Dear Charlene: “Do You Think I’m Capable of Changing?”
Writer and actor Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’m a writer and actor in Los Angeles. Some of you may know me as @charstarlene on Twitter, or maybe you’ve heard about my feature film, Unlovable. (Now streaming everywhere! Check out the trailer here.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
And if you need one-on-one guidance, check out the work I do on charlenejoy.com. I would love to help!
What made you want to change? I think I need to change, people tell me I need to change, but I lack the motivation to do anything about it. Maybe I just don’t care enough. How did you motivate yourself? How did you care?
When I think about it, I actually didn’t care for the longest time, which is why I did nothing about anything—until I had to. Back then, I was never motivated, since in my mind, nothing was wrong.
The truth is, if everything seems to be working, if it’s the only way a person knows, if they are completely fine and comfortable, there really seems to be no reason to change.
A lot of us were raised to believe that the most honorable thing to do is act like nothing is wrong. Appear like things are perfect. Some of us were taught that you shouldn’t feel your feelings or express them, because that would be weak. And you shouldn’t tell anyone the truth if it causes a conflict, because that would be selfish. So we just stuff the feelings down, and down, and down. And not only does it make us resentful, it keeps us stuck. It keeps us from growing and changing and being the best we could possibly be. More importantly, it keeps us from feeling the best we could possibly feel.
In order to change, I had to really bottom out. I needed to feel worse and worse and worse about myself; I needed to repeat the same painful relationship year after year after year; I needed to avoid and escape until it became unhealthy and dangerous and life-threatening; I needed to almost kill myself. Because it would take so much for me to finally be able to admit that my way just wasn’t working anymore. I was stubborn.
We’re all different, we’re all on different paths, and we all have different needs. And we’re all exactly where we’re supposed to be. But if you have moments where you think it could be better, wonder if it could be better, hope it could be better—those are valid thoughts, and the truth is, yes, it can always be better. Our potential for healing and growth and awareness is infinite and never ends. If you want better, you can have better.
The work is hard and endless and scary and I feel resistance and fear most of the time. But what gets me to keep going are the baby steps.
And trust me, I‘m not always motivated. The work is hard and endless and scary and I feel resistance and fear most of the time. But what gets me to keep going are the baby steps.
It’s easy to want it all to be fixed right now, immediately, but the truth is, change takes time. It requires patience, trusting that it’s enough, acknowledging and appreciating the progress, staying present, and sitting in the discomfort of the unknowns.
Doesn’t sound very fun, does it? But I assure you, once you see the progress (and there will be progress as long as you keep going), you will have evidence that things look better. And then you’ll start to feel better.
Need some inspiration?
-Think about what you want. What you really, really want. All of your dreams—even the biggest, most impossible-seeming ones—all of your goals, desires, visions. Write it all down, big and small.
-Then, write about how you want to feel. This is what’s most important. Do you want to feel happy? At peace? Relaxed? Fulfilled? Abundant? Safe? Loved?
-What would your life feel like if you made the changes you want to make? What would it look like? Write about it. Read it back to yourself. Ask yourself: What baby step can I take today toward my goals? If that’s too much to think about, what baby step could you take this week? How about this month? After you’ve made that step, come up with the next step. Keep going! And remember, a few steps is still a lot more action than the zero actions you were taking before this.
-Write down ten things you like about yourself. If someone told me to do this before, I would have said “screw you, I hate myself, you stupid idiot”—so I get it’s hard. But really push through with this, or even fake it if you have to. Every time you begin to doubt yourself or give up, go look at this list. Sometimes we don’t ever change because we don’t feel like we’re worthy of it. It’s time to start building your self-value.
What would your life feel like if you made the changes you want to make? What would it look like? Write about it. Read it back to yourself.
-Dive in and research the people you admire. Love the business savvy of Rihanna? The filmmaking of Alfonso Cuarón? The activism of Malala Yousafzai? Or do you think it’s cool that your grandfather was the first person in your family to go to college? Google. Read some books. Watch some documentaries. Call your grandma and ask questions. Get yourself in that energy of people who have chosen to do the work. They all have stories. They’ve all faced challenges and failures. And they’ve all kept going.
I just want to point out that the fact that you even thought of this, then emailed me, is evidence that a need for change is bubbling up. Your curiosity alone is a step, asking for help is a step, reading this response is a step. Remember that one step leads to another step which leads to another step. And it all leads to better. Just keep trusting what’s in front of you. Sometimes once we feel ready to change, it has to look worse before it looks better. But it’s just the process. Keep trusting the process.
And be open to the idea that you may even enjoy the process. That may be the whole point of life. FL