#19 Don’t blow your own trumpet

Emma was born in the early 1970’s to Trevor & Sheila, who owned a hardware store in northern England. It was a busy, noisy home living in the flat above the shop. The youngest to 3 older brothers, to be heard Emma needed to be loud.

At school Emma would be told to quieten down & listen more. She was keen to learn & always had her hand up, seeking to understand & share her knowledge, but gradually the teachers quashed her enthusiasm.


Emma felt numb & invisible. She discovered using her fountain pen to slightly cut herself, released the numbness she felt & helped her feel something.  It started aged 12, around the same time she began menstruating. She had gained weight & could disguise her scars with well considered baggy clothing.

She worked hard & strived for perfection.

Most girls her age were reading magazines like Smash Hits or Just Seventeen, but not Emma. She spent most of her spare time in the library.

She was one of the first years groups to sit GCSE’s and gained 8 grade A’s. 

Whilst her parents were proud of her achievements, they would remind her

‘Blowing your own trumpet isn’t  attractive or ladylike.’

Whilst her brothers sporting achievements & successes were proudly celebrated, modesty was expected from Emma. So she quietly continued her studies with A-levels, keeping her head down, being a ‘good girl’ 

As she aged, she developed an awareness of the injustice in the world & was keen to study law, but knew her parents wouldn’t be keen. They were concerned about the debt she might accrue at university, instead suggesting a vocational career such as nursing or teaching.

They loved her dearly but didn’t want her to get too big for her boots & be disappointed when she inevitably failed.

Her older brothers didn’t go to university, not did they & it hadn’t done them any harm. 

Despite the lack of encouragement at home, Emma’s potential was seen by her form teacher, Miss Naylor. She could see how bright & determined she was.

Miss Naylor helped Emma with her UCAS application and cheered her on when she was offered a place at a top university to study law. Emma kept in touch with Miss Naylor over the coming years, who was keen to hear about her progress. 

Now in her mid 20’s a qualified lawyer, Emma dropped the formalities & called Miss Naylor by her forename, Liz. They never met up, but wrote letters frequently, Liz providing the warmth & a boost in confidence Emma needed.

Her parents didn’t really understand her job & would often refer her to as ‘our not so little Emma’. Along with her brothers, they would tease her if she became upset by this nickname & they would suggest university & her fancy career had made her ‘over sensitive’. 

Sadly Liz, her mentor, friend & biggest cheerleader, died aged 52, tragically in a car accident.

Emma was bereft.

She made a pact with herself to achieve everything Liz had told her she was capable of & eventually, a decade later, Emma became a partner in a law firm. Despite her success, Emma still felt like an imposter. She worked twice as hard as her male, middle class colleagues & rarely got recognised. 

She continued to find comfort in self harm. This was her secret & something she had continued for many years. She hadn’t shared this deep secret with Liz, but she recalls it worsened after her death. 

As Emma entered her mid 40’s the need to harm herself became increasingly problematic. She was tearful & unsure of herself ALL the time. She lost interest in her work, her social life & felt utterly exhausted. Sleep became a massive problem too. She isolated herself, finding the company of others irritating. 

Emma now 50, retired early due to ill health, with severe arthritis & still with an overwhelming need for her ageing parents to tell her how proud of her they were.

What Emma didn’t know is her parents were incredibly proud of her, they would tell their friends about her amazing career, believing her early retirement was a choice, & due to the wealth she’d achieved from her career. But they never ever told Emma of their pride, still in fear of her becoming ‘over confident’.

A common approach to parenting in the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s.

How has the messaging impacted Emma?

Can you spot any trauma responses?

What else could have been happening to Emma in her teens & again in her mid life? 

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Know Your Place

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading