How I stopped biting my nails after 20 years of non-stop gnawing
The before is SO gross
by Amanda Ross
Please hold the obvious joke, but for most of my life the rule has been “if it fits in my mouth, it’s going in.” My oral fixation makes it a true miracle that I’ve never taken up smoking. I chewed up pen caps, straws, lids, sleeves, and — worst of all — my fingernails.
Seriously, for 20 years those things were so gnawed-up and bleedy, they looked like tiny sea creatures that’d lost their shells. It was an ugly, gross habit that I just resigned myself to after 20-plus years of biting. Save for the odd pair of acrylics, my nails were always unvarnished, ragged and out of place on an otherwise semi-put-together, mostly-functioning adult woman. And then one day, I stopped. Seriously, it’s just over.
Here’s the before (it’s so bad, omfg):
Aaaaand here’s what they look like now:
Still not the longest, but I’m still floored every time I look at the difference. For those of you (us?) who have all but totally given up hope at a life with a Pinterest nail board and something called mani/pedis, here’s how I kicked my habit and grew out my nubs once and for all:
Paint them, no matter how short and gross
Something bright or intricate, too! This was probably the biggest deterrent for me. Like a magpie, I’m transfixed by bright and shiny things so the thought of fucking up something pretty I just spent time on was totally off-putting. The above picture of my red nails (the one with the rings) was only about a month ago — they grew fast once I backed off and let them. That picture was the first day I stopped biting. Once the polish came on, it never went off.
Replace your habit with something else
I got one of those little plastic water tumblers so I could sit there with the straw in my mouth all day (not chewing, just drinking) to distract me from biting. One of the weirdest things I did — and I’m sure my coworkers all hated me for it — was actually saying “NO!” to myself out loud every time I went in for a bite. The verbal and low-key shameful self-scolding was enough to get me to trap my hand under my leg so I couldn’t get to it.
Treat yourself regularly
Rather than punishing myself with that gross-tasting varnish or smacking myself in the wrist with a rubber band (which some people swear by, but it never worked for me), I worked on a reward system instead. I treated myself to nice, at-home nail care for little while before upgrading to (my fist!) salon manicure on natural nails. I started wearing a lot of rings to being attention to my newly feminized hands and buying the fun nail polish I could never wear before a incentive. Soon enough, my nails were long enough to peek out over my finger tips, tap against a phone screen and dig into my palm. Every time I get the urge to bite, I admire them all shiny and painted and think about how upset I’d be if I had to go back to square one. The visualization is key until you start to see physical results. From there, it’s all downhill.
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