your map

Your Map — Not Theirs

The Dangers of Putting Your Own View Of The World On Other People

Recently, this question has been going around:

“Why there are so many fat people in the fields of NLP and hypnosis?”

That brings up one of the more important tools from NLP–the Meta Model. More about the Meta Model in a bit. But first…

Our Realities Have Internal, Subjective Standards

People are successful or not based on their own internal views of reality. To suggest that people should be a certain weight (or any other quality) is to imply that there is an absolute standard by which others should be judged. I don’t believe there is. Thinking that there is (in my opinion) shows a quality that makes for a poor NLP trainer and a poor NLP therapist. To quote Paul Simon, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.”

NLP Is The Study Of Subjective Experience

Should all people (especially NLPers and hypnotists) have a certain percentage of body fat? Should they all make a certain amount of money? Should they all exercise regularly? Should none of them smoke? Should they all eat healthily and attend the church you think they should?

And where do you draw the line? What if you’re 2 pounds overweight? Maybe you shouldn’t be doing NLP or hypnosis. What if you exercise twice a week rather than 3 times? Are you a failure then? Should you be kicked out of the club?

Maybe there should be an oversight committee. They could prevent anyone who is overweight, smokes, drinks or kicks their dog from practicing or teaching.

Now, it may be your view of the world that no one should smoke. It’s mine. I can’t think of any reason that’s good enough to take up smoking as a regular habit. But even though that’s my belief, I don’t assume it’s true for everyone.

How, Specifically?

Now, I don’t smoke (anything). I don’t drink much either. And I weigh about 158. In my mind those are good things. In someone else’s mind, they may not be. Who’s to say my view is better? No one. I recognize that I am not the arbiter of what’s best for other people. Neither are you. Nor is any NLP trainer.

One of the tools of NLP, the Meta Model, encourages us to explore the specifics of our internal realities and gives us the tools to challenge our perceptions where they don’t serve us. So, you might ask, “How, specifically, does an NLP trainer being fat invalidate their knowledge about how to help people get and stay thin? (or any other NLP intervention)”

My answer is that it doesn’t. That trainer might be overweight because they want to be. In their model of the world, it could be a good thing. Or, they might have a challenge with themselves on that specific issue. But even that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be able to teach it to you effectively!

As for me, I’ve learned NLP from overweight people, people who smoke, people who have done serious jail-time, people who drink a lot and people who have been on trial for murder. Plus a dude with big teeth. While all-in-all, I’d like to learn from people who I perceive have their act together, I’d have missed out on everything had I only trained with people who were perfect. None of them are (including me).


Many who market NLP and hypnosis training will try to set the frame for you. I do. That’s my job–to let you know why you should train with me and grab my NLP & Hypnosis programs.

In listening to marketing messages, you might hear that a specific training and certain materials are the best because ___________ (insert whatever qualifications, experience and skills are unique to the trainer here). Maybe it’s years in the business. Maybe it’s a piece of paper they wave in front of you (That one cracks me up the most of all. “This piece of paper makes me superior!”). Maybe it’s that other trainers are overweight or have personal flaws. But here’s what I suggest (I’m only a hypnotist and these are just suggestions).

  1. Start with someone you like and whose teaching style fits you. Get the basics that way.
  2. As you expand your training, do at least one training with someone with whom you are not perfectly comfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, that may mean they have different views than you do. Those differing views could be where the biggest learning is 🙂
  3. Keep going. Learning NLP and hypnosis is a process. Like learning anything, you can always get better.


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. I did some market research on this while at a rather expensive training. The overweight women hypnotists I talked to agreed that they themselves would choose a therapist who looked like an ordinary woman who had overcome a weight problem, not someone seriously obese or who looked like a fashion model.

    I felt the same way myself. If I couldn’t make my program work for me, and I wanted to lose weight, by what rights should I be able to claim I could make it work for others?

    I did a lot of research before coming up with a solution that worked for me, and now I am no longer overweight.

  2. It’s not that everyone should be what a doctor’s profile of good weight/size is. It’s whether a change-worker gives the perspective client a good reason to choose them. If a hypnotist is not interested in presenting themselves as heading toward health (reasonable weight for instance), they are sending a non-verbal message to perspective clients. If the hypnotist is viewed as obese or naturally thin they have to overcome this perception with some sort of explanation or the client will not tend to trust them to help them achieve their goals.

    By the headline I thought your article was going to address the question, why don’t change-workers tend to change themselves first?

  3. I liked the article. I think it also applies to those of us that are starting out and if we feel confident in our skill set that others would pay for. Would those potential clients want to know my success story before they decide to be hypnotized by me?

  4. Such a well reasoned argument, Keith, but that doesn’t stop it from slipping a bit afield.

    While you’re framing this as somebody’s right to practice, which is one way to look at the matter (and you’re perfectly correct as far as it goes), what’s really at play in this kind of situation is credibility.

    If I (or any practitioner) am obese, will clients actually call on me to help them get un-obese? In practical terms, it seems that, yes, they will – and often do.

    Transferring this question to a different venue, can the preacher who commits adultery, gluttony, or any of the other deadly sins continue to command respect and stay in the pulpit once his little ‘sins’ are uncovered? Some yes; some no. Fun at the dinner table, for instance, seems to be more forgivable than fun in somebody else’s boudoir.

    Closer to home, can the healer who cannot heal himself draw a flow of clients? Again, it seems that he (she) actually can. But for me personally, I look carefully at any helping professional I’m thinking of hiring. For an accountant, body weight may be totally irrelevant. For a sports trainer or hypnotist, maybe not.

    Ultimately, I judge myself by the same measure I apply to others, refraining from offering services that I obviously can’t make work for myself. Perhaps fortunately, other practitioners aren’t so demanding of themselves.

    Ah well. It’s a funny world, anyway.

    Cheers from warm and smiling Thailand,
    Charles Burke

  5. Hi Keith, I really enjoyed your perspective and it has assisted in broadening mine. However, perhaps not enough, because I still very much doubt that I would go to any type professional if they did not “walk the talk”. Although I acknowledge that some very intelligent people are overweight or smoke and could probably teach me as well as, or maybe better than another, I would prefer to seek out someone who practices what they preach.

    Thank you for your continued sharing of knowledge. Much appreciated.

  6. While in principle I strongly agree with you that we should never hold ourselves back from moving forward because of perceived flaws in ourselves, the same cannot be said for actual, correctable conditions such as obesity.

    The real question is: do we think this hypnosis skill of ours actually works or not? If so, then why aren’t we using it on ourselves (physician heal thyself)? And if we don’t think so, then offering it to others is just simply bad faith.

    Of course, the world is filled with people who “believe” in affirmations, or prayer, or hypnosis, or other technique and who believe that “it works for everybody else, but not for me.” And if that’s why they’re still obese, then their first client really should be themselves.

    So while your logic chain was nice and clear, judging from the other comments, I don’t think all your readers are convinced yet. I’m still not.

    Instead, why not offer a series of “I finally feel like this stuff works for me too” sessions.

    Cheers from warm and smiling Thailand,
    Charles Burke

    1. Charles,
      I think there’s another point to be made.
      Saying that obesity is correctable implies that it should be.
      That is not everyone’s model of the world. If you judge a person as an ineffective trainer or therapist based on the assumption that obesity should be corrected, you may be missing out on someone who is highly skilled and has a different belief system than yours. Not in every case, of course.
      I don’t expect to convince many of my readers of this. It’s difficult to consider that someone else’s world view might work for them when it doesn’t agree with ours. Our own frames seem like reality.

  7. Nice post, Keith! And great conversation starter :)….

    When I am a ‘consumer’ – I seek out professionals who model what I want to achieve to some extent. It’s one more way of garnering my confidence in their abilities – which ultimately contributes to their success with me as a client.

    Is it “surface” or “judgmental” to do this? Yes. And it’s a viable way for me to sift through whose counsel, advice or help I would most value.

    Everyone has something to bring to the game, sure. But – when I’m being a savvyconsumer – I seek out the most value I can get.

    Do folks have to be perfect for me to learn? No. But, they do have to be as nearly perfect for me as I can get for me to spend the time, money and effort.

  8. Taking the case of a therapist who is obese (and I don’t just mean a little overweight). Either they are not able to ‘cure’ themselves, or they don’t think a cure is necessary.
    In the first of these options they either must be using a methodology that does not work or they can’t apply it to themselves.
    In the second of these options they must believe that living in a way that is unhealthy and likely to lead to an early death is just fine.
    In either case they would not be somebody that I would want to refer to for help with weight loss.
    Similarly I would not use a builder whose own house was falling down. It would mean he was either a bad builder or he did not mind the fact that his house was in bad shape. Neither of those are good signs for somebody who is going to build a house for me.
    I do actually know a really excellent hypnotherapist who is a little overweight and smokes. However he has helped hundreds of people to loose weight and to stop smoking. Therefore it can be done, but I believe that he is the exception and not the rule.
    “Physician heal thyself”

    1. Thank you for your comments, Peter. There are many more than the 2 options you list. The 2 you list are your map as the possible options.

      And of course, we choose people based on our own maps. That’s the point of this article–to suggest that’s not always the best alternative.

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