Confession for all my loyal followers: I have been a nail-biter my entire 31 years of existence. When I was younger (or at least younger than I am now), I’d nibble/rip them until they were bleeding. It was something I’d do when I was nervous or anxious.

It also sucked because it was my tell when I was trying not to convey my nervousness. It also didn’t look proper when I’d show up to interviews with my nails ripped to shreds. To those about to say, “why didn’t you just get fake nails?” I did. I’d bite them off anyways and have wasted all that money. It was not good, and it felt like that last bastion of my youth I was still clinging to as I got older…not so much. Usually, I’m good with not going with the grain or traditional timelines, but even this was starting to get to me (see above for why).

Then, over the last few weeks, I noticed that I somehow, and for some reason, stopped biting and ripping them, and I noticed that they had started to grow. I was trying to remember when I stopped or when they started growing, and I couldn’t. Looking down at them (and marvelling that I had succeeded at one thing without consciously trying), I just knew that I would not go back as much as I could help it. That meant sitting and thinking about what had changed in my life to support this. Because seriously, I was/am confused as hell about it myself.

Allow me to share what I found with you in the research I did on what causes me to bite my nails and what it means when you can manage to stop. Hope this helps. Please note that this isn’t conclusive; it’s just my perspective.

Why do people bite their nails (from a non-medical perspective)?

  • First off, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you or me.
  • It starts for reasons unknown, but it is habit-forming.
    • Every time you lean into that habit, it’s reinforced.
  • It helps with emotion regulation.
    • It gives you something to do when you’re bored, and;
    • It gives you something to distract yourself when you’re overwhelmed, stressed and/or anxious.
  • It has been tied to being a perfectionist and someone with OCD or OCD tendencies.
    • I can identify with this, as I am a perfectionist.

What does it mean when you stop biting your nails (in a philosophical way that makes sense to me)?

  • That you’re starting to recognize your triggers and taking steps to minimize them.
    • This also means you’re starting to deal with them in more parts of your life than just nail-biting. This is good!
  • You’re picking up better habits overall to help you cope.
  • You’re gentler to yourself for having flaws… like the other human ever to have or ever to exist.
  • All the work you’re currently doing on trying to grow as a person is slowly manifesting physically.

I still find myself playing with them or going to bite them out of habit. Only now, I stop and think about why I’m doing it. Is there a reason or situation that I am reacting to, or is it pure habit associated with a task (i.e. driving between jobs or writing an article while hoping someone reads it)?

Whatever it is, I now know I need a different coping mechanism or reaction. I have overcome or dealt with many other things that I thought were impossible to overcome or deal with; I can do the one thing that has me stumped over.