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My nail-biting habit, shame, and what I’m learning about authenticity


Not too long ago, I of my friend, Tam, and me. Here’s what I posted with the picture:

This is my new dear friend and neighbor — she and her family have been direct gifts from God to our family as we settle in TN. They’ve loved on us, brought us food, watched our kids, made us cookies, listened to us, made us salsa, laughed with us, prayed for us, introduced us to many of their friends, and been the hands and feet of Jesus in this big transition. We had fun going to get manicures today with a gift card I had! It’s amazing how close you can feel to someone you just met last month! #humblyblessed

There was so much beauty in this picture to me. Not only was it a fun memory together, but the gift of friendship that this woman has been to me just made my heart feel like it might burst with gratitude and joy.

And then, within a few minutes after I’d posted the picture, someone I didn’t know posted a comment on the picture asking, “Do you bite your fingernails?”

Immediately, it felt like the wind had been knocked out of my sails. Because, you see, I have been biting my fingernails. And I was ashamed.

I’ve mostly kicked my childhood nail-biting habit, but it creeps up again when I’m going through an anxious period in my life.

While the move to TN has been so good, there have been some hard parts about it, too. And all this processing and adjusting has brought on anxiety and, yes, my nail-biting habit.

For years, I’ve been embarrassed not only of my nail-biting habit, but also that I struggle with anxiety at times. I wish I didn’t have what feels like silly fears and dumb habits. Why can’t I just get my act together already?

I’ve often beat myself up and felt like a loser and a failure in these areas. And while I’ll commit to breaking a habit or not feeling anxious over things, my best-laid plans don’t always pan out.

So when that commenter asked, “Do you bite your fingernails?”, I felt like someone had just called me out for being a loser.*

And it bothered me a lot.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t see any of the beautiful things about that beautiful picture with Tam. All I could see were my too-short nails and the fact that I had this bad habit I couldn’t break.

Truthfully, I wanted to delete the photo from Instagram. But I went to talk to my husband about it instead.

I told him I was sure I was being ridiculous, but the comment stung hard.

As we talked about it more, though, I started realizing what it was: I don’t like people drawing attention to my weaknesses and struggles. It makes me feel less-than and not enough.

But yet, we all have weaknesses… that’s what makes us uniquely us. I can cover up my weaknesses and try to pretend that they don’t exist or I can be honest about them and work on them.

As I told you earlier this week, I really want to be authentic here. I don’t want you to think that I have it all figured out or that I have all my ducks in a row. Because I don’t.

We’re all in this together. We’re all learning and growing. We all have struggles. We all have habits we need to break. Pretending we don’t have messes or struggles only does a disservice to ourselves — and to others.

So I left the picture on Instagram and even posted it in a blog post. Because I don’t want to wear a badge of shame over my short-comings.

I’m not, nor will I ever be, proud that I have a nail-biting habit. And I’m still holding out hope that someday I can break it once and for all.

But in the mean time, I’m grateful that I’m learning that it’s okay to be honest about my struggles and short-comings. In fact, it’s not just okay; it’s good.

The truth is: I’d rather be honest and authentic and disappoint some people, than to exhaust myself trying to keep up a facade of perfection.

I'd rather be

*Please Note: This post is not about judging an individual who left a comment, but about lessons I learned from that comment. I don’t know what the intent of the commenter was and they probably didn’t mean it in any way to shame or call attention to my short-comings. It was probably just a question they asked out of curiosity. However, I deleted the comment in order to protect the commenter’s identity. (Also: I don’t even remember what the person’s name was, so if it was you, know that I have absolutely zero hard feelings against you! :))

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227 Comments

  • Ashley says:

    This post reminded me of a verse…”My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boat all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor 12:9.

  • says:

    I love this so much! Thank you for being real. I too am a nail biter. I’ve been trying to kick it since childhood, with some successes, but I always go back to it.

    Your nails look lovely in your course about making the most of your mornings!

    • Sheryle says:

      I too bite my nails and go from feeling that it prevents me from appearing well-groomed to feeling ashamed and always wanting to hide them. I feel I’d be so much more expressive with nice (even short) nails! Maybe we can encourage one another in love to help each other curb this habit. I too feel it’s just a nervous or anxious habit and have hope that it won’t last forever! 🙂

  • Lynette says:

    Thank you! I can relate..sooo much

  • Jen Watkins says:

    Fellow nail biter here! I also have successes and failures with quitting. Rest assured that you are not alone. We all have struggles. Praise God that He loves and embraces us anyway!
    And seriously, for me, nail biting may be the least offensive of my many short comings!

  • Elizabeth says:

    I can relate SO much. I am also a nail biter. I stop myself and am so proud of my nails then get a pretty manicure. But something happens and I fall back. I hope/pray and realize there is only one judge of me.

  • Annonymous says:

    We all have shortcomings and you shouldn’t be ashamed of yours. I don’t bite my fingernails, but I do clean under the nail frequently, scratch off my nail polish, and (for some reason I cannot explain) scratch the skin off my scalp then clean the ish off my fingernails. And I will admit, I have struggled for years with “picking” my nose and (yes, I know it’s gross) eating the snot. I think it’s something I used to do when I cried as a child (when I cry, everything runs!). I don’t know, but it’s a problem I have worked on and pops up more when I am stressed and worried or anxious. Nail biting doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

  • brenda says:

    I have bitten my nails all my life. Until I recently read a book ,Called CHRISTIANS and STRONGHOLD, by Kim Haney . I have tried everything to stop. Even fake nails and bit them off.
    Bottom line every time I start bitting them quote a scripture. Recommended this book. It’s life changing.

  • Karen says:

    Who says really short nails that you bite are bad? It’s a false cultural taboo. I say let it go. The problem is letting others decide your value and worth and dignity ;only God can do that and he says, because of Jesus, we are deeply loved, completely forgiven and fully pleasing to him. Nothing else matters-

  • says:

    Thanks for being so real!! Have you heard of the Pavlok bracelet? I am so interested in using it to break a bad habit I have, but because it is actually a shock bracelet, I can’t until use it until after I have this baby. 🙂 But I’ve heard it can work incredibly well! Just thought you may like to know, if you’re not already familiar. Thanks again for posting this– you are totally right- we all have our stuff!

  • CT says:

    Fellow nail biter here. I too hate when people point things out like that. Not because I feel shame and am hiding it, but because I feel like they are trying to make me something I’m not. I have ticks, but this what makes me, me. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed either.

  • Shell says:

    I’ve embraced my nail biting. It’s really amazing that I haven’t developed a really harmful habit in attempting to process my anxiety. They’re always with me and it’s free. ☺️

  • Betsy says:

    My two year old son started biting his nails probably a month before he turned two. I want to be kind and life speaking as a mom- while asking him to take his fingers out of his mouth. He’ll say- ‘I’ll take my fingers out!’ Isn’t that like a toddler- ‘I’ll do it, Mama!’ Maybe, probably, it’s my job as a mom to love and support him- not only with my words but also in prayer. I feel that he has such a strong and good personality that this may just be an aspect of his type A-ness. 🙂

  • Karen says:

    I have no shame about the biting. I don’t think my hands are pretty but they say something beautiful about me. I was a massage therapist for 20 years. I am helping my autistic son communicate better through sign language. I cook every meal from scratch with a very specific diet. I research on line hours every day with my fingers to get my family in the best health and avoid the doctors that just wanted to prescribe us another drug. I bite my nails at night when I can’t sleep while I process the day instead of drinking or smoking pot or something more harmful. I might choke on a fingernail one day. LOL! Worry about it when the time comes. Meanwhile, I kind of look at them as battle scars, proof I was here and really in it with my whole body.

  • Maria says:

    Crystal, I see your lovely manicure nails inspiring to those of us with shorter nails whether from nail-biting, nail-peeling or other factors. It’s a wonderful example of self-love.

  • Michelle says:

    I had bitten my nails for 50 years until one day I decided like many people made a “decision” to stop. While actually successful it wasn’t without challenge and I had a set back. An anxious situation arose and I started again but it for some reason has been limited to my thumb nails. They are worse than they’ve ever been and can be sooo painful and I wish I could leave them alone. Ive never felt shame but it has drawn unwanted attention and judgement. We can only do our best and in light of eternity and other habits we could have it isn’t a big deal

  • says:

    Thank you for being authentic with us! I have the same issue with my nail biting as well as other bouts of anxiety and depression. We all are beautiful works in progress…

  • says:

    I too struggle with anxiety. I bit my nails until I turned teenager. I was able to quit fortunately.

  • Dee says:

    I have bitten my nails for 48 years now minus the 8 months just before I graduated high school. I really wanted beautiful nails for the photos and I did it. The next week all of my nails were gone since I was trying to figure out if I should go to a Christian college or not. Since then I have never been able to get more than 6 or 7 nails grown out before they are all gone again. I have decided that if that is my biggest issue with myself, I am doing pretty darn good. I will forever keep biting if I need too and not be ashamed.

  • Crystal Colley says:

    I have bitten my nails my entire life. I also suffer with Anxiety and Depression. I have also been told to stop; that’s nasty; don’t you want pretty nails?; do you realize how unbecoming that is? My answers…..ive tried, yes I know, of course I Do, and yes; however God made each and everyone of us and we all are different and have our “things” but still perfect in his eyes. I love your blog Crystal and it is perfectly fine if you bite your nails or any other habit. God loves us all no matter what. Much love❤

  • Anonymous says:

    I am 16 years old and I also have a nail-biting habit. It helps me to see that I am not at it alone. I have bitten my nails ever since I can remember. Just recently (probably 2-3 years ago) I noticed how bad my nails were getting and started to attempt to hide them in public, and even around my family. For a year now I’ve wanted to stop biting my nails, but usually fail. I would buy that disgusting nail polish, but I’m afraid my parent would see it in the mail and question me about it. This New Years I will make it my resolution to once and for all to stop biting my nails.

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