Drawing on a longitudinal study of middle-class and working-class girls growing up, this article focuses on those few working-class young women who managed to get to university and face the prospect of a 'professional' career. The authors examine the concept of 'hybridity' as it is used to understand shifts in the constitution of contemporary feminine subjectivities and argue that although hybridity may be a social and cultural fact, in this psychic economy there are no easy hybrids. The authors explore some of the more difficult emotional dynamics in their families that have nevertheless helped sustain their success; of 'never asking for anything', of parents as burdened, of envy, love and pride. Moving into the intellectual domain is a massive shift for working-class young women who do well at school, requiring an internal and external 'makeover'. It is therefore essential to explore the complexities of the losses as well as the gains involved in educational success and upward mobility for working-class young women if we are serious about the project of equality in education. Without a consideration of the psychodynamic processes involved, the deep and enduring failure of the majority of working-class girls and boys will continue unabated.