These are the principal reason why we burn out :

We expect too much of ourselves

Some people feel like they can and should accomplish everything they set their minds to. While lofty goals can often lead to great achievement, they also increase the risk of failure. Those who manage stress well tend to see such goals simply as theoretical ideals that define the direction of their work and not the endpoint. They usually know that their efforts will result in great improvements even if the ultimate goal is not met. They can put partial attainment into perspective and be satisfied by it. Those who tend to see goals in a more absolute fashion, the all-or-none people, are more likely to suffer burnout.

Others expect too much of us

We live in a world that is increasingly driven by measurable goals and objectives. Just as we will always seek the lowest price for a product, employers will also always try to get the most of their employees. Why would a company not plan on an increase in the expected output of their product if the previous year’s targets were met? This phenomenon, along with others such as an inability to hire adequate staffing due to financial or resource considerations, tends to add to the pressure on all employees. We may especially hope to push the less productive workers. Unfortunately, these pressures are usually felt by the productive ones who already tend to expect too much of themselves.

Our sense of what is good enough is out of whack

Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. Getting things right is important. After all, we wouldn’t want our surgeon to have a laissez-faire attitude, would we? The problem, however, is that that not all endeavours require perfection. Most situations are not life and death ones. Some people do not have the ability to recognize that there are many good ways to do things. Those who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find the single “right” way tend to burn out much more frequently than colleagues who do not get so lost in less important details.

We don’t feel like we belong

Some people have a low level of self-confidence. They have a tendency to feel stupid and inadequate in a wide variety of situations, and may have felt so for most of their lives. This impostor syndrome is quite common. Such people will often try to compensate by working extra hard. When expectations and goals are not met, they are more likely to attribute the failure to their own shortcomings rather than to systemic problems or external factors. When the expectations placed on these individuals are not realistic, they tend to feel like complete failures and quickly burn out.

We may be out of our element

Some people simply do not have the ability or the skills to accomplish their jobs. This is unlikely since most people are selected for a particular job because they were judged to possess the necessary skills. As a result, the idea of not being cut out for the job is often an irrational fear, one that is regularly seen in people who lack self-confidence. Nevertheless, it may have to be considered as a real issue for others. Those who burn out may make generalizations about their lack of skill and feel that they must succeed in their specific role in order to be worthwhile employees. They may not recognize that there may be many other roles in the company that are equally valuable and much more suited to them.

Mini-Psych School videos

Chronic or episodic depression and burnout? (2011)
Depression and burnout (2009)
Hitting bottom - Chronic or episodic depression and burnout? A 2011 lecture by Mimi Israel (in French)
Hitting bottom - Chronic or episodic depression and burnout? A 2011 lecture by Mimi Israel (in French)
How Blue Is Blue? A 2009 lecture by Camillo Zacchia on depression-Part 1
How Blue Is Blue? A 2009 lecture by Camillo Zacchia on depression-Part 1

Watch other Mini-Psych School lectures.

[Depression: types and causes] [Burn-out: causes] [Depression or burn-out ?] [Depression or burn-out: treatment and prevention] [Depression in 0 to 5-year-olds] [Depression in young people]