I’m Giving Up Too Much of Myself”

Every month, comic and writer Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.

Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!

I’m a writer, actor, and comedian in Los Angeles. Some of you may know me as@charstarlene on Twitter, or maybe you’ve seen some of my shorts on YouTube.

I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.

Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it.  And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.

I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at hellocharlenedeguzman@gmail.com. Your identity will remain anonymous.


Dear Charlene,

Lately I’ve been feeling crazy. Everyone thinks I’m “soooo nice” because I take care of everyone. I will drop everything I’m doing to help someone. I do everything for my friends and they all call me the “hero.” There’s so much drama in my family and I’m the one person everyone comes to. Every guy I date is shitty and I end up giving up so much of myself only to be dumped or cheated on. I know everyone loves me but I feel like I’m going to explode.

It sounds like you’ve got so much on your shoulders—so much more than any one person should ever be carrying! It makes complete sense that you’ve been feeling crazy. You’re only human, and you can only handle so much. I hear you and I promise you it doesn’t need to feel this way anymore.

It looks like you may be experiencing a lot of caretaking. In unhealthy, codependent relationships, one person will often play the role of the caretaker. You may have started playing this role in your family, and find yourself taking on this role over and over again in all of your relationships.

Take a moment to reflect on all of your relationships throughout your life. Do you think you might be a caretaker? Check in with yourself with the following questions:

– Do you often put others before yourself?

– Do people often go to you for help?

– Do you constantly ignore your own feelings and needs, and feel responsible for the feelings and needs of others?

– Do you tend to attract people who need a lot of attention? Who are needy? Who are a mess?

– Do you find yourself feeling the need to “fix” other people’s problems often? Does it feel urgent?

– Do you often believe you know what’s best for others?

– Do you worry about others often?

– Do you find it difficult to take care of yourself? Do you believe you are selfish if you take care of yourself?

– Do you find it difficult to let others take care of you? Do you tend to reject gifts or help?

If you think you might be a caretaker, you may be feeling confused, lost, overwhelmed, sad, or angry. You may even be in denial. All of these feelings are valid. Just know that with your awareness alone, if you put in the work, you no longer have to play the caretaker.

Your family is so lucky that they have someone as kind, strong, and compassionate as you to trust with their troubles. But there is an important difference between being a compassionate person, and being the dumping ground for everyone’s heavy, negative energy. You are a sensitive human being with needs of your own. You are not a trained and licensed therapist who is getting paid for their time.

It is your one responsibility, and it is only your responsibility, to take care of yourself. This applies to everyone else in your life, too: It is their responsibility to take care of themselves—no one else’s. Not even yours.

You might think it’s “selfish” for you to put yourself first before others. But if you really loved your family, friends, and romantic partners, don’t you want to present yourself as your best possible self? One who is healthy, happy, and taken care of? If you are not taken care of, if your needs haven’t been met, you are not an available person. So by ignoring your own needs, you are actually being a disservice to yourself and all these other people you’re trying to help.

And if your family, friends, and romantic partners truly loved and cared about you, all they would want for you is to be healthy, happy, and taken care of. So, taking care of yourself—your one job, your most important job—is actually what benefits you, your loved ones, and the world the most.

You simply cannot give to others what you don’t have yourself. You cannot give from your cup if your cup is empty. You have to fill your cup!

How do you fill your cup? Check out some of my tips for self-care here, or my tips on finding happiness here.

You simply cannot give to others what you don’t have yourself. You cannot give from your cup if your cup is empty. You have to fill your cup!

In regards to the guys you’ve been dating, as you keep playing the caretaker role, you will continue to attract the takers. All of our relationships are just reflections of how we think about ourselves. As you continue to increase your self-love and self-care, you will attract partners that will match this—who will respect you as much as you respect yourself. As a caretaker, there is a great need right now for respect, honor, nurturing, and attention—but it has to come from you. It must come from you first.

Part of self-love and self-care is holding strong, healthy boundaries. Where in your life are people crossing boundaries? Where do you need to set stronger boundaries? Maybe you need to set a boundary where you only take calls from people when you are truly available. Maybe you need to suggest to your family members that they hire a therapist instead of going to you. Maybe you need to see a therapist, so you can be heard! Maybe you don’t need to drop everything to help your friends anymore. Maybe you can put yourself first, no matter what.

You no longer need to earn your love. You don’t need to work for it or prove yourself. We were all born with the right to be loved. But you are the only person who can either allow yourself love or keep yourself from it.

As you let go of the people that feel heavy, and drain you, you will make space for people that feel good and fulfill you. I know it can feel scary to let go of the responsibility of taking care of everyone, but you deserve a healthy and happy life. Read my tips on letting go of people here.

By even writing to me and asking for help, you’ve already taken one big step toward happiness and healthy relationships. I know how difficult it can be to ask for help, so you can already feel proud of yourself. Keep taking care of yourself the way you’ve always needed to be taken care of. It’s time to take care of you. FL

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