Why can't I see my own success?

Productivity dysmorphia sits at the intersection of burnout, imposter syndrome and anxiety

A few years ago, I wrote a front-page story for the New York Times.

I spent a lot of time coming up with reasons to minimise the achievement. It was a shared byline; the story was assigned to me rather than my own idea; my contribution was minimal compared to the lead reporter’s.

This inability to see my own success has continued to follow me around my career. And lately, it’s only become worse.

When my book came out earlier this year, I didn’t want to talk about it. I was fine in the controlled environments of podcasts and panels to “market it”, but when someone in my personal life asked about it, I felt terribly awkward. People would tell me how proud I must be, to which I’d nod in agreement but inside feel deeply ashamed because I just wasn’t.

It’s really rubbish feeling rubbish, so I did what I usually do when I can’t work something out: I wrote about it.

In a piece for Refinery29, I look a closer look at the disconnect between what one actually achieves and their feelings about it. And I gave it a name: productivity dysmorphia.

I asked people if they felt the same way (spoiler alert, they do) and spoke to a bunch of brilliant experts to find out more about it. 

What I learned from speaking to them is that productivity dysmorphia sits at the intersection of burnout, imposter syndrome and anxiety. It is ambition’s alter ego: the pursuit of productivity spurs us to do more while robbing us of the ability to savour any success we might encounter along the way.

As for where I’m at with my own productivity dysmorphia now, it’s an ongoing process. But what I can say is this: I pitched, wrote and published a piece about something that’s important to me and I’m proud of that achievement. No buts.