Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsWe all face times in our personal, work or academic lives when we doubt our accomplishments or abilities and begin to fear that we may be exposed at any time as being a ‘fraud’. This common psychological pattern is called the Imposter Syndrome, and can also be known as Fraud Syndrome, the Imposter Phenomenon or Imposter Experience. The Founding Mothers who first identified the Imposter Syndrome in 1978 were psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. They considered the idea that we may believe that we have only succeeded because of luck, and not because of any talent or qualification we may have.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsIt is estimated that as many as 70% of people experience the impostor syndrome at some point in their lives, and that is regardless of whether they are executives, academics, doctors, first-time parents, or students. Is this what is stopping you from exploring your options in changing direction in life, that you would be found out as not being worthy or entitled to the chance?

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsResearchers in the field of Imposter Syndrome have found common traits in those who experience doubts in their ability or eligib ility and found that those who are perfectionists, those who feel they need to become an expert in a subject to prove that they are not a fraud, those who feel that to ask for support will show that they are a failure, and those who are juggling numerous tasks or responsibilities such as mature learners, are all likely to experience the symptoms of Imposter syndrome. Let us use a work project that you have been given by your manager at work as an example.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 secondsYou may feel anxiety or worry so you will either get straight onto it and spend lots of time and effort preparing, some might say over-preparing, or you may want to gather as much information as you can about the project before making a start on it; this is known as procrastination – sound familiar?

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 secondsRegardless of your approach to the project, you are likely to ignore any positive feedback about your efforts, which only serves to increase your anxiety and sense of failure as you work through the task, which in turn increases your sense of doubt and belief that your manager is going to take the task from you and give it to someone who can succeed, or will not ask you to work on a project again, which will limit your promotion opportunities. Still sound familiar? Most of us are familiar with these feelings.

Skip to 2 minutes and 36 secondsBut, once we understand that more than two thirds of the population are likely to feel like we feel, we can begin to consider ways to overcome the feeling that we wouldn’t belong, or fit in, or be able to be successful, as a potential barrier to returning to learning.

So, what is stopping you?

The UK government has reported that adults who are participating in funded education fell by 3.5% in the first half of the 2018/19 academic year. A more significant statistic is that those mature learners taking pre-university level courses fell by 37%. Why is that? Could Imposter Syndrome explain some of this decline?

We all face times in our personal, work or academic lives when we doubt our accomplishments or abilities and begin to fear that we may be exposed at any time as being a ‘fraud’. This common psychological pattern is called the Imposter Syndrome, as outlined in the video, and can also be known as Fraud Syndrome, the Imposter Phenomenon or Imposter Experience.

Could this be the reason for the significant decrease in adult participation in education? What other reasons could there be?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Returning to Education as a Mature Student

University of York

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: