Smorgasbord Sundays: I Used to Bite My Nails

Nail-Biting-Bad-HabitsAre you or were you ever a nail biter?

When I was in elementary school, I used to bite my nails like something fierce. It wasn’t due to anxiety. Looking back now, I think that I picked up the bad habit from observational learning.

My older brother bit his nails all the time, and growing up, I watched him and then one day just played copycat. Before I knew it, chewing on my nails came as naturally to me as breathing.

My mother would always tell me to stop because there are bacteria and germs under your nails, so it’s very unhealthy (not to mention gross)! Sometimes she’d even literally slap my hands out of my mouth…and because I wouldn’t expect that, sometimes my jagged nails would cut my gums when she did that! Lesson learned.

In today’s Smorgasbord Sundays post, I’ll share my experiences on nail biting and also tell you how I was able to nix nail biting by the time I entered high school.


Although nail biting doesn’t contain addictive chemicals like cigarettes do, the bad habit can be very addictive! You may not even know you’re doing it until you’ve mauled your own fingers.

I used to bite my nails sometimes until they would bleed. And the tips of my nails were always jagged and ugly.

Then, one day, I decided to nix the habit like a mooching boyfriend.

I was tired of being ashamed of the way my nails looked. I would often hide my hands in pockets or fold my arms and tuck in my hands to keep them out of sight! And whenever someone saw my hands, I always felt embarrassed and wondered what they must think of me.

After all, there’s an imposed societal standard that says females should have prettier hands and fingers than males. But if you looked at my nails back then, they were truly disgusting-looking, and it made me feel less girly. (I wasn’t a tomboy and I wasn’t overly girly, but having jagged nails made me feel less girly.)

It was at that moment when I realized just how unsightly my nails were and how it was affecting my behaviour that I decided enough was enough! There are so many bigger things in the world to worry about, and if you can stop hurting yourself, that’s one less problem on your plate.

The funny thing was that the whole time I was thinking about doing that, I realized that my fingers were in my mouth, and I was biting away…haha!

My own actions disgusted me. And then I worried about not being able to stop biting my nails. I mean, it seemed so natural for me to bite them, and sometimes I wouldn’t even realize I was doing it until I was biting for a while.

The first strategy I used was to start painting my nails. Unfortunately, this failed for me. I ended up biting my nails, and that scared me because I ate the polish – that’s verrrrryyy unhealthy! So I stopped that technique since it probably did more harm than good.

My next and final strategy (that actually worked) was that every time I would catch myself biting my nails, I’d stop as soon as possible. It took a little while, but eventually I would stop even putting my fingers in my mouth.

The thing is that I didn’t even notice the exact moment when I stopped biting my nails. But,ย one day, I looked down at my nails. They weren’t jagged. They were smooth! (For a former nail biter, this is something that you feel reallllly proud of – makes you feel so good!)

And since then, I’ve never bitten my nails or even felt the urge to bite them. ๐Ÿ™‚

[Oh, and in case you’re curious, my brother (who’ll be turning 40 in a few years) still bites his nails! I don’t think he ever wanted to stop the habit.]

So, if you’re a nail biter, I empathize with you. I know that it’s hard to quit, and that it’s a habit you may be ashamed of. I hope that with will power and time, you’ll be able to stop because it really hurts you, not just esthetically, but I think psychologically, too. Nail biting can be almost like Linus’ blanket or what a pacifier is to a baby. I just don’t think it’s healthy.

I hope that you’ll try the second strategy I mentioned, and that it also works for you. Don’t expect it to work overnight – it’s a gradual thing.

Some people buy special nail treatments that you paint on like polish, except it’s actually safe to consume. It’s supposed to give your nails a verrrry bad taste, and then that will deter you. You might want to look into it.

Mainly, you have to want to quit in order to be successful. Once you’re motivated, that’s what will propel you and encourage you to continue until you’re successful. You can’t rely on other people to tell you to stop. (Remember how my mom would keep telling me? I wouldn’t listen. I had to tell myself.)

Also, try to imagine your goal of having decent-looking nails. Then, look up photos of nail polishes you like. Reward yourself with them when you’re successful…because I know you will be if you put the iron fist down on yourself.

Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. In case you’re curious to see my nail-art tutorials for the designs in the above image, you can find them here:

Did you ever bite your nails? Do you currently bite your nails? What are some bad habits that you’re trying to quit?


27 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Sundays: I Used to Bite My Nails

  1. Janet "The KnitMaster"

    Former biter here! I don’t even remember what caused me to stop, but just remembered looking at my hands and thinking, wow, I have nails. Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with polish and polishing which keeps them protected.
    What I find funny is that our society is so consumed with anti-bacterial products, yet there are still biters. Who would want to shake your hand after you were just gnawing on it? Or for that matter, who would want to kiss you after you were just chewing your fingers like they were BBQ ribs? Yuck.

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey The KnitMaster!

      Well, there are people out there who don’t mind. Haha, my brother is married with children and he still bites his nails. His nails are all jagged. So, I guess sometimes love can be strong enough to overlook SOME bad habits. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Elissa

    I had a TERRIBLE nail biting habit. Seems like MOST polish addicts I talk to were former nail biters! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    I stopped when I got acrylic nails put on me for my graduation in 2010. After having them for a month I just didn’t bite them anymore! Took me a long time to get my nails healthy though. That also started my nail art and polish addiction.

    Elissa recently posted: Polyvore Collage Day: Autumn

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Elissa!

      Interesting…I wonder if a lot of us became nail-polish addicts because we struggled with nail issues in the past. Maybe that’s why we’re overcompensating now by trying to make our nails pretty. Hmm…I’m always fascinated by why people do the things they do and how events shape our future behaviour.

  3. Erica

    Yep, I too was a biter, and it was my fiancรฉ that told me to stop. Going on “sober” for over 2 years now, about 2.5 actually, and I love it! I used to paint my nails occasionally and now I usually have polish out EVERY NIGHT! My fiancรฉ looks at me like I’m nuts, but I just tell him that it’s his fault because he got me to stop biting ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Erica!

      Haha, I like how you describe it as being ‘sober’. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Wow, you usually paint your nails every night? That’s dedication! I’m in awe! ๐Ÿ˜€ *Thumbs up*

      P.S. And yes, it’s all his fault. I’m on your side. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hehehe!

  4. Frosso

    I’m glad you stopped biting, otherwise there may not have been a Swatch and Learn ๐Ÿ˜› I was never a nail biter, but my older sister was…I think she finally stopped a few years ago. I however, was and still is a cuticle picker. I’d pick until I’d bleed, it was so bad and embarassing. Blogging has helped me to stop though, no one wants to look at torn up cuticles. I’m more conscious of it now, but I still have my relapses. I tend to do it when I’m nervous or anxious ๐Ÿ™ I think due to my cuticle picking past my cuticles are always dry which makes them more tempting to pick. So taking extra care such and as using oils, lotions, lemony flutter, gels, removers…haha the whole deal pretty much, has helped a lot with repairing my poor cuticles. They wont’ be as perfect as many blogger’s I see, but they are a world of a difference now than from before I started blogging. It’s still a struggle, but when I feel the urge I at least try to make sure I pick on my non swatching hand lol.
    Frosso recently posted: Candeo Colors Glacier

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Frosso!

      Very true! And, actually, without my former blogging partner (Fiona) encouraging me to post photos of my nails, I would’ve never mustered up the courage to do so. Before, even though I loved nail polish, I was extremely self-conscious of my nails. (I’m still not completely confident about it, but I don’t feel as intimidated about showing the world my nails online as much. It also helps that amazing readers like you have been so encouraging.)

      In the winter, when my hands are drier, I also tend to pick at my cuticles a little if there’s something sticking out. But I try not to because usually I only end up making the situation worse.

  5. Kelley

    Former biter checking in! I bit my nails all through childhood and then into high school. Then one day in college, I decided that it had to stop. So I used the “I won’t bite them if they look pretty” technique. Previously, I had occasionally painted my nails, left them alone for a few days while the polish still looked nice, and then started biting as soon as the polish began to chip. This time, I decided to add another coat or change out the color every couple of days. And it worked! The urge to bite my nails went away slowly, but the sight of pretty, polished nails helped me fight it. It’s been more than ten years now and I can’t even imagine biting my nails. Time was also kind to me and I now have the sort of long healthy nails that I only dreamed of when I was a child. The sort of nails that require clippers and not teeth to maintain!

    It’s funny though. If I hadn’t had to overcome my addiction to nail biting, then I wouldn’t have developed an addiction to nail polish. I traded nasty nails for an extremely light wallet. Lol.

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Kelley!

      Glad to hear that your technique really worked for you! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s not always easy to quit a bad habit, so I’m proud that you were able to do it.

      Haha, yeah, it was a trade-off, but pretty manicures and a lighter wallet is worth it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Then again, this is coming from a nailphile, so you shouldn’t have expected me to say otherwise, right? Hehehe!

  6. maria emma

    when i was a little kid, maybe 4 or 5, there was a polish and make up brand called tinkerbell, it was for little girls.. i remember the tv commercial and everything..
    well i was a nail bitter, so my mum told me that if i stop bitting my nails, she will give me the tinkerbell polish i wanted so bad, so i stopped doing it.. just to get the polish..

    more than 20 years later, i don’t bite my nails.. my brother, still bit his..
    maria emma recently posted: Water Marble!

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey maria emma!

      I vaguely remember that Tinkerbell brand you mentioned. One of my friends gave me a lip-gloss rollerball from the line that I loved so much until I lost it one day. And back in elementary school, my mom refused to buy me one to replace it because she considered it makeup, and I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup yet. It was a devastating day for me at the time.

  7. Gelic' nail art

    I have never been a nail biter, my mum gave me nail polish and nail files and explained very early how to file them and make them “long” and beautiful so I never started that habit. The wish of having long nails where bigger. However I bite some on my cuticles for a while, so much that they some time bleed and where a bit swollen. After I’d done it for a while I realized that it made my nails (which was long and fine) look ugly so I just stopped very abrupt. I think it’s important to have the correct motivation to stop.

    A friend of mine when I was in lower grade school used to bite the disgusting-tasting-polish away from her nails and then keep biting till it bleed. So that didn’t even stop her.

    And a girl in my university class is currently biting her nails and she is 24 years old! She bits them and then spits away the nail pieces in any direction. Really gross in my opinion. I know it’s hard when you have an addiction but still.. I wish she would stop..
    Gelic’ nail art recently posted: Purple shimmer with rhinestones

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Gelic’ nail art!

      Lucky you that you learned from your mom! My mom wasn’t very girly, so she just had a few bottles of nail polish, and once she painted my nails. But then after that, she’d just give me the bottle, and I had to teach myself how to paint my own nails. Haha, I wore nail polish more than she ever did, and even to this day, whenever I offer to paint her nails, she refuses and says she doesn’t like nail polish because it makes her nails feel heavy! Hahaha, yeah! Ridiculous…My mom’s a funny one sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Wow, your friend is a tough cookie! She ate the nasty-tasting polish and wasn’t deterred! Do you know if later she was able to kick the habit?

      UGH! Your university classmate sounds really gross…It’s one thing to bite your nails (it’s personal), but to spit the pieces out is rude. It’s almost like clipping your toenails on a subway train. (And, yes, I once was in a subway with a guy who took off his socks and clipped away. UGH! I had to change seats because the thought of his toenail clippings getting on me was too gross to deal with.)

      Did anyone say something to that woman in university? I mean…if a piece ever landed on me, I’d be sure to say something. I wouldn’t be mean/rude about it, but I’d definitely have to voice my opinion politely about common courtesy.

  8. Amanda

    Yup, I was also a nail biter. Though I was always on and off. I’d chew them for a while, then stop, then start chewing them again. I think because it wasn’t non stop for me it wasn’t as hard to finally stop. However, my worst habit was picking at my cuticles. I often wouldn’t even realize I was doing it, like the comment above, I would pick away at them until they bled. I hated the way they look, and even made up some pretty sad excuses to my friends on why my fingers looked so bad. I knew I had to stop since I hated the way they looked, and eventually I was able to. Then after my nails were long and cuticles nicely left alone I decided nail polish might be fun, and haven’t looked back since!:)

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Amanda!

      Did your friends actually ask you about your fingers? Is that why you felt the need to give them excuses? Or were you just embarrassed and didn’t want them to come to their own conclusions/judgements about you?

      I’m glad to hear that you were able to stop the bad habit, especially since it sounds like it was something you were ashamed of. Good for you for nixing it!

      1. Amanda

        I didn’t get asked about it often, but a few friends did actually ask me once or twice…I think I blamed my cat for scratching me, haha.

        1. Mary Post author

          Aww…your cat took the heat! ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I guess the cat had to be blamed for something, right? After all, dogs usually are blamed for eating our homework. ๐Ÿ˜›

  9. Kayla

    I started biting my nails in high school, right after I got my braces off. For the longest time I got acrylics, which deterred me from biting my actual nails, but I’d still bite and pick at the cuticles. SO GROSS. Then, I decided to stop getting the acrylics… and went right back to biting my nails. It finally took me purchasing this strengthener at Sally’s called Nail Magic. Just the smell alone is enough to make

  10. Fedoraharp

    I’m starting to get the impression that most of us are former biters! In a way maybe the nail polish addiction is because we have a heightened appreciation for our newly pretty nails? Or a way of self rewarding? There’s a thesis in this somewhere XD

    I’m pretty recent- coming up on a year of no biting. My personal strategy *was* wearing nail polish, but it had to be vivid colors. That way I was constantly aware of the presence of my nails, so I didn’t bite them unconsciously. That’s also how I got into nail art ๐Ÿ™‚

    Filing and proper care were an entirely separate battle- I have sensory issues, so filling my nails is *really* difficult. At first I wouldn’t bother, and then when I did start I would soak my nails for like twenty minutes in warm water to get them super soft. I can file them with very little soaking now, although it’s still difficult. I still don’t have a proper cuticle care regimen, that’s my next obstacle ๐Ÿ™‚

    My dad is over fifty and still bites his nails- they’re really tiny at this point!
    Fedoraharp recently posted: Coming up soon: Convention, round two!

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Fedoraharp!

      Yeah, it would be interesting to read psychological case studies of former nail biters who become nail addicts. There must be a correlation somewhere. It could be that we’re overcompensating for having such ugly-looking nails before when we mauled our own nails.

      That makes sense why you’d use vivid nail colours as opposed to something clear, which you may forget you’re even wearing and then still chomp away.

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Maria Saldana!

      Awww…thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚ Nixing the habit early on definitely helped. I think that if you bite your nails for a looong time, it’s possible to do long-term damage on your nail beds. I can’t imagine that putting that kind of pressure on your nails daily can be good for them.

  11. Jennifer

    I used to be a nail biter. One of my nails got infected once and literally fell off (ew, I know) – so nail biters, be aware! I tried that bad tasting nail stuff. It didn’t work. I don’t know what finally made me stop biting my nails. I knew they looked disgusting and I just wanted them to look better. I still don’t really like the way they look without nail polish, so I always keep them painted. That’s when my nail polish obsession started. If they look pretty, I don’t want to bite them!

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Jennifer!

      Oh. My. God! I had no idea that a nail could fall off like that just from biting. That’s scary! I hope it wasn’t excruciatingly painful, although it sounds like it would be.

      Anyway, I’m so proud of you for kicking the habit! Well done! ๐Ÿ˜€


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