How NLP changed my life - the story of a chronic people pleaser

It has been almost three years since I stopped saying ‘yes’.

Three years since I stood still. And for the first time in almost as long as I can remember, I said no and took the first steps to shutting down my long-held belief that saying ‘yes’ and complying with everyone and everything, every day, made me a ‘good person’.

Because, 36 months ago, I wasn’t a ‘good person’ by any definition of the term.

I had become an angry, irritable and bitter person.

I dragged myself out of bed every day, frustrated at the thought of having to get through another 24 hours filled with crap I didn’t want to deal with. I snarled at people in conversation. I festered away in some vague, half-hearted existence – largely because I didn’t want to be in my own life anymore.

In saying yes to everything and everyone that I felt I had to, I ignored my own instincts and suppressed that inner voice that had been screaming NO – for months.

I was so far from the person I wanted to be, yet it was my own decisions and my own choices that had landed me exactly where I was.

I was in a relationship that I was falling further and further away from, had a job that left a lot to be desired, it had been a long rain-filled winter, I was miles from my friends and family, and from where I was standing, there was no end in sight.

I am semi-decent at acting (at least over the phone or on social media – in person I have no poker face). Had have you asked me how I was, I would have said ‘fine’, or ‘good’, ‘really well’ if it was the weekend and I had cleared some space to be alone.

But I was taking my angst and frustration out on people who didn’t deserve it. I was short and sharp. I didn’t even want to be near me. I don’t know how other people were tolerating me.

I knew all the theories, frameworks and concepts of being happy and living a content and fulling life. Gratitude, meditation, healthy eating, sleep, abundance, the Law of Attraction, the power of your five – the list was never ending. But I couldn’t kick the angst. I couldn’t own where I was and what my life was becoming.

True to the notion that when the student is ready the master will appear, I met a woman at a networking event who put me in touch with a practitioner who specialised in self-actualisation and self-development.

At the time I didn’t understand what NLP or Time Line Therapy was – or how greatly they could impact your life. Skimming through her website before my first appointment I learned that she used a combination of training in the science, physiology and the psychology of how the unconscious affects conscious thought and decision-making to give you the skills to connect with yourself and turn your life around.

Simply put – she gives you the tools to change your life.

By that point I was beyond ‘drowning’ in life. I was limp. And when I wasn’t limp, I was spinning around in circles so fast, pursuing a thousand different ideas at breakneck speed with little logic or rational thinking – looking for a quick fix that wasn’t there.

Sitting outside the practitioner’s office before my first appointment I was consumed by doubt. Did I really want to do this? Did I actually need her help? Maybe everything was really nothing – nothing that a bit more time and thought couldn’t fix.

It turns out that no amount of time and thinking will help, if you’re just going to think the same thoughts, in your own perceived rational manner, every time. How you think needs to change and you need to understand why you think the way you do.

The first session was a bumbled mix of me trying describe who I was, what I did, what brought me to her and what I was hoping to achieve – while she made notes and asked questions. She explained that she wasn’t judging my actions or making notes about the exact events I was talking about; rather she was looking at my behavioural patterns, emotions and thoughts – and identifying what had triggered them, the reactions and when/if/how often they reoccur.

While I sat there talking, my eyes wept. Not so much tears or the urge to cry outright, but a strange, uncontrollable weep – almost like a purging.

We ended the session with a meditation and breathing exercise. The line ‘stay on purpose, stay on purpose’ played through my mind in the weeks that followed that initial appointment.

After two very surreal hours of being brutally honest, to both her and myself, and admitting that ‘I don’t know’ when faced with many confronting questions and subjects that I’d always skirted around, I literally skipped out of her office – armed with a list of things to think about for homework and the greatest sense of relief.

In the three weeks leading up to our next appointment, my life unravelled a little bit further and rather than saying yes, I gave power to no, trusted myself and consciously changed three large parts of my life. I dipped between moments of empowered drive and unfaltering determination where I felt like I could take on the world (or at the very least change my life), to moments of overpowering self-doubt where I questioned if I was doing the right thing and how easy and safe it would be to go back to saying yes.

As challenging as it was to continue to give power to myself, rather than obliging everyone else, something shifted for the better.

I stopped saying yes.

A weight lifted. The niggling, nauseous flutter that stirred and tingled from my chest to my stomach disappeared. I slept better. I got out of bed and smiled. I started wanting to talk, really talk and laugh, with people again. Work improved tenfold. The days were going quickly. The prolific list-maker in me returned and the to-do lists and goals came back in to focus. I found myself wanting to read and write more – two things I’d almost stopped entirely the year earlier.

Over the three years that followed Zoi became an anchor and sessions with her gave me strength, clarity and a sense of purpose I’d previously let slip away. We’ve focused on various aspects of my life – both personal and professional – and explored many of the emotions, memories and habits that underpin my personality.

Despite the incredible impact the experience has had on my life, I’ve only recently started telling people close to me about it.

Seeing her was something I did for myself. Looking back I’m not even sure I truly knew what she did or what to expect on that very first day. But somewhere beyond anything else, there was a sense of trust and knowing it was right.

I was at one of the most confusing and lost points I’d ever personally encountered when I finally admitted that despite my best attempts, I didn’t have all the answers. I was truly stuck. I wasn’t loving my life the way I knew I could and I needed something, or someone, to help me put everything back in to perspective and find a way forward.

And it did. It gave me back the thirst and the thrill that I’d almost forgotten was the best part of life. I turned back to building my business, developing my career, planning travel, making new friends and challenging myself.

I am a better person for all that I have learnt. Good, great, amazing – all of the adjectives.

I am in a really good place and I am in that place because I make the choice to be so – on every level, every day.

Jade Martin