Feeling Burnout? Trace Your Steps and See Why

Written By Miracle Hawkins, Contributing Writer


As children, parental expectations play a major role in how we perform in school, on a sports team, or in a club or organization. When we grow older and begin to understand the ways of the world, we realize that our parent’s expectations were actually social expectations derived from social norms. “Social norms are the unwritten rules of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are considered acceptable in a particular social group or culture” (McLeod, 2008). 

Much research has been done on social expectations and the influence it has on our behavior and the ways we perform in our daily lives. Some of these expectations include going to college, having a job, getting married, and having children. In addition to these social expectations, we also carry multiple social roles (e.g. mother, father, student, employee, sister, friend, church member) that require us to either perform or serve. This is known as “role performance” or “social role performance.” An example of role performance is when a student is expected to come to class on time and be prepared for each lesson. Another example of role performance is when you are expected to show up to work early and meet important deadlines, while also helping your colleagues meet theirs. 

Ultimately, every one of our roles comes with certain demands that we are expected to meet day in and day out. When our demands clash, there becomes what is known as “role conflict.” An example of this is when a family obligation may hinder us from meeting a work demand or vice versa. When it becomes difficult to manage the responsibilities of all our roles, “role strain” can also occur. Role strain is when we struggle with meeting the social roles that are expected of us (CrashCourse, 2017).

Role conflict and role strain are both common experiences as so much is expected of us in today’s society. Experiencing role conflict and role strain can be difficult to cope with. When we experience either role conflict or role strain, it can sometimes cause us to disengage or feel a sense of burnout. This is especially true for those who struggle with perfectionism. “Perfectionism is a personality disposition related to individual differences in performance in sports, school, and other areas of life where performance, tests, and competition play a major role” (Stoeber, 2012). Perfectionism involves setting exceedingly high standards for performance and striving for flawlessness.

With the help of social media, “hustle culture” is being promoted more and more, and this is quite problematic. This is causing a lot of us to feel like we need to perform perfectly in everything we do. The reality is that “hustle culture” is resulting in dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and burnout in many people.

Burnout is a term that was initially investigated in human service providers who experienced chronic work stress. However, much more research has been done on how burnout can occur in more areas than just the workplace. For example, Sorkkila & Aunola (2020) conducted a study on parental burnout and the role of socially prescribed perfectionism. They found that the higher the level of socially prescribed perfectionism parents reported, the higher the level of their parental burnout. This is truly alarming as feelings of burnout can affect both our mental and physical health. Ultimately, burnout takes a toll on our ability to function and maintain a high quality of life. 

To read more on performance and perfectionism, check out the following articles:

Indirect Effects of Family Cohesion on Emerging Adult Perfectionism Through Anxious Rearing and Social Expectations 

The mediating effect of introjected motivation on the relation between perfectionism and academic burnout

5-The Superstar Paradox–How Overachievers Miss the Mark in Life and at Work (davidpublisher.org)


CrashCourse. (2017, June 26). Social interaction & performance: Crash course sociology #15 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUukBV82P9A&feature=emb_logo

McLeod, S. (2008). Social roles. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/social-roles.html 

Sorkkila, M., Aunola, K. (2020). Risk factors for parental burnout among Finnish parents: The role of socially prescribed perfectionism. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 29, 648-659.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01607-1

Stoeber, J. (2012). Perfectionism and performance. The Oxford Handbook of Sport and Performance Psychology. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=9y5pAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA294&dq=perfectionism&ots=6OnUL4ZgEL&sig=t2PRE_b9zVmzouJMJjefBqEeH3k#v=onepage&q=perfectionism&f=false

Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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