Sunday, 21 February 2016

Bonnie's Helpful Guide to Overcoming a Bad Habit

I've finally broken the bad habit that has been the bane of my entire existence.
I have stopped biting my fingernails.

Perhaps not permanently, mind you. I mean, if no scissors are handy and there's an annoying bit coming off then I might just bite it off. But I've got to the point where I'm not obsessive about biting them right down. And I'm so thankful of that! It's the resolution I make every year - to stop biting my nails - and have always, so far, failed.

I've tried countless times before. Clear nail polish, sticking plasters over the nails, sheer willpower, you name it. But something about the summer of 2016 was just right for breaking this habit and so I set out on my mission (not completely sure this try was going to be any different than the others!).

I painted my nails with clear nail polish (it wasn't coloured because I hate drawing attention to my short, stubby, bitten fingernails). I then re-applied it religiously when it threatened to chip off. And so my battle began.

After about two days it was REALLY annoying. I found myself touching the ends of my nails with my fingertips all the time. It felt weird to have the ends of my nails so long. It felt odd. It just wasn't right. But I stuck it. And they grew.

Slowly, sure. But they grew.
After a few weeks they got to the point where it felt different to play the violin because the nails on my left hand fingers were now long enough to interfere with my vibrato technique.

So I don't think I can let them grow much more.

But I've got to the point where I no longer bite my nails while reading a book. I can bring my fingers up to my face and take them away again. The urge is no longer there.

I think it's safe to say I've beaten the habit.

So how did I do it?

If you're like me, you find it EXTREMELY hard to overcome a bad habit. I've been trying to stop biting my nails for years. Ever since I can remember, in fact.

I've heard it takes three days to form a habit and three weeks to get rid of one.

Whether those exact numbers are true or not, the numbers are similar anyway. Breaking a habit takes more perseverance, willpower and energy than making a habit does.

So how do you break a bad habit? How did I do it?

I'm not an expert. All I've done is broken one habit that's plagued my existence. (Actually, two- when I was about eight I stopped sucking my thumb. Maybe I am an expert. :P)
But I'm sure we've all got bad habits that could do with a bit of breaking, so if you are interested, read on for my (hopefully) helpful guide to overcoming a bad habit, drawn out of my experiences.

1. Make sure breaking the habit is something you REALLY want to do.
Bad habits hold you in a vice like grip. So much so that you have to be pretty persistent to break free. You've got to really want to. If you're lukewarm or don't see the point of breaking it, don't even bother.

2. Set standards in place that will help you in your habit-breaking journey.
Tell some people about your goals. They can encourage you and hold you up to what you've started out to do. Try different methods for breaking your habit. Things like not just trying to remember to keep your fingers out of your mouth, but putting nail polish on so the nails taste awful. Do things. The more boundaries and standards you have in place before you begin, the easier you will find it.

3. Actually START.
There is no point in spending all day planning the habit breaking. There's nothing quite like actually starting. There's no day like today, no time like right now!

4. Reward the little triumphs.
Appreciate when you've come somewhere. Maybe you're two days into your challenge. Maybe you're two hours into it. Give yourself chocolate and celebrate your accomplishment. Motivation can be easily lost, especially when the going's hard, so keep at it and recognise some milestones.

5. Be strict on yourself.
Don't say to yourself, "Oh, I'll just ---- once". No, you will not bite your nails once, you will not give in to your temptation once. You were doing so well! Keep it up. Once you succumb once, the complete give in is just around the corner. Be a bit strict on yourself and realise that it's the only way you're going to break this habit. If it works for you, use punishments. Donate money when you slip up. Do fifty press-ups. Whatever works.

6. Follow it through! Don't lose motivation!
The most dangerous time for giving into temptation for me was about a week into it. My nails were annoyingly long, I was close to giving in. But remember why you're doing it. (Go back to your reasons in step 1.) Celebrate how far you've come and DON'T GIVE UP!! :) You can do it!

7. Recognise a victory and celebrate it.
Okay, it's four weeks after you've made your commitment and you're finding it a bit easier now. If you reckon you've actually broken this habit, maybe you have! Celebrate it and be happy! You did it. Don't keep trying ridiculously hard for another year. Maybe you're just as far from biting your nails now as you will be in three years time!

8. Stay on top of your victory once you are victorious.
When you've recognised your victory and broken your habit, don't casually slip back into your habit as time passes. Stay on top of it. You did all that hard work to get here - why go backwards? Do you really want all that hard stuff again?! Keep remembering where you've come from and why you did it.

 Look what this is - me wearing coloured nail polish for the first time in my entire life! For some reason it was really exciting. My nails have always been so short I never liked polishing them and so drawing attention to them. Pink sparkly nail polish to celebrate was definitely a good choice.

Hope you found that helpful! :) Have you ever broken a major bad habit?
post signature


  1. Hi Bonnie,
    I am working on breaking one - I uninstalled Facebook on my phone about a week after I installed it, which was a very good thing to do... (and no, I haven't left Facebook altogether (yet) - just trying to use it less).
    Speaking of nail polish, I don't often paint mine, although I've painted numerous (like 30+) five & six (& maybe a few 7) yearold's nails @ work, (5 year-olds have really small nails so it pretty much goes everywhere but...which will explain the random colours on my work jeans & jacket...) so I have only ever had trouble with nail polish...
    Laura :)

    1. Wow, good on you!! The app just makes it so much easier to waste time I find...
      I bet you've painted a heap of nails. It's so much fun (albeit a bit scary haha) painting the nails of others!
      Thanks for commenting Laura!

  2. I just got over biting my nails, which was a HUGE victory!!! I sucked on them until I was 7, then broke that habit, and started biting them!:l not good.
    Now the hard part is,learning to live with long nails! It dreadful!

    1. Yay!!! Biting nails is such a bad habit. And SO hard to break. All the best for learning to live with long nails! It's hard. You can do it.

  3. Hello :D I've nominated you for the Liebster Award if you would like to do it ;)

    1. Hi Michaila! Thank you for the tag. I will take part, my post will be up soonish.
      Have a fantastical day

  4. I've never been able to picture biting through my nails, maybe it's the thickness plus my teeth don't line up neatly. I did ask a question on Reddit about it though!

    1. I think it's something you start doing younger. Most of my siblings can't fathom nail biting either!
      Scrolling through those answers to your question was interesting. Lots of different people.

  5. I don't bite them but I sometimes pick them. But I hardly do it now.

  6. All through reading your post I was guiltily biting my nails. When I got to the part about saying "Just this once..." I whipped my hand away and thought, "Guilty as charged." I can't count how many times I've tried to get over that nasty habit....but you've given me new inspiration! Here I go again; thank you for your helpful post!
    :) Rachel

    1. "guiltily biting my nails" - dear Rachel, my post wasn't meant to convict you!! I'm glad you felt inspired though. I had never been able to give it up and I managed to. It's funny how sometimes we can do things we never thought possible. And it often takes something really small. I couldn't do it... until this year. Don't worry if you can't. Pray, and ask the Lord to help you. The time will come when you can overcome the habit. Best wishes.


Join the conversation!