Medieval castles had towers, keeps, ramparts and strong inner and outer walls that took years to build.
And yet within hours they could be reduced to piles of stone and rubble.
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Through the work of underminers, those engineering destroyers of the Middle Ages who would tunnel beneath the foundations until the huge walls crumbled from within.
I have seen them at work this week. For months I have been building a castle patiently, stone by stone, strengthening my reputation and cementing my offer.
And then, just as things started to come together and things were looking good and going my way, those underminers of self-doubt quietly, surreptitiously tunnelled beneath the walls and subtly, oh so subtly, sabotaged my efforts.
And the really scary thing? These miners are mine.
They work against me not for me, it’s true, but they are in my employ and they are fed by my negative self-talk – the almost silent inner conversation that moves as smoothly as the black moonless water of the moat, and seeps into my defences.
Who are you, they say. Who do you think you are? What makes you so great? What do you know?
I try not to listen, but some part of me answers: I am nobody. I know nothing. I am getting too big for my boots.
And I miss the train. I miss an appointment. I neglect to meet up with an important person.
And then the voices really let me have it.
See! We told you that you were hopeless. What more proof do you need? Give up.
If you have gone through something like this, you are not alone. In my experience of working with people, it seems that we all try to exude confidence and a sense of inner worth.
We need our public face to be reliable, consistent and competent. But possibly we all grapple with moments when that seems nothing but a façade.
As a soloist there’s no one else to take the next watch, you are the only defender of those castle walls and you must keep brandishing your spear and be seen to be brave.
Today I lay down my arms and walk down and talk to those burrowers, those borrowers of my dignity.
I need to tell them I am worth more than they suppose, that I deserve to succeed, that I have what it takes and that I built this castle once and I can do it again.
I have a quiet authority, battle scars and a tremor in my voice. They won’t go quietly.
But eventually, I believe, they will go. And I will no longer be under siege, but the mistress of my own strong tower with flags flying.