I don’t know how or when I started chewing my fingernails, but I remember when I made myself stop. I was teaching. First Graders are germy, have runny noses, and are not overly concerned with restroom hygiene. I decided that biting my nails was unprofessional, juvenile, and just plain gross.
But where do you go with that nervous energy?
I transferred it to picking my cuticles and scratching the dry side of my thumbnail In the winter, I can easily get my fingers to bleed. You scratch a bit on the side of your thumb until you get a little dry flap of skin. Then, with a little quick yank, it oozes blood.
But there is something strangely satisfying in the pain that accompanies this process. Now, if I have a fingernail clipper, which I usually don’t, I can just cut the dry skin, and… it’s over. No blood, pain, or bandaids.
Now I haven’t had the high stress that leads to cuticle picking since I’ve retired. My nails actually look rather well-groomed now.
But my other nervous habit remains. That is biting the insides of my lips. I’m not really sure what the cause is, but it feels good to pick at the skin on the insides of my lips. This is not the teeth showing, biting on your lower lip in an “I wonder what I should do” kind of look.
No. I purse my lips closed and bite at the insides. I actually pull off little bits of skin from both my upper and lower lips.
I try to put lip balm on them, but it doesn’t help. It’s not as gross as biting my nails, and not as painful as picking my cuticles, but at least I could stop those habits.
I’ve actually given myself “smoker’s lines” around my mouth from the habit. As I’ve said earlier…not so attractive.
I’d love to declare a personal ban on all nervous, annoying, and gross habits. And I don’t want to stop one, only to give birth to another. I notice that I usually engage in my lip biting in the afternoon/evening and when feeling even mild stress. Lipstick is useless. Lip balms such as ChapStick, Blistex, and Carmex all offer temporary fixes.
Kind words of wisdom or helpful advice are welcome.