Can we overcome negative thoughts and boost our self-confidence through language and by training our brains to think more positively? Celebrities who adopt neuro linguistic programming, and Cumbrian practitioner Laura Cadman, believe so.

FROM the outside Laura Cadman was a highly professional, capable chief executive able to lead a team and get things done for the vulnerable in society.

In reality she lived every day with a constant, churning feeling of anxiety. “It was like having a hot ball in my stomach and every interaction left me feeling insecure and picking apart my actions and words. Yet outwardly I had a very confident exterior.

“It took its toll mentally and physically. I made the choice to allow myself to be affected by everything that was going on around me.”

At that time, Laura was exactly the type of person dealing with the same kind of issues that she now sees in her clients, women with self-imposed limiting beliefs and impostor syndrome. The difference, now, is that she has the skills to help them deal with it.

News and Star: Laura CadmanLaura Cadman

“I choose differently now, and I have learned how to do that by using the tools I now share with my clients. You can choose to be different; you don’t just have to ‘be like that’. I’m really passionate about it and want to give that gift to others,” she says.

Having been born in West Sussex but brought up on a military base in Germany and subsequently moving around, Laura arrived in Carlisle 17 years ago and now considers it home for herself and her six-year-old son Charlie.

She started her career with Riverside Housing Group then moved to Eden Valley Hospice as head of facilities and support services, a job that she loved but gave up to have Charlie. She then joined Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service as CEO but a change in her personal circumstances prompted her to step away, rethink her career and, fundamentally, to reassess her life.

“I wanted to be an example to my son, showing him that it’s OK to make changes to be happy, and to try something new,” she explains. “I want him to look back and be proud of the opportunities I took and my dedication to helping other people overcome challenging times.”

Always one to accept any offer of professional development and learning throughout her career, she trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). “I’d loved how it made me think differently, challenged my behaviours and helped me understand my interactions with other people, how I triggered certain responses in people and they in me. It looked at how to use language to be the most effective person we can be and how we can learn to operate our brains properly to be in much better control of our behaviour.”

At this crossroads in her life, she decided to train as a master practitioner in NLP. The practice was founded in the 1970s in the USA by John Grinder and Richard Bandler and has been developed, added to and challenged over the years. Described as “a user manual for the brain”, its methods and models are designed to help understand communication and behaviours and elicit behavioural change.

Well-known figures who are said to draw on its principles include Oprah Winfrey and Robbie Williams. British accessories designer Anya Hindmarch MBE, a former UK trade ambassador, non-executive director of the British Fashion Council and Veuve Clicquot Woman of the Year in 2012, has, at times, been crippled by self-doubt and nerves over public speaking. She says learning NLP has been a game-changer. She recently told You magazine: “It was like a penny dropping. As an entrepreneur, I’m frightened all the time: that I’m hiring the wrong person, or that an idea won’t translate into reality. There are a thousand scary things, and you learn to live with that knot in the pit of your stomach. NLP flipped a switch.”

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With the support of her parents and sister, Laura qualified to coach NLP and set up Laura Cadman Limited. She now practices as a coach helping successful women to overcome limiting beliefs that diminish their own accomplishments, make them feel outsmarted by others, impose unrealistic goals and standards on themselves and the fear that one day they will be ‘caught out’.

“I have lived that journey and that’s why I’m so passionate about helping women build complete inner confidence. It’s about unlocking potential to be the best version of yourself you can be,” she says.

Among other coaching packages, her Ultimate Confidence Academy offers a six-month coaching programme, with a further six months ad-hoc support. “When you are talking about making genuine change it takes time. There can be blips along the way, so I am there to support people as they change their habits and afterwards as they take all their learning forward.”

She does some work with leadership teams in organisations but generally her clients are individual women who tend to fall into three categories:


 “She is often doing everything for everybody else and nothing for herself but she also wants to leave a legacy. She wants her children to be resilient and to set the right example to them, so I help her to teach how to ensure positivity and resilience to her children and herself. She might be going back to work after a break or feeling overwhelmed that she is doing everything but maybe not to her best.”

Leaders and aspiring leaders

 “These are female CEOs or women in other senior positions, possibly in their first leadership role. It may be a male-dominated workplace so this is about how they can own their space, feel comfortable in that environment and not allow themselves to be overruled or ignored.”

Start-up entrepreneurs

 “These women have typically broken away to start their own business, but it can be hard selling your own brand and there are lots of opportunities for your confidence to be knocked. I help these women get resilient and confident in their ideas and goal-setting – and keep them accountable.”

News and Star: We have to retrain our brains and we can do this through effective use of language and understanding ourselves betterWe have to retrain our brains and we can do this through effective use of language and understanding ourselves better

Clients begin with a conversation to ensure Laura and the candidate are the right fit. “Coaching isn’t for everyone, and I’m not a therapist, so it’s important to be clear about what I can help with,” she explains. Candidates are offered some free resources as a taster before moving into the programme which begins with them carrying out an audit of their current situation. It asks them to score all aspects of their life and how they live, covering everything from the way they travel, their self-care practices, home environment and how their clothes make them feel, to money, health and relationships.

It moves on to learning techniques for overcoming negativity towards their desired outcomes and ultimately achieving results. “Quite often the women I work with don’t know what the alternative is to how they are feeling, they just know that how they are feeling internally right now doesn’t feel good. Often she knows she needs to think differently but she doesn’t know how to get there and that’s where I come in.”

Candidates are encouraged to look at their lives and identify what drives negative behaviours. “Sometimes what we say to ourselves sets us on a negative cycle of beating ourselves up. In that scenario we break down to their values, what’s really important to them and we look for evidence of things that they do well,” she explains.

She says our brains are trained to filter and seek out evidence to back up our thoughts, both positive and negative. Retraining it to handle the negative better is key.

“We have to retrain our brains and we can do this through effective use of language and understanding ourselves better.

“When you begin to tell yourself positive things your brain will look for the evidence to back it up. We need to break down the negative and rebuild with new ways of doing and saying things, alongside unpacking those limiting beliefs and overcoming the barriers holding us back. There is a huge range of techniques available to do this – it’s about picking the best path for each person.”

Laura coaches online, although can now see local clients face to face. The Ultimate Confident Academy gives clients access to an online learning platform, monthly group calls, in-depth one to one calls, workbooks and video resources, support by email and WhatsApp, and a private Facebook community. Laura also provides additional one to one ‘power sessions’ throughout the course as needed for her clients.

The Academy is now available for £1,000 and provides a full 12 months of support. “It’s a true investment in being your best self and the results are incredible,” says Laura. “Some people’s patterns of negative thinking are deep seated and learned throughout their lives. Some have bigger traumas to work through and it may take them more time to revisit something before they can move on. For others, it’s a real lightbulb moment.

“It’s not about being perfect or being a robot with no emotional feeling, because we are human after all. It’s about learning to be more resilient so that when challenging times happen it affects us less and for a shorter period of time. The important thing is to achieve change that lasts.”