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My story: discovering the secret to self-confidence

Tim Walker-Taylor

Tim Walker-Taylor

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

If someone asked me that today, my answer would probably be to have a photographic memory. Or to have better spatial ability so I didn’t get lost so easily. Or remember faces: I’m one of the few people I know who remember names but forget faces. Most embarrassing to meet someone, chat briefly, move on, and then re-introduce myself to the same person 20 minutes later. I don’t think I’d change anything about my personality because I think it’s better to make those kinds of changes gradually. But I’m pretty sure if I’d been asked that question 25 years ago, I would have said I wanted to change something about my physical appearance.

Growing pains

When I was a teenager I struggled with self-esteem issues, mainly stemming from a lack of confidence in my appearance. I was a late developer, and consequently one of the smaller ones in my year at school. Going to an all-boys school meant there was an emphasis on sports and physical ability, which meant that size was an advantage, not only for sports, but also to deter bullying. Not being physically imposing, I was at a disadvantage. When I was sixteen, I suddenly started to lose weight, dropping about a stone-and-a-half, and no one seemed to know why. I was confined to the sick bay for a week and ended up getting sent home a couple of weeks early, missing exams (so it wasn’t all bad). The doctor at home diagnosed me with an overactive thyroid gland and put me on a crash course of pills. Those pills worked like magic: the weight came back almost as quickly as I’d lost it. As luck would have it, this coincided with my growth spurt and I shot up, making up for lost time.

Bigger = better?

Things were definitely better than before, and I felt better about myself as well. I put two and two together: when I was small and weak, life wasn’t much fun. Having put on weight and grown quite tall, things were starting to look up. I decided that I would go all out to get as big as possible and see how much better about myself I could feel. I got a holiday job and with my earnings bought a set of weights and all kinds of supplements to build muscle. I lifted weights most days. I continued this obsession through the rest of school and on into university, at one point going to the gym seven days a week. Being tall and long-limbed, I found it difficult to get the shape I wanted, but I refused to give up and kept trying new approaches to achieve my goal. It felt good to have a purpose and to be working single-mindedly towards it. I also felt good about myself that I wasn’t just sitting back and hoping for things to happen, I was doing something about it.

Cosmetic confidence

I’ve spent a lot of hours in gyms over the years. I don’t regret it because it’s something I still enjoy, and something that did help me feel better about myself. It was a constructive way to channel my energy, particularly negative energy like frustration. I used to feel great after a workout thanks to the endorphins that get released during exercise. However, the good feelings only lasted a short while after the workout, so I’d need to keep repeating the process to get them again. Not only that, the gym became my comfort zone, where I would go to feel confident and continue feeling good for a hour or so afterwards. But on its own it wasn’t enough: I wanted to be able to feel good about myself on a deeper level, to build a core of confidence that I could count on to be there for me whenever and wherever I needed.

Working holiday and year abroad

Something that opened up my eyes to a whole vista of opportunities was travelling. And with it, what took my confidence and self-esteem to a new level was teaching. When I was 20 I did a working holiday in the US, working at a summer camp. I knew I needed a change of scene, so I jumped at anything that could provide one. I worked for a pittance ($55 for two weeks), got up at 6am every day to feed horses and then look after children and teach them how to ride. I didn’t even know how to ride a horse, let alone teach anyone else how to, and I got bucked off in my first week. But I stuck with it, and after 10 weeks not only could I ride a horse, but I could keep a bunch of American kids quiet long enough to show them how to do it. When I came back to England I felt like a changed man. That same year I did a year abroad in France, teaching English to secondary school students in the Parisian suburb of Creteil (described as a “hell-hole” by my university supervisor). I didn’t care – after my working holiday experience I felt ready for anything. I wasn’t even fazed on the first day when the whole school was evacuated because of a bomb threat. I didn’t have any formal training, but I could go into a classroom with 20 or so teenagers (often just a couple of years younger than me, not to mention bigger) and spend an hour playing games, listening to music, teaching them slang out of comics, etc. With this positive experience of travelling and teaching – and having studied Japanese for two years – it was almost inevitable that I would end up in Japan. I secured a job teaching English at a language school in Tokyo, and, after graduating from university in 1997, I flew halfway around the world and started a new chapter in my life.

14 years in Japan

Although nervous at first in my new surroundings, and initially a bit overwhelmed by my full-on teaching schedule, I soon got used to the routine, and once I was familiar with the materials I felt confident as a full-time teacher. Because the staff turnover rate was quite high, I would often be in a position to help train new teachers and offer advice about living in Japan. The social life was brilliant: we teachers would all go out almost every night after work and spend our hard earned yen in the local izakayas (restaurants/bars). This way of life carried on, and although I changed companies and taught at many different kinds of places, from major corporations to army barracks, I felt confident that I had the experience and I knew what I was doing. I met a lot of people along the way from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the UK, and formed some great friendships. However, there were still times when I doubted myself, when I felt the old me coming back, worrying what other people were thinking, not feeling sure about who I really was. I got myself through these times, finding comfort and solutions by writing out my feelings (something that I still do to this day).

Comfort vs confidence

I was also starting to realise that although I was confident teaching, I was getting tired of it. Something else I was aware of was that although I felt confident in the classroom or company meeting room, and had a great time socialising with my colleagues after hours, the confidence wasn’t transferable: it all depended on where I was and who I was with. In other words, I was comfortable rather than truly confident, confident in my comfort zone. When I went somewhere new and found myself around people I didn’t know, I felt I was back at square one, so I knew that I was missing something.

Searching for clues

I started searching for clues anywhere I could. I read self-help books which gave me a lot of useful ideas and motivated me to keep looking; but as much as I got out of a book, I knew that once I finished it I’d put it down and not be able to call it all to mind later. I needed something practical, a simple approach that was grounded in psychology and which I could apply to immediate effect in my life. I wanted a route to unconditional, limitless confidence. I thought there must be a special formula, and I was determined to discover it.

Hypnosis

I’d go into bookshops and scour through books and magazines, looking for useful snippets of information that I could use. I ended up with a copy of Psychology Today, and on the back pages among all the adverts I saw an ad for a free introductory hypnosis course. I researched it, looked for a catch, and, not finding one, signed up. I’d already done some reading on self-hypnosis and practiced it using CDs and MP3 with very encouraging results, but up to that point I hadn’t considered actually doing it as a career. The free course lasted a month, and I was inspired enough to commit to the nine-month advanced course. After I passed the course and received my certificate, I converted my spare room at home into an office, and started seeing clients. I loved it. Time and again I saw people who would come to me feeling stressed and anxious, and seeing them leave feeling exhilarated and relieved was wonderful. Clients came to me with phobias that limited them in so many ways, and it was immensely gratifying to see them completely cured afterwards and see how empowered that made them feel. Some had unhealthy habits like smoking and comfort eating, and it was amazing how quickly they could free themselves of the old patterns and start afresh – often in a single session.

True self-confidence

Knowing how hypnosis works, how it enables you to create pathways in your brain leading to desired behaviours and thought patterns, I can see why hypnosis has been the key to helping me accept myself and build the kind of confidence that I always wanted. I used to see confidence as a desirable personality trait that some people had and some didn’t, and I spent years trying to figure out how to get it. Now I realise that true confidence is the by-product not only of doing something that you’re good at, but of knowing what your unique combination of qualities and strengths are that make you you, and knowing how to give them full expression, without being held back by fear or self-doubt. Hypnosis has shown me how to focus on this in the most meaningful way possible and significantly increase my self-confidence. It is my passion to help people make changes in their lives that make them feel more confident and empowered too.

HMI certificate copy

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