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

Yes, I Bite My Fingernails
Not too long ago, I posted this picture on Instagram of my friend, Tam, and me. Here’s what I posted with the picture:

This is my new dear friend and neighbor @tamhodge — 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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