Clever Girls pp 215-236 | Cite as

‘Must Try Harder’: Anxiety, Self-Shaping and Structures of Feeling, Then and Now

  • Tracey LoughranEmail author


Reading my school reports, I am shocked by the differences between the mature, hard-working, responsible, clever and well-liked eleven-year-old and the sulky, silent, withdrawn twelve-year-old secondary school girl. The coded class prejudice of my teachers becomes clear. Thinking back on my history of self-harm, I wonder at the damage caused by the education that has also brought me much of what I value in my current life. Could earlier unhappy heterosexual relationships be viewed as self-harm of another kind rather than just part of growing up? I explore intersections of class, gender, psychological health and education in my life story, drawing on an ‘archive of the self’ that includes school reports and fiction. Autoethnography and memory work are used to place the self within social and political structures, including the current epidemic of self-harm among adolescent girls, with the aim of de-individualising the mental health struggles of today’s ‘clever girls’.


Memory Striving Embodiment Dissociation Self-harm 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EssexColchesterUK

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