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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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  • Allison M. says:

    I am a former nail biter myself, But when I saw that photo, I had two thoughts–one was “she looks HAPPY!” And second was, “man, those nails look cute in that color!” It is all a matter of perspective!

    • DD says:

      “God knows your value; He sees your potential. You may not understand everything you are going through right now. But hold your head up high, knowing that God is in control and he has a great plan and purpose for your life. Your dreams may not have turned out exactly as you’d hoped, but the bible says that God’s ways are better and higher than our ways, even when everybody else rejects you, remember, God stands before you with His arms open wide. He always accepts you. He always confirms your value. God sees your two good moves! You are His prized possession. No matter what you go through in life, no matter how many disappointments you suffer, your value in God’s eyes always remains the same. You will always be the apple of His eye. He will never give up on you, so don’t give up on yourself.” JO

    • Andrea says:

      I had the exact same thoughts as Allison M. when I saw that photo!! It doesn’t matter to me if you have a few bad habits–no one is perfect. But I know I would be much worse off without all of your valuable help and advice. Keep up the good work, Crystal, and continue to be your authentic self.

  • Leanne Heern says:

    I have read your blog since “biblical womanhood”…and I can honestly say I enjoy it more now than ever before because of your new openness and authenticity! its refreshing 🙂
    You inspire me daily to be a better Christian, wife, and mom….and save a little money while I’m at it!! and…. hey…. even if you bite your nails, it helps to save money on replacing nail clippers :-)…. there’s always a positive side!!
    Loved this post!!

  • What a fabulous post Crystal! Thank you for your honesty and authenticity (two reasons why I love your blog).

    We all have “silly fears and dumb habits” that we wish we could get rid of! I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it all together! :O)

  • Karey says:

    As a nail-biter I completely understand the shame, so thanks for posting that! Btw, someone has to be scrutinizing your pic to even notice! I thought your nails looked cute!!!

  • staci says:

    I bet it’s hard living a public life—Everyone has an opinion or comment! Sharing your journey is good for us non public life people too. Thank you!

    • Kathy D says:

      I agree. I bet it’s hard to even open up the comments on some posts. Like everything else though, I’m sure you’ll find the gift in it 🙂 We love you, Crystal. Thanks for keeping it real!

  • Nichole says:

    LOVE this! My sister always bites her nails and it used to drive me crazy when we were kids, but you look past it. Now that I am married and have a husband that suffers from anxiety (and a son!) he twists his hair when hes nervous or anxious and that drives me crazy, but I just walk away or tell him its time for a haircut. LOL. 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    I didn’t have time to read all the other comments so forgive me if this has already been said. I have several thoughts. First of all, if nail biting is among the worst of your habits, I don’t think you have anything to be ashamed of. There are much, much worse habits you could have (and ones that are not only destructive to your nails but also your health or other people around you so be glad you don’t have to fight against any of those habits). Secondly, when I read that comment, I thought maybe you were going to say that the commenter followed it up with something like, “Me too–and I found this great product that helps me to not do it.” But when I realized that you weren’t doing a product review, my next thought was that the person who commented probably noticed it because it’s something she (he?) struggles with as well. We often notice things in others that we struggle with ourselves. She (I’m just going to assume it was a she for the rest of my comment here) possibly felt a wave of relief knowing that someone “like you” (who many, many of us look up to–and not because you have beautiful nails or not) struggles with something that she also struggles with. Being real and authentic feels vulnerable to us, but it can be the encouragement that someone else needs–often times when we aren’t even aware! I realize this is an older post, but I hope you have a chance to read this. Thanks for sharing!

  • Allie L says:

    Thank you for your authenticity and openness. But, maybe your anxiety and associated habits aren’t weaknesses, struggles or short comings. Even though it is never fun to be anxious, unless it is really negatively impacting your life, embrace it as a strength! It probably makes you more sensitive to others, more aware of your surroundings, and more aware of how your actions impact others which ultimately leads to greater empathy and engagement. I imagine that this “weakness” is really one of the main reasons you are able to connect with so many people through this blog community!

  • Crystal says:

    I remember seeing that picture on Instagram and loving your shorter nails. I used to work as a court reporter before I left work to be a homemaker and writer. And I cannot grow out my nails. It’s not that they won’t grow. I’m just uncomfortable with them once they get past a certain length.
    But sometimes my shorter nails make me feel less feminine. I mean, you should see my mom’s long (almost too – at least for me) always polished nails.
    Anyways, thanks for affirming my shorter, athletic nails : )

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for your post because I know exactly how you feel. I too struggle with anxiety at times. I am also a nail biter. If I can keep polish on them I’m less likely to bite them and they grow. But I can always tell when I’m under stress because I don’t take the time to polish them and I go back to biting them again. In fact there is a lot going on in my life right now so my nails aren’t looking so great! I think your picture was awesome! You look so happy and the only thing I noticed about your nails was that I loved the color. I think I’m going to go and paint my nails blue right now! 🙂

  • Christy Kerr says:

    THANK YOU for being real! My favorite posts are the ones about your life. I actually may not even subscribe anymore if you stopped them…I like the deals but it’s the personal touch that keeps me coming back. You are so right that we all have things we would like to overcome. Don’t be ashamed of the person you are, you are the ONLY one who is you. Be proud of who you are and find strength in the fact that not one of us is perfect so embrace your imperfections.

  • Dori says:

    I usually just read, enjoy and move on, but especially in light of your recent posts, I just want to say thank you for your courage and realness. I really enjoy your blog and am so happy for you in all God is doing for you and your family now.

  • Donna says:

    When I see that photo I see joy and happiness. I am a little fascinated that your nails is what your reader saw and chose to concentrate on.Whether you bite your nails or not, it is a non issue (this is coming from a non nail biter). I mean who cares? And why look at someone’s nails when you can look at their smiles.

  • Jennifer says:

    We all have bad habits. A mature person is not going to draw attention to someone else’s. I mean really, who cares if you bite your nails? That commenter missed the entire point of your post.

  • Cathy R. says:

    Crystal, that was in my mind a beautiful post. We all have short-comings, and there could be worse bad habits. Way to go in your response and love that you pointed out that there are no hard feelings towards the person who made the comment. Boy, I know that I have really felt bad sometimes, like the time I had dog hair stuck to my boot, and someone made the comment “Do you have a dog?” When I answered in the affirmative, she pointed out the dog hair on my boot. Wow, I felt so bad for not even noticing that! Anyway, no worries, we still love you! (((hugs))) <3

  • Margaret Lauinger says:

    Hi Crystal,
    I love your blog!! You are such an inspiration.
    You are human, and I so appreciate how you are so honest with your readers. We all have bad habits. I used to bite my nails too!
    Thanks for being you and the authenticity!!
    Keep up the good work and good luck with kicking that habit!!

  • Angela says:

    I’m a former nail biter and can COMPLETELY relate to the shame; however, I did not think anything when I first saw that photo except that you picked a wild shade and were braver than me to wear it on your finger nails (to this day, I rarely wear nail polish because I hate their shape even though I no longer bite them). I’ve heard wearing polish helps people kick the habit, so go on rocking those cool colors!

  • Jenny says:

    I am enjoying the evolution of your blog- and you- over several years. I admire your authenticity and your courage to be authentic. I bite the skin around my nails when I am anxious. How gross is THAT?!! Truly, God has called you to your authenticity and we all benefit from that. Especially us biters 🙂

  • TAmmy Mundy says:

    Thank you for posting. When I read something like this that I can relate to, it makes the world feel a little smaller, like there really are those out there who understand.

  • Michele says:

    I APPRECIATE, so very much, your honestly, authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability!
    I am BLESSED by the transformation in your blog and the postings that reflect your TRUE self. I am a believer that, as women, we need to be surrounded by other women with whom we can be REAL.
    I find myself reading your blog and wishing I lived in your community so you could be my FRIEND!


  • Heidi says:

    Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your inspiring posts and are an encouragement to me in my daily walk w/ the Lord and in life in general. Thank you.

  • Tina says:

    I bit my nails my entire childhood. The one thing that keeps me from doing it is keeping them looking good. I get them done and am less likely to want to bite them now.
    I’m glad you were able to put a positive spin on it but it was kind of a jerk thing for the person to say.. A little unnecessary.

  • Lois says:

    I bit my nails to the nub from as far back as I can remember and no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t break the habit. Just before I was 40, my family and I moved from Texas to Florida and ended up near where I grew up. I didn’t even realize I’d quit until my fingers kept sliding on the keyboard when I was at work! I’d even forget about them until they were too long and have to file them down! Wow! Now, 25 years later, I still nibble from time to time and have the worst looking cuticles, but I do still have nails.

    One thing I’ve noticed the past 10 years is that when I’m doing a lot of reading, that’s when I nibble the worst. I don’t do it when I’m on the computer going through email or facebook. Just reading.

    Point is – Just don’t worry and stress over it. A time will come when you have other things taking the place of nail biting and heaven knows there are plenty of more important things to occupy our minds!

  • Mama2Eight says:

    I was a thumbsucker until I was six. Then I went to nail-biting. Sometime in my teenage years, when I was using fingernail polish, I stopped biting my nails and went to chewing the inside of my mouth. I have a friend that does the same and her doctor told her to watch out for precancers. Well, when I had my wisdom tooth pulled in my forties, I stopped chewing the inside of my cheeks. Now I grind my teeth. Hmmm…. Which of these habits have the worst consequences and which one has the least?

    I think you are doing fine. Sure, it’s a habit. But there are lot worse ones out there! If I could choose a nervous habit, I’m not sure which one I would choose. I think we all have them! They are all just different! How about hoarding? Obsessive _________ (you pick: cleaning, brushing, research, gaming, gambling, eating, exercising, weight loss, sleeping…) I don’t think you could find someone without a nervous, or bad habit. They just look different.

    God is not finished with us yet! When He is, we won’t be her anymore.

    You can make rules about your habit! Limit when or where you do it. That could help you overcome it. But usually, you need to find something to replace the habit you want to quit. It’s all throughout the Bible! I call them the put offs and put ons. One good example is in

    Ephesians 4:31-32

    “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

    If this is a nervous habit, what would you want to replace your nervousness with? What is the opposite of nervousness? ….. Peace! Ask God for peace! Memorize the Scriptures about peace. I think you might find as you quote those Scriptures when you think you ought to just even off the rough edges of your fingernails, you might decide to get out a nail file instead and let peace reign in your mortal body.

    Just some thoughts… I hope this helps you and others who struggle with habits…. Now to take my own medicine…

  • Carolyn says:

    To be honest the person that noticed has probably struggled with the same habit.

  • Jennifer says:

    I liked you even better when I found out that you weren’t perfect!!

  • Jessica says:

    I’m a nail-biter too, have been since I was a kid. I have tried lots of things to stop biting them but when I get nervous or anxious it is just auto-pilot.

    Well now my 4 year old daughter has picked up this nasty habit…I realized I have to figure out a way to make it stop, not just for my sake but for hers.

    I’ve tried the stuff that makes your nails taste yucky…but it doesn’t usually work. Does anyone have tips? I’ve looked all over and found different methods but none have really worked. I can go a week without biting mine but as soon as I am feeling stressed out I start biting them.

  • Rose says:

    Thanks Crystal, for sharing this post! I don’t live as public a life as you do, but I think it would be very tempting to put on a good face in your blog to make people think you have it all together. But I’m thankful that you are being real and honest! Recently, my husband told me that something I said embarrassed him. And immediately my self- image went spiraling downward. I wanted people to think that I don’t do or say crazy things. But I knew I should not have let his comment bother me so much. After all, I’ve told him the same thing not too long ago and he took it well! I had to think of something I heard recently…If you have a very low self-esteem, what you actually have is self-love. I know that sounds like a contradiction. But the Bible say “No man ever yet hated his own flesh” Eph. 5:29 When we take the focus off ourselves, and accept the fact that we all make mistakes, we can actually have a healthy self-image! You encourage me by not being afraid to admit this struggle! Thanks for your honesty- you never know how much you encourage others!

  • Lindsay says:

    I love that your are being authentic! Thanks for keepin’ it real!! 🙂

    If it helps, my mom bit her nails for 50 years and started using Jamberry nail wraps a few months ago and it did the trick! She was so excited she became a consultant and I got some for my 10yo daughter – it helped her quit biting her nails, too! Just an idea… 🙂

  • Rachael says:

    I have struggled w/ pulling out my hair during periods of anxiety & stress in my life since high school & have always been so ashamed. I thankfully have made a lot of progress in this area & it’s been a long time since it was really bad, but i always feel awkward about it b/c I often do it w/o even thinking about it. Thank you for being authentic, that is encouraging for me.

  • Ashley says:

    I am a nail biter too!
    I saw that picture of you and your friend and I never even noticed. You both looked so happy! It’s reassuring to know we all have imperfections- life is hard sometimes. If the worst we do on a given day is bite our nails I think that’s pretty good!

  • Stephanie says:

    I love your authenticity. Thanks for inspiring me to be open in my own relationships! I have always enjoyed your blog, but this post made me love you even more. Keep on! 🙂

  • Leanne says:

    Good for you Crystal for figuring it out! We are all people trying to make our way in this world. When you said “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.” I’m the same way. I recently had an issue that really bothered me and consumed a lot of emotional energy. I read your post and thought that’s it! So thank you for sharing. On another note, have you looked at essential oils for anxiety? I have read that there are some helpful EOs. Best of luck to you!

  • Cari says:

    I too am working on being more authentic and it is hard. It is hard to not beat ourselves up or take a comment that is not meant in a negative tone, as just a comment…

    I struggle with this daily.

  • Vanessa Covington says:

    I saw at least one other person who already suggested this, but I thought I would mention it also. I have found Jamberry nail wraps really help me keep my fingers away from my mouth. I’m always amazed at how much my nails grow in just a short time when I have them on.

  • Koren says:

    Hallelujah to being human and — gasp — showing that side of yourself online! I think our world would be a much more supportive place if we were all a little more honest about the daily struggles and difficulties we all face. Love your authenticity, Crystal. It’s one of the (many) reasons I keep coming back to your beautiful blog. xx

  • Rebecca says:

    Thank you for your honesty and willingness to acknowledge that you are human. I loved reading your posts, using your advice, and reposting things to my own facebook page. Now I love it even more. I do believe that I was meant to read about your struggle to help put my own into perspective. I love how God works.

  • Sissy Sweet says:

    You always amaze me and inspire me to do better. Thanks for being you, flaws and all. <3.

    I have many flaws too, the worst talking when some one isn't finished speaking. We are all imperfect in one way or another, because we're all human.

  • Tracy says:

    Thank you so much for being authentic!!!!!! It helps others in ways you can’t imagine.

  • Tasha says:

    Thanks for being real, Crystal. I like the posts about your personal life almost more than the couponing stuff. You are an inspiration to many women, including me. It is good to know that God can use us even though we are not perfect. I struggle with anxiety as well, and sometimes it feels hard to keep it all the demands of being a wife, working mother, homemaker, etc. I like reading about your life because I feel like if you can do it, so can I. Thank you for giving me encouragement every day.

  • Camille says:

    I am so thankful for your authenticity. It is easy to feel like I am the only one who struggles with trivial things like biting my nails 😉 I have recently started wearing Jamberry nails and that has been a HUGE help to keep me from biting! Thanks for all your posts, they are so encouraging to me!!

  • JOYce says:

    Crystal, others ~ read this in an email today and thought it may be of interest:

    Have a lovely day, all! 🙂

  • Eliana says:

    I would thank you forever if you post a remedy for this horrible habit that we have in common!

  • Jana M says:

    I bit my nails all my life, until I was 26 – I saw a photo of me with my baby and noticed what it was doing to my teeth. I quit cold turkey then. But nowadays it drives me crazy when my nails get long – I have to trim them!

  • Steph says:

    I just watched a Brene Brown video yesterday where she talks about being “in the arena” (quote from Roosevelt) and not having time for critics who are NOT “in the arena”, aka participating in life.

    I would highly recommend the 20 minutes it takes to watch the video.

  • Lyn says:

    Some people just have no filters. I’ll bet this poster never imagined that his/her comment would hurt your feelings. My SIL (husband’s sister) and my late MIL (husband’s mother) were like this. No filters. They just said what they thought with no time taken to think “is it nice” “is it necessary”. I know how you feel, though. When I was younger (I’m 55 now) I was VERY self-concious and a remark like this one would have hurt me too. As you age, you care less about what other people think! 🙂

  • Amy H. says:

    I’ve come to learn that feeling bad about something is not the same as feeling guilt or shame. Guilt and shame for me are reserved for when I have done something wrong (ie – sin). When I’m feeling bad about something I have to step back and ask myself “Is this something that is MY standard or the Lord’s?”. It has helped me keep perspective and process my own feelings of inadequacy in a more healthy way.

  • Sheri Hepworth says:

    The answer to the question “Do you bite your nails?” is “Yes.” And then, go on. It’s not the end of the world; don’t let comments like that (minor things) get under your skin. I am older than you are and a chronic nail-biter. I let it wash off my back when the obvious is pointed out. It’s not like I hadn’t noticed I bite my nails!! I’m sorry a silly observation like that bugged you so much. I see two pretty ladies smiling in a sweet photo. Didn’t even notice the short nails, to be honest.

  • Wendy Gentry, Blacksburg, VA says:

    Thank you for your heartfelt authenticity!!! I have used the same word to describe my battle: Shame. I started biting my nails after my father died in an airplane crash when I was 6 years old. And have spent my life hiding my hands between my legs when sitting and rushing to complete purchases as I know the customer service representative can see my hands.

    I have tried everything! Did you know there was a hypnosis app for nail biting? Well, there is! And yes, I am ridiculous and even tried it! I have also out nasty tasting coating on my hands. Nothing worked, not my mother’s comments, or my doctors warnings. Nothing. I consciously lived in my private world of shame.

    Early this spring, a friend invited me to a Jamberry nail wrap party. I had never heard of them but decided to join to support her. I found a light color that I felt would work for me. The first day I tried them out I was amazed!! And as the weeks passed by I realized that they worked!! My nails had become brittle and thin which I attribute to years of abuse. The wraps protect them and never tear. And I don’t touch them because there is a protective coating. In just two months my nails are longer and stronger. The wraps haven’t damaged my nails at all because I remove them with coconut oil.

    I have become so emotional about it, that it has even brought my husband to tears. He can see the change not only in my physical appearance, but in how I carry myself. Those who haven’t had this battle are likely to not understand how painful it is to live like this. If anyone would have asked me, I would have thought it completely ridiculous to cry about nail wraps or cry when reflecting on the pain that I have associated with this habit.

    I signed up to be a consultant for the company because I believed so much in the ability of the product. I am my biggest and only customer. LOL true!!!

    I encourage anyone battling nail biting to please consider Jamberry. They are affordable and easy to apply. Some of the styles are busier than others but there are many styles to consider.

    Again, if anyone would have asked me if I would have the guts to post about my shame on a public platform I would have meekly said “um, no thank you.” But you are an inspiration!!

    Thank you for your bravery!

    All the best,
    Wendy Gentry
    Blacksburg, VA

    • Janice Loveland-Grandi says:

      I was also going to post something about Jamberry nail wraps. I am 82 years old and have bitten my nails as far back as I can remember. My aunt even told me when I was young that she would buy me a Shirley Temple dress if I would quit biting my nails….never did get that dress!!!!! My niece put the Jamberry nails on me last year and I completely stopped biting my nails. Each time I started to bite I was reminded of what I was about to do. My nice long nails have been a tremendous boost to my peace of mind and ego.

      Best wishes
      Janice Loveland-Grandi
      Las Vegas, NV

      • Wendy Gentry, Blacksburg, VA says:

        Janice, thank you for the lovely reply! I am so happy you found peace and that Jamberries worked for you too. Your personal story shows that there is always time for us to change and find happiness in all the nooks and crannies of our lives!! I was very scared to post my comment earlier today. And sat for quite a long time just starting at the button. Thank you for your response. I know it will inspire others as well.

        I am sorry you didn’t get the Shirley Temple dress and have no doubt your aunt would be so proud of you!


  • Sarah says:

    I decided to invest in your Makeover Your Mornings series. When I watched the very first video, I right away noticed your red nail polish and very short nails and immediately thought, “she bites her nails – just like I do, but she isn’t embarrassed by it like I am”. Embarrassed by my bad habit, I have never painted my nails any color other than clear or very light pink. I have quit biting my nails many times, but it never lasts long – I think they’ve made it to the tips of my fingers once or twice in my lifetime. Seeing your nails helps me to realize we all have things we aren’t happy with about ourselves, but that we can love ourselves in spite of it. I’m so thankful you had the courage to be bold, because it gives me courage too! (I’m loving the Makeover Your Mornings series by the way. Thanks!)

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