Nina Cooke | The Cure for Imposter Syndrome

When you’re struggling in business, whether you’re having trouble getting started or you’ve plateaued, the tendency is to blame yourself.

But that way of thinking could be the root of the problem, says business transformation expert Nina Cooke.

Until she adopted the right mindset, Nina struggled in her corporate career and as an entrepreneur – even though outwardly she had “made it.”

She reveals the switch she made that allowed her business to thrive and for her to be much happier on a personal level… and how you can take steps to experience the same transformation.

We also talk about…

  • Why everybody isn’t going to like you – and that’s okay
  • Avoiding the fake beliefs that hold you back
  • How to listen to yourself to discover what you really want
  • A simple technique for eliminating self-doubt
  • And more

Episode Timeline:

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Nina Cooke. She helps business owners whose businesses have plateaued to increase their income by changing their way of thinking.

02:02 Nina tells us her background in business and how she overcame her crippling lack of self-confidence.

09:28 Nina talks more about how a lack of confidence and intimidation to authority held her back.

12:04 Nina talks about how now her confidence means she doesn’t take it personal when people tell her “no.”

16:05 Nina explains how its your thinking that causes your fear and how you should deal with your “limiting thinking.”

20:31 Steve talks about creating great perceptions in your mind and how the world is a more friendly place than you think.

22:07 Steve underlines the importance of having a vision.

23:51 Nina uses deep thinking and her curiosity to find things in her clients way thinking which could help them.

26:51 Nina explains her specific technique in helping her clients.

30:11 Steve talks about how limited belief is widespread in business.

32:05 Nina tells us how best to get in contact with her.

Mentioned in this Episode:

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Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host Steve Gordon and today I’ve got a special treat for you. This, I think is going to be probably one of our best all time episodes, and I have the privilege of speaking today with Nina Cooke. She helps business owners and experts whose business has plateaued to increase their income by changing their thinking.

She’s worked with hundreds of stuck and frustrated clients to bring them to the point where they’ve mastered their mindset, so that doubling their business becomes really an effortless and automatic response due to their confident and courageous new thinking that they’ve developed after working with Nina. She does this by showing them how to remove their fears and self-doubt so that they can take big action to create the business income and freedom that they want. And Nina is coming to us today all the way from England near Cambridge and Nina I am excited for this. To give everybody a little bit of background, you and I met about a week ago and you took me through your process and so I can’t wait to share what I gained out of all that with everyone so welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Thank you so much Steve and it is such a pleasure to be here.

Yeah, this is going to be fun and I think this is such an important topic because at the end of the day the real limitation for all of us running businesses is between our ears. It’s our own thinking, and so I think dealing with these issues even though sometimes it’s a little bit uncomfortable, I think this is the most effective and easiest path forward, even if it is a little bit uncomfortable. So, I’m excited to dive in. Before we get into the meat of things though I would love for you to give everybody some background so we kind of know where you’re coming from and what got you to this point in your career.

Absolutely. My background, I started off working in the corporate world for Time Life Books, we had an office in Bond Street in London, and I had very big budget. I had lots of book clubs that I took care of, and then I left that to have children, I took 10 years out. Then I started my own business. I started a personal shopping business working from home, and I did all the sales and marketing, all the sales calls, I booked people in and then I had a team of personal shoppers, make-up artists and we very quickly grew and became a nationwide business. I started in London and the Southeast of England and a client phoned and said, “Do you do this in Manchester?” I thought well I don’t but I said yes and thought well I’d figure out a way. And the business was really, it was a good business, it was profitable, I was able to combine it with my family because I was at my desk you know making sure everyone was at the right place at the right time and my team were out there doing all the shopping and the make-up lessons. Even though it was a good business I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t confident in myself and I knew deep down this was having a real impact on how I could grow the business and how big it could be; and I always…

Since a child I always felt very uncomfortable with myself I never liked myself, I had very little confidence. I always hid away in the background I thought I was boring, I had nothing to say, people wouldn’t be interested in me, and I really stayed under the radar and I know this had a huge effect on my career. I missed out on promotions because I wasn’t able to show myself and show people how good I really was.

Looking Inward to Get Unstuck

It was really when I had children and I saw how I had this wonderful self-confidence, and I realized I wanted some of that for myself and I was very good at faking confidence and people would say, “oh you seem really confident.” I thought well I may seem it but I don’t feel it and there was a real disconnect within me, and I’d always been interested in self-help books and I’ve read a lot, I’ve tried certain things out you know courses online and going in person to training, but nothing had ever shifted significantly for me.

It was in 2012 that I realized I wanted to seriously invest in personal development for myself because I knew that I could change things but I didn’t know how to do it. I wanted to change how I felt about myself and I started training in NLP and hypnotherapy. I liked the results I was getting, they seemed to be … my thinking seemed to be changing I was feeling more worthy and then I came across some training just by chance, a friend sent me an e-message, “you might be interested in this it’s about limiting beliefs.” I explored this and I started having sessions and I’m not exaggerating but it changed everything for me and I was very skeptical, I had the mind frame that nothings really going to work or it’ll work temporarily, and then I’ll go back to how I was. And it was only when I started realizing that actually I feel okay about being more visible, it feels okay to put videos out there and to have a bigger presence online, and to start telling people about what I do. And I stopped worrying about what other people thought about me and whether they would reject me or criticize me or judge me. That just seemed to fall away naturally.

I catch myself with my thinking every now and then I think wow that’s different. And I didn’t have to use any willpower or determination or say any affirmations to start feeling this new confidence, and the best way for me to describe it is I felt as if I had to take a very small space in the world before and suddenly I felt more expansive as if I could move my elbows out a bit more and I could … my shoulders could be broader and I felt I’m okay I can take this space and this feels good. And I stopped hiding and I started speaking up more and it was a huge, huge change for me, not just professionally, because it’s helped my business hugely as you could imagine helped me to reach out to people to connect with people, feel an equal. Even if this is someone more successful than me, that didn’t bother me anymore.

After I did all this training I realized this is what I could do to help other business owners who felt stuck, who felt that they didn’t have enough value, who were worried about telling people about their businesses, worried about taking big action, their fears and insecurities. And I started working with business owners exclusively, with thought leaders, experts who were having a big impact by leveraging their thinking they could have a much, much bigger impact by getting out of their own way and working on their thinking.

This is what I do exclusively now and I love doing this work because for anyone to share their thinking with me is such an honor and a privilege. And I give them that safe place where they can do that and we were talking about this before weren’t we, where so many entrepreneurs, they rush by their thinking, they don’t pay attention to one of the most, probably the most important asset they have, their thinking. And they’re spending time on new strategies and building their team and processes and this stuff is so important. But if they can spend that time on those external things then what could they gain by spending time on their thinking and becoming aware of where they’re thinking small, where they’re limiting themselves and doing some work on that, so they can really start playing big within their heads, and that would translate into taking really big, bold action in the world.

You know, you said one word over and over again as you described your journey, and I want to spend a little bit of time exploring that word a little. I think it’s an important one, and the word you used was confidence. I have come to believe that, that is probably the most important word, and one of the most important assets for any human and really certainly anyone trying to build a business, is having that confidence. And of course my wife jokes all the time that I never have a confidence problem and of course inside somewhere there’s somebody saying but wait you’re not in here with me. How did you, kind of, you had a successful business, you had a successful corporate business prior to that, to get to that level you had to at least give the appearance of confidence on the outside, so that people would do business with you or bosses would promote you through the organization. How did you come to understand that, that was sort of a root problem?

How a Lack of Self-Confidence Can Impact Your Success

It was the disconnect I had inside of me. And there were times at work for example when I worked at Time Life Books, I had a very senior role and I remember there was a guy who had a similar role as me and we were both for level pegging if you like within the business we were probably earning the same sort of salary. And I remember one day he came to me and he said, “I’ve just been promoted, and I’ve got a pay raise.” And I looked at him and thought I didn’t know there was any promotion going and all that happened was that he’d been networking if you like with some of the more senior people in our office and he got this promotion. And I thought this is the difference between me and him, he had the confidence to chat people just to have a laugh with them, a joke with them, get on with them, just be himself with them. And I never had the confidence to that.

I was so intimidated by authority and by senior people in the business. And I knew that I would never be able to do something like that, I didn’t have the confidence, I was just too full of fear that they wouldn’t like me, they wouldn’t find me interesting enough, I wouldn’t be able to sell myself if you like to them and showcase what I could do, my results were brilliant but I didn’t, I wasn’t able just to talk to them, you know off the cuff if you like. And that really hampered me but not just within my business but socially as well. With very close friends and family I was okay with them, I could be myself, but I couldn’t be myself with other people, and I was so worried about how I was coming across that I couldn’t focus on the other person. I couldn’t really listen to what they were saying, I couldn’t hear them.

Now that I don’t worry about what people think about me because I know, well not everyone’s going to like me I can’t please everyone, and that’s okay. Now I can really focus on the other person without worrying about what they’re thinking about me.

So, once you identified this as something you needed to overcome how did you go about resetting and creating a situation where you felt confident? If not all the time at least most of the time.

Do you mean naturally or having to fake it?

Well, I don’t know what’s your experience now? Are you naturally confident now?

Yeah, my experience now is that I, it just feels absolutely fine for me to take up the space I’m in. And for me to reach out to people. So, for example within the business realm I reach out to people, I think I reached out to you, and I want to connect with people. I like to build relationships with people, this is sort of marketing I really love doing this plays to my strengths and now I don’t worry about getting a no.

So, you know if I had reached out to you and you said actually I don’t think it’s worth us talking. That would have been fine because I don’t take things personally anymore. And I think this is key for me, once I stopped taking things personally I was able to feel much more courageous and confident about talking to people and feeling, and now I feel like an equal with everyone. It doesn’t matter how much they’re earning. It doesn’t matter if they’re more or less successful than me, I know it’s a level playing field. We all come with the same amount of amazing stuff within us, we leave with that as well.

Some people have skill sets that other people don’t have. That’s okay because it all equals out in the end. So, my confidence comes from not taking a no personally, because I know it doesn’t mean anything about me and who I am. It just means it’s not a good fit for that person in that moment. So, sales conversations, I don’t feel fear around sales conversations, they’re just an opportunity for me to talk to someone and see if we’re a good fit to work together. Because I don’t take things personally it makes it much, much easier for me to ask and to build relationships with people and also to give back as much as I can as well.

You know, I’m hearing everything you’re describing, and I’m sitting here trying to put myself into the position of one of our listeners right now who maybe is saying, “Well that’s all well and good, but when I have sales conversations I don’t feel confident and I don’t know how to get to the other side.” So, what I’d like to do Nina is I want to take a little break right here and when we come back from the break I want to dive into how you work with people to get them to the point where they could feel confident, where they’re seeing the world a little bit differently. This is important work and I want to make sure we can give it the time it needs to be. So, we’re going to be right back with more from Nina Cooke. We’re going to dive into how you can systematically develop your confidence.

Welcome back this is Steve Gordon. We’re talking with Nina Cooke today. Nina, before we broke, I love what you shared this whole idea of the importance of confidence and how you were able to go from feeling as though you were faking confidence and now to this experience that you have of true authentic confidence. You’re confident in a lot of situations or maybe in all situations. What was that process like for you or if you don’t want to go there what was, what would the process look like for someone that you might work with, to take them through that transformation?

Looking Inside Yourself to Create Fundamental Change

The process is so simple it blew me away. The main, the big insight I had was it’s not outside stuff that’s making me feel fearful, it’s not when someone says no to me, it’s not feeling the fear of giving someone, telling someone how much I charge or putting or launching a product. None of that is causing my fear it’s all been caused by my thinking about putting my course out there, about having that sales conversation. And if it’s my thinking that’s causing my fear then I can do something about that.

I can’t change what the events are going to be in my life. I can’t change people, I can’t make them think differently, I can’t make them like me, I can’t make them by my products, but I can do something about my own thinking. So, that was the first big ah-ha moment I had. Okay, so if it’s down to me, if it’s all an inside job then I can do something about that. And it really gave me back my sense of control and power. And the main, the foundation of the work that I do, and the training that I’ve received is this, that we makeup stories about everything that’s going on in our lives, and the stories that we make up about ourselves as the result of maybe our childhood or something a teacher said to us, or a boss said, or whatever it is; the stories that we make up about ourselves we believe to be true.

So, for example, if I had a sales conversation when I worked my personal shopping business and I was at the end of the sales conversation the prospect said no they didn’t want to buy my service, I would come off the phone thinking I’m a failure, and if I launched a campaign and it didn’t work well then I was a loser and there was something wrong with me, and I was never going to make it, and I just wasn’t good enough and I was never going to be good enough and I wasn’t the sort of person who was going to earn big money. So, all of these stories kept me very, very limited and they kept me in fear and when I was in fear I wasn’t able to take big action because the consequence of that action might be that it wouldn’t work and therefore I would feel bad about myself again.

So, this work is looking at all those stories we tell ourselves which are also our limiting beliefs. Things like we say I’m not good enough, I’m never going to make it, I’m a fraud, that’s a big one with business owners; I’m not smart enough, I’m not competent, all of these limiting beliefs that we believe to be true, the process challenges each and every one of them. So, simply we’re looking for the truth and we’re getting rid of the lies and the lies are all these beliefs you have because they’re just thoughts you made up in your head, they’re not actually true about you and I know that they’re not true about you or about any of our listeners because I have eliminated a lot of my limiting beliefs, and they were never true about me. Because if they had been true I wouldn’t have been able to replace them with more positive beliefs. And I’ve done this many, many times with my clients.

Eliminating Fear Provides a Business Breakthrough

So, for example, I worked with a very successful business owner, but he was having inconsistent income, and we worked together and one of his beliefs, fake beliefs was I don’t matter. And three little words I don’t matter once he released that limiting belief the next month his income went up by, I don’t know something like 30% or so. And then every month after that his income kept going up, and he put it down to working on his limited thinking. Nothing else changed, just that one thing. It’s incredibly powerful, and this is why I said a lot of CEO’s and really successful business owners, entrepreneurs they sometimes by pass this part of their business. They don’t look at their thinking, and it’s so, so important, because once you can have unstoppable mindset then actually you can achieve whatever you want, because it becomes much easier. Once you get rid of the fear, and the insecurities then actually there’s nothing to stop you.

One of the things that we talked about on our first call last week as we were preparing for today was the idea that our perception of the world is largely a grand illusion, that we create for ourselves. We sort of create our perceptions in our minds, and the good news about that is that because you created you have the ability, the power to change it. And so many of, I think, particularly for those of us who are trying to build businesses and we have to go out and make sales, and a lot of people who are going to listen to this are in businesses where they went and got trained to be an attorney, or an accountant, or an IT professional or something like that because they really were fascinated by that work and then they came out into the world and realized, uh-oh now I’ve got to go sell this because the reality of this is that it’s a business first and if I don’t sell it I can’t do the thing that really fascinated me about this.

And so, often times they’re uncomfortable with that process, and a lot of that comes from, I think this perception that the world is a cold and dark and unfriendly place and there are an awful lot of places where you can read or hear or be told that, that’s the truth but I think that if we all sat down to really recount our experience in the world, I know for me at least personally I have a very different experience in the world, it is generally a very warm cooperative and friendly place. And so, it’s so interesting how we will attach this perception to something that is, in reality completely false. And yet, that’ll drive our behavioral drive, our fears and it’ll keep us from doing the things that we want to do.

And I love the process, you took me through your process last week, and I’ve done a lot of this kind of work before and when I, we got on the call I was really unsure about where we were going to go or what we were going to end up with, and in almost exactly an hour, I think we’ve run an hour and four minutes or something, you were able to take me to a new level of thinking, and I’m so grateful for that. And I was frankly shocked at how just the few questions that you asked as we went through that hour together really got to the heart of the matter right away, you don’t beat around the bush at all. And you’re very good at really diving in and picking out for people where their thinking really lies.

I’d love to understand a little bit about how you take, you know you took me through that process, how you, when you’re meeting with someone how do you know where to go? How do you know where to find these false perceptions that they’ve got?

That’s a really great question. I’ve never really thought about that before. I say the two things I bring to every conversation with a client, listening, deep, deep listening and curiosity. I’m always curious about why anyone thinks why think. How they created these stories? Why they believe those stories? What brought those stories into their mind in the first place? And I don’t actually do very much, I’m just a guide. The client is actually doing all the work in talking things through and this is because you gave yourself the space, you put that space in your diary that you were going to work on your thinking.

When you have that space, you knew you had that hour blocked out and you weren’t just thinking things through out loud, and I was just asking the questions, you know question here and there just to maybe go in a little bit deeper. But as you were thinking things through you were getting insights and you were linking things together and maybe picking up patterns of thinking which you hadn’t been aware of before.

That’s where this journey takes you. It takes you deeper into your thinking and then you start finding these patterns of thinking, and then once you find those patterns of thinking you can find the limiting beliefs which put those patterns in place. And then when you start taking out those limiting beliefs the patterns automatically start unraveling. When they start unraveling you think ah okay, so now I can think a new belief around that.

So, for example when I let go of a belief I’m not good enough I came up with a belief well of course I’m good enough, you know, of course I am, how can I not be? And it just became a complete truth for me, so this such a simple process and it’s really, lots of questions to really find out where the client is, what they’re thinking about, what they want. And then once we have them place we find the limited pattern of thinking, then we find the limiting beliefs, and then we eliminate the limiting beliefs and that pattern collapses.

You describe it as a simple process, it’s simple and you make it look easy, but I will tell you it wasn’t easy to go through, although took an hour, you know it really stretched my thinking on things, and I think that’s really valuable. You did it in a very focused way. I’m curious though, the skeptic in me and on behalf of our listeners is thinking, well is it really just as simple as sort of saying if I believe I’m not good enough I just let go of that and say okay now I’m good enough. How do you make these things stick? It seems just too easy to just change like that.

There is a process, it’s a technique that I learned, I trained in, and this technique I walk the client step by step through it. So, first of all we find the limiting belief they rate out of ten so we can come back and measure it at the end. I like measurements. And then I take them through a very logical series of steps to find out, what’s the earliest memory associated with this belief because we’re not born with limiting beliefs. We acquire most of our self-esteem beliefs by the time we’re around six which we’re not questioning, we’re taking on board everything the adults in our lives are saying.

How Rid Your Mind of Limiting Beliefs

So, for example say a child wants their parents to play with him or her and the parents are busy doing other things and this keeps happening so the parents don’t get around to playing with their child. Well, after a while the child will start thinking why are my parents too busy to play with me, oh it’s because I’m not important. So that limiting belief is created within the child and then the child will carry that limiting belief into that adult life and keep looking for evidence to support that belief, I’m not important because we always like to be right.

Once we’ve identified the limiting belief and the earliest event associated with that then we go to a place where can they see it in the world, and then we make sure that, if they think they can see that belief out there in the world actually it’s never been out there in the world it’s only been in their head. So, that’s a lie.

Then we talk about the feeling part of their belief. Can they feel their belief? Well, of course we can all feel our beliefs. And then it’s just a very easy logical sequence of steps for them to realize, actually this belief has never been a truth about them. And I don’t think we have time to go through the whole sequence of steps here. And by the end of the process I ask them to rate their belief again out of ten, and if it’s gone down to a two or a one or a zero then that belief is not going to bother them. If it’s gone down by a few, you know, gone down to a five or a six then we just go through a few of the steps again until it’s completely gone, and they can replace that belief with a new empowering belief. One that they completely belief to be true about them.

So, it’s getting rid of the lies and replacing the lies with the truth of who they really are, and it is, it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to release a belief which, you could have had your whole life. And it’s almost like you know, with the Wizard of OZ. Dorothy thought that the wizard was all powerful, all knowing, and then the curtain was pulled back and she saw the wizard for who he really was, just an ordinary man. Once you pull back the curtain on your limiting belief and see it for the lie that it really is you can never make it into a truth again. So, it’s a very logical way of releasing beliefs, and this is why it appeals to people who are intellectual, or people who don’t use there intellect so much. It’s just a very logical way of going through this process, and then once we’ve got rid of that limiting belief we move on to the next one, the next one, the next one.

So, any challenge, any problem that client comes with, it’s like a house just sitting on stilts each stilt is a limiting belief and once you pull out enough of those stilts then the house, the problem just collapses.

You know, I use to think that these sort of issues were really just a sign of weakness. You know, that I’m a big strong business man and I should not have these kind of challenges, and then the more I got, the further I got into running businesses and creating things, and the more I got around people who had been very, very successful who are very, very successful, I realized that this is at a fundamental level this is sort of the game. In American football, we talk about blocking and tackling as sort of the fundamental skill you’ve got to have in the game and I think in business this is one of those fundamental skills that really leads you into being able to be successful at everything else.

But I also know that a lot people resist this. Now at the same time I’ve worked with an awful lot of business owners over the last eight years, helping them with their marketing. In almost every case, in almost every case before we could get to the point where they had successful marketing we took them through sort of the counseling and therapy process. And I’ve got to tell you I’m not nearly as skilled at it as you are. And that’s how I know that this is a wide spread challenge in business because I can only think of, out of the dozens of clients that I’ve worked one on one with I can only think of one or two that, where this really wasn’t something that we had to deal with.

Often times if we want to translate this into marketing, often times the reason that you’re not marketing effectively is because there’s something in the back of your mind, there’s some part of your thinking that is keeping you from putting out the message that’s going to have the impact, because there’s risk involved in that.

So, it’s one of the reasons that I was so excited Nina, for you to come on to the Podcast, because I really think this is kind of a foundational skill. And I think it’s a skill to be able to do this, not only to work with someone like you to be able to kind of take, take someone through a process, but also to always be aware of your thinking. That, to me that’s a skill that you build up over time, and you get better at over time. And so, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. Before we wrap up would you please share with everybody where they can find out more about what you’re doing?

Of course, it’s been such a pleasure to be here with you, Steve. They can find out more about my work at and the training is how to leverage your thinking so you can smash through your income glass ceiling.

Yeah, and I highly recommend you go take a look at that. It will help you, and if you look at that and you feel like you want more one on one help definitely reach out to Nina and take advantage of the good work that she’s doing, and you’ll, that was a long URL I know we’ll have that linked up in the show notes. So, if you’re listening to this on iTunes it’ll be in the show description there, if you’re listening to this over on our website it’ll be in the links in the show notes there, so go find that. Connect with Nina. Nina thanks again for being here today, this was so much fun.

It’s been wonderful. Thank you Steve.