Accolades, money in the bank, status, fame, praise, and approval. They’re all false idols.
And after a while, the high of attainment always wears off and is replaced with a familiar hunger that, let’s be honest, is never truly satisfied.
I should know—I was a high-achiever for practically my entire life, blindly chasing goal after goal as I climbed the academic ladder.
When I finally came to my senses a few years ago, although I initially beat myself up about it, it didn’t take me long to realise that the reality was that it wasn’t entirely my fault.
Like all of us living in the colonial capitalist patriarchy, I’d been indoctrinated into believing that my value was dependent on my outputs—that the more I achieved, the more I accumulated, and the more I travelled up the pecking order, the more my life would matter. Or at least I hoped it would.
My come-to-Jesus moment happened after a series of arguments with my soon-to-be husband.
The underlying story of that particular saga was that he wanted me to see that I’d taken the unhealthy work habits I’d picked up as an academic and brought them into my new life as a yoga teacher and women’s coach. I was furious that he wasn’t acknowledging or praising me for how hard I was working.
It came to a head after a few difficult weeks when I suddenly realised that he was right.
I could finally feel it—that my body was tired. That my mind was weary. And that I was at risk of losing everything that truly mattered.
The “success” that I’d built wasn’t really success at all. It was a trap, carefully designed to encourage me to continue to be a willing and proud participant of capitalism.
Just like a hamster on a wheel, I was falling over myself and as a result experiencing immense pain, but somehow had been reluctant up until then to step off, take a pause, and reassess.
Now, of course, I know better because I understand now that that’s what capitalism does.
It teaches you to exploit and extract.
It teaches you to override and over-give.
It teaches you that how you feel isn’t as important as what you achieve.
These are rules of being that become so embodied it becomes difficult to un-blend the authentic you from the conditioned you.
As I went further down the rabbit hole, I realised that burnout isn’t a personal failing—it’s a systemic one. And that exploitation and extraction don’t just lead to individual breakdown—they’re also responsible for every single humanitarian and environmental crisis we’re currently experiencing in the modern world.
None of this can be ignored.
Unhooking from internalised capitalism, just like healing our biases around race and gender, is crucial if we’re here to create deep personal and collective healing.
My own journey is still unfolding, but all of this forms a central focal point in my personal explorations and the work that I now do with my clients.
I’ve had to intentionally redefine what success is for me, but it’s this brave act that has allowed me to begin to truly thrive in all areas of my life. And offer the fruits of this deep inner work out into the world, whether it’s within my intimate relationships or in my community.
The underlying philosophy that will allow us to heal is this: the measurement of success isn’t money. Or fame. Or accolades. Or climbing the ladder.
The measurement of success is well-being. For ourselves, our communities, and our planet.