Hello! My name is Lloyd and this is my story.
For most of my life, over half a century, I have spent my time worrying how people judge me, trying to please people, trying to avoid people, fearful for the future and embarrassed by the past.
From the outside I managed to appear laid back and confident, but it a constant struggle to do so. Sometimes I actually was chilled and confident, but mostly it was just a sham.
For years I felt physically small and I just knew that I was talentless, even though I played as a forward in rugby and managed to become a brown belt in karate. My lack of self-belief was a never-ending issue. I would never complete a worthwhile job because if I did then I would be open to criticism – not ever ‘finishing’ something meant I had the perfect excuse to hide behind. And I mustn’t forget self-worth. My lack of self-worth closely matched my lack of self-belief and fought each other to see which was better at making me feel useless.
Somehow I managed to cope and managed to convince myself that I was OK, that living this way was how it had to be. I was coping with life by being in denial. Then four things happened that showed me that I needed to change:
One – My karate grading for 9th Kyu (a second brown belt immediately before black) – I thought I was good, I knew I was good, I thought I was so good that the examiners would say “you’re so good we’re going to make you a black belt instead of a 9th Kyu”. In the grading I did a move perfectly, waited until I was sure the examiners were watching me then did something that would guarantee an instant fail – which it did! Why did I do this? Because part of me felt that my kicks weren’t powerful enough and that I wouldn’t be worthy of being a black belt – because in my mind black belts did everything perfectly – they don’t.
Two – The coast-to-coast ride over some of the mountains in England. My wife volunteered me to go with two much younger, fitter and more able riders. My lack of self-belief kick had a field day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cycle for the number of days, I knew I wasn’t strong enough or good enough, I knew I would never complete it, I knew I would crash in the mountains. I ended up having a nightmare about it closely followed by a severe pain in my knee that I knew would prevent me from doing it. As it happened the phantom pain disappeared as quickly as it came once I had started.
Three – Trading stocks and shares. I should have been excellent at this. It’s very simple – analyse patterns, create rules and then follow those rules. People even sell rules that work. It’s simple. It’s what I do at work, just follow a process. But it never worked, when I was up I got out of the trade too soon, if I was initially losing because of a dip in the share price I would panic, cut my losses and get out of the trade. Basically I never followed the rules because of my fear of losing money. I lost thousands, making the same mistake time after time.
The last was the final straw and a wake-up. The karate grading and the bike ride were physical things and I could replay the same old tried, and tired excuses, because I had always been rubbish when it came to physical stuff. The trading I knew failed because deep down part of me felt that it wasn’t a worthwhile way to earn money.
But the fourth thing was different – Somehow I managed to get quite high up in a large, world-class, multi-national company (but only as someone’s deputy as I would never take the chance of being a leader on my own and hence being open to scrutiny). I coped by adopting a laid back persona. But over a period of six months leading up to Christmas I was constantly being approached by people pleading for my help because of the person above me and what he was doing and not doing. Somehow, my defences failed and I was suffering as much as them, in fact it was worse as I seemed to be suffering all of their collective stress. I couldn’t sleep, I had severe nosebleeds, I was irritable – snapping at my family, I had headaches (does any of this sound familiar?). When the doctor took my blood pressure and entered the data on her computer she said I had a 95% chance of a major heart attack with 10 years. That Christmas break couldn’t come soon enough for me to escape and hide from it all.
My wife rightly complains that I never open up when things get difficult – it’s true. I have never been a person who likes to moan. When things get tough I withdraw into myself, ‘man up’ and face the challenge silently and determinedly. But it doesn’t work like that does it? No man is an island and while I thought I was shielding my family from my problems I wasn’t. My silences, the outbursts of anger were affecting my family. They were experiencing second hand suffering because of me and I never realised or ever told them why they were being putting through it. This had to stop – my health was being affected, my family was being affected.
The problem wasn’t physical, it had to be mental. So over time I tried and dabbled with various ‘cures’: meditation, self-help books, self-hypnosis, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Nothing worked – though to be fair I did not get professional help for any of these, I naively thought I could do it myself – after all I’m intelligent, I have a first class degree – another foolish set of assumptions. The repeating story for each was ‘see a new wonder method advertised somewhere, do some ‘research’ on the internet, dabble in it, see no results, give up, move onto the next wonder cure’.
Then it all changed. My manager, after three years of asking, forced me onto an advanced management course. During a break the trainer told a story how a NLP practitioner had cured his friend of a debilitating phobia in only a few sessions. That night I looked for a NLP practitioner. Lo and behold the next weekend a well renowned trainer in NLP was offering a free course just four miles from where I lived.
I went along and it was mind-opening. I was so excited by what I’d seen that I spent some money and signed up for a week long practitioner course.
Thirty people attended that week-long course and the mental baggage and pain some of these people were enduring made my problems pale into insignificance.
By the end of the week it was remarkable – what an investment it was. The transformation in us all was beautiful – I felt that I had been on a spiritual retreat, I was on Cloud 9 and judging by the visible changes in all the others so were they.
But hold on before you rush off to find out about NLP. While the trainer followed a structured and accredited NLP syllabus, it was the extracurricular material that made the greater and real difference. Despite being great at what he did he hadn’t been able to fix his own personal problems – a case of ‘doctor heal yourself’ perhaps.
He went to the USA for professional help where he heard about the work of a Scottish welder who had unparalleled insights into the true nature of our existence. The trainer was transformed and joined the growing number of people who are no longer at the mercy of the ‘stressful world’ they live in. Thankfully for us on the course he shared this simple learning with us.
My journey began that week. I look back with thanks at the chain of events that led me to that person at that time, because he stopped teaching the NLP courses just after the one I attended.
With several courses under the bridge, shared experiences with like-minded people, and numerous books written by some gifted, inspiring authors having been devoured things have just simply and calmly become good. ‘All boats rise with the tide’ is an expression that I never understood for months, but now I do. Just as my stress was affecting those near to me, now my new found freedom and purpose is rubbing off on people around me and it’s great to see how the ripples are spreading out: touching, changing and improving people’s lives.
My mother was a maths teacher and had that ability to teach those that others had given up on. I used to tag along on her school trips abroad, and to listen to the guys saying ‘your mum is great’ must have planted a few seeds. During my career I have often entertained the thought of becoming a teacher but the hideous amounts of paperwork now involved has been a sufficient deterrent. In place of the career move into education I have been fortunate to be able teach various technical courses along with mentoring and coaching. It’s always been a buzz when that phrase or question causes a person to become still, then you see the lights go on and you know that something special has happened.
When you’re ready let’s get together and see where the journey goes.
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Walkern, Herts, UK