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Growth is impossible without pain | Grace Egan

An article about personal development, outgrowing your friends and a review of Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’.

We can’t grow without being in pain. Literal bodily growth occurs when muscles are torn apart, so new muscle can form. We cannot create new muscle without ripping the old parts out. This is how our body works, but I also believe it is how our mind works. In order for something to improve, we must identify the flaws within and target them. Therefore, when working on oneself, we have to open ourselves up to criticism, which isn’t easy. There is no room for change without discomfort, just think about it for a minute. To be able to grow, or change for the better, you have to admit that there is something wrong, that something needs to be different.

Recovery and growth from any experience is a direct result of some sort of pain or discomfort. In order to heal and learn from our experiences, I believe we need to accept the role that pain has in it. If you want your hair to grow healthier, you need to cut off the split-ends. We can apply this to ourselves too, if we want to improve and focus on our well-being, we need to cut off what inhibits us. These split ends manifest themselves differently in each person, perhaps they are the people surrounding you like they were for me. Friends exist for a multitude of reasons, and sometimes that reason is just to pass time with them until you realize better. If you feel you have outgrown your friends, it means you have matured and are ready to move onto the next stage of your life. We often don’t want to admit that the people we love aren’t meant to be in our life anymore, or that you need better influences around you. It’s a hard thing to do but a crucial part of our personal development. This is how I realized that growth is impossible without pain. The people around me were only draining the energy out of me, they were not bringing anything valuable into my life. Despite this, I adored them and completely relied on them. Deciding to cut them off was one of the scariest things I have done but looking back at it now, I am so proud of myself for doing so. It is crucial we understand that the people that surround us impact our lives as much as we do, their energy becomes our energy. Removing those people from my life benefitted me so much more than cutting off my split ends ever has.

Split ends are not only other people, sometimes we need to critique elements of ourselves. We are inherently flawed beings; our judgement isn’t always correct and that is okay. This is shown in Angela Carter’s ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, one of the short stories in her collection ‘The Bloody Chamber’. I studied this collection in my first term of English at Woodhouse sixth form, and I loved it. The story reveals how we have to face the parts of ourselves that we have neglected in order to discover our own personal truth. The heroine of the short story is initially traded like a commodity by her father to a beast that is wearing a human mask. In a feminist manner, she refuses any objectification unless she is paid like a prostitute, the beast is appalled. The story takes a turn, when the beast opens himself up to vulnerability, takes off his mask and reveals he is a tiger. The sense of embarrassment and insecurity the heroine picks up encourages her to think about the comfort she has in her own skin. It is clearly portrayed that she critiques the patriarchal and capitalist system that she came from, making her a relatable and lovable heroine. The story ends with the tiger ripping off the girl’s skin with his tongue, to reveal a beautiful fur underneath. A latent and unexpected ending indeed, but one that holds an incredible message. Carter draws inspiration from classic fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and applies them to modern culture. Just like we have to challenge societal regimes to create a better society, we need to challenge ourselves to create better people. All the heroine of the story has ever known is misogyny and objectification, yet her courage and openness allow her to free herself to live in a different reality. I believe we all have to do the same, look at what is limiting us in our lives and approach it head-on. Change is an integral element of our lives as we would progress nowhere without it. I really recommend reading the entire collection of ‘The Bloody chamber’ by Angela Carter. It is an entertaining collection of Gothic short stories, all embedded with feminist and socialist messages.

Ripping out muscles sounds scary and painful, it is. So, does letting a tiger lick layers upon layers of our skin off. This is how we progress in life (not the tiger bit); we need to experience pain to provide room for growth. View it as character development, or whatever helps you sleep at night. But the message behind this article is, eventually we all have to rip off the layers of skin that don’t benefit us anymore.


Grace Egan


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