I am a lifelong nail biter. I’m really serious about the “lifelong”, too—I can’t remember, even waaaayyyy back into my childhood, a time when I didn’t bite my nails. I’m almost embarrassed to describe the severity of it, too. I mean, when I’ve been really bad about it, my nails are STUBS. There’s almost nothing there. It’s NOT just a mild case of biting at the occasional hangnail.
Trust me, it ain’t this cute. (Source)
I’ve never seriously tried to stop before. When I was little, my mom would put that bitter stuff on my fingers, but I’d just pick at them instead. I know my ravaged nails are highly unattractive, but that was never enough to compel me to stop.
However, this past January, I thought our engagement was imminent (which was not actually true; we didn’t get engaged until May!). Knowing that once Mr. Octopus proposed, I would be frequently and prominently displaying my fingers, I finally felt driven enough to force myself to break the habit.
I didn’t actually use any techniques or tricks, just the force of sheer willpower. It was really hard!! Once, after a few months, Mr. O asked me if I ever still felt like biting my nails—and my response was that I had to force myself not to bite them, several times a day, every single day, since I gave it up in January.
Take a look at these outtakes from my engagement ring photo shoot:
Those nails are the result of FOUR MONTHS of deeply concentrated effort. I actually got a lot of comments on them, too. I was half pleased, and half mortified that my raggedy-ass nails had been so notorious.
Unfortunately, that’s not the happy ending. The two most common triggers for my nail biting were stress and periods where my hands were idle for a long time—particularly, reading. Well, this past August, I started a rigorous master’s degree program. Since then, I have been doing a whole lot of three things: stressing, reading, and biting my nails. Sad face.
I’ve got a new motivation now, though. I’m going to be a bridesmaid in April (for Erica, she of Running of the Brides fame!). Erica has always been particularly grossed out by my nail biting habit, and I really want to make sure my nails are not a hot mess and I get to partake in getting a manicure like all the other non-compulsive-habit-having bridesmaids.
What can I do? Is there anything other than sheer mental effort that can stop a serious nail biter in her tracks?