#129 Beyond Limiting Beliefs Into Limitless Potential

Today's Guest: Linda Ford

Today, I interview Linda Ford, who shares her journey from a challenging childhood in Ireland, characterized by poverty and emotional turmoil, to becoming a master-certified coach. Linda’s early experiences were marked by economic hardship, lack of education, and a deep-seated sense of insecurity and self-doubt.

Her breakthrough came when she moved to America, which sparked a transformative journey towards self-confidence and understanding her true potential. Linda realized that confidence and the ability to express oneself are innate qualities, clouded by negative conditioning and false beliefs. 

Now, as a coach, Linda Ford dedicates herself to helping women overcome insecurity, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome. She combines deep spiritual insights with practical actions, guiding her clients to trust in their inherent worth and capabilities.


Linda Ford is a master-certified coach, instructor, and author. She is the co-author of Women and Confidence: The Truth About the Lies We Tell Ourselves, and the creator of her signature programs, If I’m So Smart, then Why Don’t I Feel More Confident? and The Magnetic Woman.

Linda has been personally trained by Dr. Martha Beck, New York Times best-selling author and contributor to Oprah Magazine. Linda has recently relocated from the US to Ireland where she plans on having small group retreats for women.

Watch the episode:

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Transcript of Interview

Transcript of Interview

Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast

Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing

Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com

Episode #129 Linda Ford

“Beyond Limiting Beliefs Into Limitless Potential”


(00:00) Doreen Downing: Hey, this is Dr. Doreen Downing, and I’m a host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. What I get to do today is introduce you to somebody who’s calling in from the other side of the world, Ireland. We’re going to get to hear about her backstory growing up in that country, and then her journey to become the amazing woman she is today.

Hi, this is Doreen Downing, and I’d like to introduce you to Linda Ford. 

(00:33) Linda Ford: Hi, Doreen, Dr. Doreen. How do you like to be called? 

(00:37) Doreen Downing: Oh, I love my name, Doreen. 

(00:39) Linda Ford: Yes, it’s a beautiful name.

(00:41) Doreen Downing: And then recently I—well, not so recently, about 20 years ago, I got married and I took my husband’s name, Doreen Downing.

(00:49) Linda Ford: I mean, how perfect is that. 

(00:51) Doreen Downing: Yes, and I didn’t need my father’s name anyway. We’ll get more into parents and back history but let me introduce you with the bio that you sent because that shows people what is possible. 

Linda Ford is a master certified coach, instructor, and author. She works with women who want to find freedom from insecurity, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and the fear of being seen and heard. She coaches and teaches classes on how women can express themselves, stand out, get noticed, and create a bigger life for themselves. 

Linda is the co-author of Women in Confidence: The Truth About the Lies We Tell Ourselves and the creator of her signature programs, If I’m So Smart, Then Why Don’t I Feel More Confident? 

Linda has recently relocated from the U.S. to Ireland, where she plans on having small group retreats for women. 

I have to take a big breath. This is wonderful to be able to have a conversation because I know the journey that we, as women, take from—well, sometimes dysfunctional childhoods to now being master coaches and serving others and showing them paths that we’ve walked because we know the way.

(02:24) Linda Ford: Yes. It’s interesting Doreen because I used to think that my past was unlucky. It was just something to be embarrassed and ashamed of. Of course, we can get into talking about that shift—how I’ve moved away from that, but it’s my journey, my early life. I can see so clearly now how it was just setting me up for the life I have now.

If you had told me when I was a teenager, “Oh, you’re going to go on to become a coach and you’re going to coach women on insecurity and how to feel comfortable in your own skin and express yourself.” I would have just thought, “I’m sorry. You got the wrong person here.” So, it’s one of those magical things about life, isn’t it? How it just works itself out. 

(03:18) Doreen Downing: Well, I’m so glad you started there. Usually, I dive first into childhood, but I’d like the frame that you put around our conversation. That no matter what we have encountered, suffered, struggled with along the lines of growing up, there’s always a meaning to it that I think we can make for ourselves, that is positive. I guess it’s like the whole idea about alchemy, the change process, lead into gold or something. 

(03:48) Linda Ford: Lead into gold. Yes, and not everybody achieves that either. Some of us get stuck in that in our past lives. But I’ve been fortunate that I managed to create a transformation in my life. So, would you like me to talk about that early life a little bit? 

(04:05) Doreen Downing: Absolutely. I love the way we are starting around this whole idea. Hello folks out there, it’s about transformation. This is what we’re going to be talking about today. How this young little girl who was brought first into this world and what she faced and this beautiful woman that she’s blossomed into. Let’s start with any stories about how you came into this world and into “what?” 

(04:39) Linda Ford: Yes. My early childhood—I was born into a lot of poverty: very low working class, poor parents who worked in factories all their lives. They left school when they were 12, never had any training, never had any high skill jobs. They had me and my brother when they were like—my mother was 20 when she had me and my father was 22—young, uneducated, hardworking. God love them—hard working. The house that we lived in—I remember from the ages of one until six, I was raised in a house that was just one room—the four of us. 

We shared the house with an older woman and she had the back room. Then we had a couple of bedrooms upstairs. We have no bathroom. We had just the sink in the living room, which was the sink for the kitchen as well. We shared an outhouse—the toilets—with four other families. Every Friday, we had this tin aluminum bath that would hang out on the side, the wall outside the house, and that bath would come in and we’d have our weekly baths in this tin bath. 

So, it was poor. I remember going to bed at night and my brother and I would share a room, and there was no central heating, so I could see our breath come out of us. My mother would just fill the bed with hot water bottles. I grew up but the older I got; I became very much aware that they didn’t know how to do life very well. Why would they? They were always struggling. There was always a lack of money. We were always just trying to get by. 

I grew up with this sense that there was something defective about our family. There was something like, how come my friends had a different experience with their parents and could go on vacations. We just couldn’t get it together. I grew up with a lot of shame around it. When you grow up in a family like that, you can’t help but think, “What’s wrong with us? What am I missing?” We obviously are defective in some way. That whole mindset—of course, I didn’t have that word back then—I saw everything through that filter. 

My self-esteem was low. I was very insecure. There were no discussions in our house about joy, or love, or finding, having a, creating a great life or anything. I was groomed to grow up and go into a factory or a shop or become a secretary at best. Nothing wrong with those things, but that was my destiny.

There was also a lot of emotional violence, not sexual violence, but my parents were constantly bickering and arguing. By the time I was allowed to leave, I was out of there, as quick as I could. I left home when I was 17 and went to Australia, as one does. 3000 miles away, thinking that the distance would help me in my life.

(08:08) Doreen Downing: I want to pause there, because that first scene you created for us, it was just like a movie scene, the beginning of a movie. Here we are, in this one room, and the bathtub is outside, and the warm bottles in the bed because it’s so cold and the breath coming out.

It really seemed like we’re starting a movie right now and it’s poverty. It’s pure poverty. This little girl. One thing I did pick up though, is that the mom, your mom, as I started about it as if it was a movie, your mom did do something nurturing, like those warm bottles in the bed.

(08:54) Linda Ford: Yes. My mother was very emotionally detached. She wasn’t there emotionally for me, but that’s because she was trying to hold it all together. I can see that now so clearly. My father was an emotional, big hearted parent. So, they were good people and they were doing their best, but it’s understandable how, when you are raised within a system, a class system too, as it was in England, you’re told to stay in your lane. There was no question that I would go to college, or have any of those kinds of aspirations. There was poverty and there was the class structure. 

All that stuff goes into creating you. I look back and I can see all the building blocks. It was just this perfect—who I was and how I turned out in my early twenties was a product of all of that. 

I’ll give you an example. When I first left home—first of all, I went to London and just to give you an example of how insecure I was and how my self-esteem was so low, I did not want to get a full time job like my friends were doing. I always insisted on doing temp work because back then temp work was really popular. So, I go and do temp work in offices and typing and that stuff. 

Reason I did that—I was a temp for about a year and I refused to do full time work—is because I was so embarrassed that they would find out how stupid I was or how ill-equipped I was to do, how unintelligent I was to do whatever they wanted. I wanted to have an easy out. I’d take on a job and then I knew within two weeks I’d move on to somewhere else. In some ways I look back and I see, wow, how brilliant that was. I figured that out. That’s how I would protect myself. 

(10:52) Doreen Downing: Yes, you were dodging. 

(10:54) Linda Ford: I was just surviving and I just didn’t want other people to see me, the full me, because the full me, in my opinion, wasn’t up to par. In fact, there was one job I got, Doreen, that I completely screwed up and I was so embarrassed that I just grabbed my handbag and I ran away. It’s like I ran away from school. 

(11:21) Doreen Downing: Well, because we’re talking about voice today, I mean, that’s pretty much the core—and I think what you’ve just done for us by painting the picture of your early life and the poverty that you experienced, it seems like—how does a person have a voice in a system that’s already set up and that it feels like you’re surviving? But it seems like you brought in some intuition around, Hey, this doesn’t quite feel right, that I need to get out.

(11:58) Linda Ford: The big event of my life was actually making the decision to move to America. America for me, the experience of it, held the promise of opportunity. When I came to the States, it’s like everybody seemed a lot freer from us Brits. This is a generalization, but there is some truth to it. 

And I just love the openness of America and the fact that you don’t have to be from an upper class family to go to college or to express yourself. I really noticed the difference between the class structure. The one thing I loved about America, it just offered me this psychological and physical freedom that I never experienced in the UK. 

(12:48) Doreen Downing: Oh, I can feel the sense of being drawn into and toward your destiny. 

(12:56) Linda Ford: Yes, exactly. It was just perfect. It called me. It’s funny. I always wanted to go to the States because I had aunties who were war brides and they always talked about the States. It’s not that as soon as I got there, I just found myself, found my voice. I didn’t. It took a long time, but it was the beginning of that journey for sure. America played a big role for me in that sense.

(13:20) Doreen Downing: One of the messages I hear here for our listeners is that the sense of what you’re drawn to, the trust in that, even though you don’t know where it’s leading you. There’s something about the positivity that you said, the freedom is what I felt. That is why America is the land of the free. 

(13:41) Linda Ford: Yes. It just felt, it felt right. It felt like this is the way life should be. Everybody in America was really expressive. I just thought it was wonderful. I thought, “Well, if they can do it, I can do it.”

But like I said, it didn’t happen automatically. It took me 35 years before I felt as if I was good enough to go to college in America because I ended up marrying an American and I was 35 when I first started college because I never thought I had it.

That’s the phrase I used to use all the time. Everybody has it except me. Everybody has confidence. Everybody has this intelligence and creativity, but I didn’t have it. But I eventually went to college and the irony is that I graduated with a 4.0 average in my bachelors and my masters. I did six years straight.

And even though I went on to become a teacher—I was an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston teaching writing. I’ve done international development work, very high level meetings, meeting lots of important people—and even though all of that happened to me after I graduated college there, I still had this strong imposter syndrome. It was there. It was like someone’s going to find out one day where I came from and that I don’t belong in this job.

(15:17) Doreen Downing: Well, it’s interesting that the imposter syndrome, which is at the core—some of us have that at our core just because of our first experiences coming into life—but the awareness of it and the embracing of it like you’ve done. “Yes, I understand, little imposter. How come you feel that way inside? Because look at your circumstances, but look at us now.” 

(15:48) Linda Ford: Yes, exactly. Those insecurities and imposter syndrome—I can still feel a little nervous when I speak, when I do public speaking or come on a podcast like this, but it doesn’t have anything. It wasn’t like what it was before. My whole relationship with it has changed. It’s always going to be there I think. But it’s just not a contender. It doesn’t have the charge—that’s the word—that it used to have. It could knock me off completely, where I go into hiding. But now it’s just—I understand what it is.

The big thing is that we hear a lot of people who want to overcome their insecurity and who want to find their voice. There’s a lot of self-help books out there that have great advice. As you can see, I’ve got lots of books behind me. I’ve got tons of books in this room, Doreen, and I’ve read so much and I was able to gather some really good coping and managing skills for the issues that were coming up with for me, but I reached a point—and I think it was about 10 years ago—where I realized that as much as those books helped me and the tools and the tactics and the strategies, I was finding that it wasn’t going deep enough. It was all cognitive-based. It got me along for sure, but I could sense that there was something deeper that I wasn’t understanding about where this was coming from. I don’t know if you want to ask me some questions about that or—

(17:34) Doreen Downing: Well, my dear, you’re at the threshold and I certainly can relate, given I had my PhD in Psychology and still was hiding and had done Toastmasters and all the other training to get over my fear of speaking.

But deep inside there remained a part of me—my most powerful, precious part—was still hiding and I had to go even deeper. So, what do you mean by going even deeper? 

(18:05) Linda Ford: Well, ultimately—I’ll give you the cliff notes right up front—it was a spiritual solution. It was understanding, coming to an understanding of who I am, who I really am, who we are, we human beings that—here I am in this earth suit. I’ve got this body, this physical body, and I’ve got this amazing mind. But I had this understanding, I came across this understanding where I’ve really got it that I am—this is what I call my small self. Then I realized that there’s a big self. There’s another self that has nothing to do with all that conditioning, all that early upbringing. That’s just something that I went through. 

There’s an incident that happened to me, a coaching session actually with Dr. Martha Beck. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her. She’s quite well known, actually. She writes for Oprah’s magazine. I’m one of her master coaches. 

What happened was we were sitting, I was doing my master coach training, and we were all sitting in a row. There’s about 15 of us in training. You know how when you sit in the circle, she was having us all make a comment about a case study that we were diving into. I just froze and I knew that my turn was coming up and I just, I just went blank. I lost all my focus and I thought I’m going to really embarrass myself here. I started sweating and I was feeling panicked and I thought I’ve just got to come clean. I can’t pretend I know what I’m talking about.

My turn came and I just confessed. I said, “Martha, I’ve lost my focus. I don’t know what to say. Everybody’s said some good stuff, but I don’t know what to say.” She could see I was upset. She said to me—it’s the most brilliant question—she said, “Linda, how old are you right now?”

I knew as soon as she asked the question. I knew I was a six year old little girl sitting in the back of the classroom because I didn’t know how to do an arithmetic exercise and all the other kids were playing and I was sent to the back of the room and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. So, what I did is I got up, I asked to go to the toilets and when I was there, I got my hat and coat and I ran home—ran away from school. 

(20:37) Doreen Downing: There you go again. That pattern of just running away, getting out of there.

(20:42) Linda Ford: Yes, get me out of here. I was so humiliated and ashamed of it. What they did the next morning is they made me come back—the head teacher—and I had to stand in front of the classroom and apologize. That moment was a defining moment for me as a child, that we have these defining moments that tell us who we are. 

All my life, Doreen, I have always felt, even today when I take a class or some program, I’m always nervous that I’m not as good as other people, that I can’t keep up with them. I could see that pattern coming through, and it’s just there. It’s in your DNA. But the minute I connected that moment to my coaching session with Martha, I just broke down in tears. I could just say, “Oh yes, I’m that little six-year-old girl.” I’ve been carrying that message. I’ve been carrying it with me my whole friggin life, and I saw it. I just saw it so clearly. 

That woke me up. That was like an awakening in a sense of how that was just something that happened to me as a kid. There was nothing. I just had a teacher who was hopeless, who didn’t have any sensitivity, and it was nothing on me. How many of us—the people listening to this now, we’ve all had those experiences. We’ve all had something where we’ve made it mean something negative about ourselves.

(22:14) Doreen Downing: I have so many stories about that. I’m glad you connected to being an adult and being all of a sudden in a state of being that was, well, we call it regression, regressed back to an earlier moment in your life where you’re stuck there. But the breakthrough of finally exposing it in a safe way is partly what the healing is about. You mentioned spiritual. Can you just say a little bit more about that? 

(22:47) Linda Ford: Yes. It’s the reason why I don’t do a lot of cognitive work with my clients. I don’t do a lot of going back. Yes, we can find the story that led to our thinking. That’s good. I do that. I’d make those connections, but what I used to do was that I would do a lot of work on helping clients find more uplifting thoughts, change their thinking. I don’t do any of that now. My approach is, you don’t have to change your thinking, but you have to understand what thinking is.

It’s a really important distinction. It’s like, if you understand what it is—it’s like when I was that little six year old girl—I just had some self-conscious thinking. That’s all it was and I spent my whole life ruminating on it. But when you can see it for what it is, you don’t really have to do anything with it. You just notice that it’s the thought that’s having an impact, but the thought doesn’t have to have that impact when you understand what it is. Does that make sense? 

(23:56) Doreen Downing: Absolutely. What I’m thinking about also because of the spiritual as you referred to, our sense of self is not those thoughts. Our sense of ourself is a state of being that is—least in the way that I describe it—is purely positive and is open. I don’t want to put too many characteristics on it, but how would you describe this state of being where more truth is of who you are? 

(24:30) Linda Ford: Yes. Well, the other thing that I really saw was that the confidence that I was longing for my whole life and the ability to express myself, that confidence and creativity and all that stuff, I always used to think that it was just something that some people have and some don’t and they have it and I don’t. 

I’ve come to see that the bigger part of us, the spiritual side of us, all that stuff is innate. It’s already there and it doesn’t have to be—you don’t have to do all this stuff to bring it in, it needs to be uncovered and the thing that’s covering it up is the belief in those stories, the one that I carried with me for so many years. 

So, in a sense, we have these layers and it’s all innocent. It’s just the way life happened. Someone said something to us when we were young or our parents mistreated us or a friend abused us. We built this armor around ourselves to protect ourselves, and then we started to believe what other people told us who we were.

These are just layers and layers of thought, and those thoughts become belief systems where we think we are a certain way, but I always like to give the example of Michelangelo, where he is trying to carve the stone and he always maintained that—I’ll get this wrong, but the basic gist of it is that the essence of what he wanted to carve was already there and he just had to chip away the layers to reveal the beautiful statue.

(26:22) Doreen Downing: He saw the angel in the marble. 

(26:25) Linda Ford: The angel in the marble. Exactly. That’s what I came to see is that I’ve had it all along. I had one conversation with a coach where I was complaining about why is it that I just feel so burdened by this insecurity and self-doubt. I just feel like why haven’t I got it? And he turned to me and he said, “But Linda, you’ve always had it. You’ve always had it, but it’s just been covered over. You forgot who you really were, that big version of ourselves. 

I heard that on a very deep level when he said that. You’ve always had it. You’ve never not had it. But it’s just your life circumstances that got it covered over so you could protect yourself. So, I love hearing that, because when I heard it, I just felt that it was the truth. It just rang true. You know how sometimes when people say something to you, you think, “Oh, that feels so true.” That’s the feeling I had. 

(27:29) Doreen Downing: That was the same experience I had in one of those early classes in overcoming my fear of speaking. I had a teacher who said that story, and that’s what stuck with me too, is that all my PhD, all my professional, all my business, all my expertise, everything was wrapped around this essence of me that was too afraid to come out. 

Well, we’re getting close to the end, so I want to make sure that if there’s something you want to say about your process or what you offer. How do you help people tap into that deeper nature? How do people find you?

(28:09) Linda Ford: Yes. So, when I heard that you’ve always had it, did I wake up the next day and feel confident? No. I’ve had years of conditioning, of habits, habitual ways of thinking about myself. You don’t just wake up. Some people do, like Eckhart Tolle or Byron Katie. They’re the fortunate ones. But for most of us, we still have this conditioning. After hearing that, I just decided that If that is true, then I’m going to live my life and be in life as if it is true. I’ve got to trust that it’s there. 

It took some courage because when you’re not used to putting yourself out there and speaking up—it’s scary, but the alternative, I thought, well, what’s the alternative? To just be quiet, to just sit back and watch everybody else do what I want to do? And I wasn’t prepared to do that. So, it was the combination of understanding who I really am, really understanding that, and taking action in little increments. It’s just a beautiful combination because if you’re just sitting back thinking about, “Oh, I have everything I need, or I’m naturally confident,” and you don’t do anything with it, it doesn’t, it just becomes like an intellectual exercise.

It’s like all the theory, but no practice. I found that just over the years, blending those two together, living as if I had everything and I had to trust that and just taking the risk, disrupting myself, I had to disrupt myself gently, I felt like all of that stuff has just been falling away over the years, over the last 10 years for me.

I met an old girlfriend I hadn’t seen in 20 years, just a few weeks ago. She came to visit me in Ireland, and she just stood back, and she said, “You are so different.” That was lovely confirmation, and I am. I can see it. I feel it viscerally how I’m different because I don’t care as much about what people think about me. I mean, I do, of course, it’s normal, but I really don’t and I’ve learned to trust who I am. 

So, I would just say to your listeners, just try that experiment. Test it out because no matter how insecure you feel right now, I can bet you that if you look back on your life, you can identify moments and they could be just moments when you were confident. You did shine. You did express yourself and then you fall back into your old habit again. 

The question I’d like to leave with your listeners is how do you explain that? How come you were confident for those moments? Was it just a fluke? Where the stars just aligned? Did you get out of bed on the right side that day? Really get curious about that because that’s evidence. That you have it. That’s the evidence right there. Don’t write it off like I used to. 

(31:32) Doreen Downing: Well, take it from somebody who knows. For those who are only listening, you’re missing a beautiful, radiant woman here who is just so full of belief and joy about what’s possible for us. Thank you for being a model for that, Linda. How do people find you? 

(31:51) Linda Ford: Well, thank you for that, Doreen. I appreciate that. That was lovely. You can go to my website, lindafordcoaching.com. There’s a free guide on the home page. You’ll see it once you’re there. I would love you to read it and get back to me and start a conversation, because that’s how we evolve, that’s how we bring about these changes in our life—by sharing, being vulnerable, and starting a conversation. Express yourself. 

(32:26) Doreen Downing: Right, and the expression is always more powerful if you have a listener, like Linda and like myself who can hold everything that you say and believe in the truth of who you really are. Thank you, Linda. 

(32:44) Linda Ford: Thank you, Doreen. Thank you for all you do in this world. You have a beautiful body of work.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.