It’s been said that biting your nails is a nervous habit. When my oldest son is biting his nails, that usually means he’s anxious about something. When I was a little girl, I bit my nails and I’m not sure what I would have been nervous about back then. Bitten nails completely gross me out now and I can’t believe I ever did it, but things didn’t start to change until I was in the second grade.
In grade 2, Mrs. M. was my teacher. She was a lovely woman and for some reason that I can’t recall, Mrs. M. encouraged me to stop biting my fingernails. I’m sure there are few teachers in 2020 who would add this to the list of things to work on with students, but for some reason, Mrs. M. encouraged me to stop.
After some period of time I can no longer recall, Mrs. M. gave me a “prize” for stopping this gross habit. She gave me a silver necklace that was dainty with a turquoise blue stone. I was proud to wear it because my teacher gave it to me.
After a while, I must not have been motivated enough to continue not biting my nails because I started again. And Mrs. M. took my necklace away. She didn’t give it back until I stopped again. I was embarrassed. I ended up embracing nail polish and painting my nails. Pretty colors on my fingertips made me never want to bite again. I didn’t constantly keep my nails painted, but I always loved when they were done. My mom started going to the nail salon regularly before anyone really knew what acrylic nails were and I remember manicures were only $5 back then. They were the most luxurious indulgence for my middle school aged self and I always loved when I could get a mani when she got her nails filled.
As much as I loved getting my nails done, I never regularly got professional manis and pedis until my late 30s. I went for special occasions, but never regularly until later.
When I started working full-time five years ago after many years as a stay-at-home mom, I started going to the salon more regularly. I found a salon I love and got monthly pedicures at the very least and, for the most part, at least one manicure a month, although there was a time period where I was doing gel polish every two weeks. More so because of time, my regular trips to the salon started to really slow down about 12-18 months ago. I stopped wanting to spend so much time in a salon. It was becoming a chore instead of something I enjoyed. I had my last salon pedi in November and my last mani in early March.
And then the pandemic hit. Crap—I had to figure out how to deal with my covered up Shrek feet before the spring and I hate dealing with my own feet. But I’ll tell you one more thing—I might not bite my nails, but I’ve been known to pick at my cuticles and if you see my cuticles picked at and ragged, know that I must be in a stressful place because that’s a nervous habit that creeps up during stressful times. I had to figure out managing my stress—packing and selling a house during a pandemic isn’t easy—and my cuticles paid the price for a while.
As I found ways to manage this stressful time, I bought some polish and tools and packed some patience to do my own again.
And you know what? With planning, practice and patience, I kind of like doing my own nails again. It forces me to sit still after dinner and relax once a week or so. It is saving me money and it’s changing the way I look at taking care of my nails as “self-care”. I always looked at the professional services as self-care, and while they are, just the act of taking a bit of time for me, consciously working on not picking at my cuticles and taking my time and money into consideration are all other ways I look at self-care. My other big realization—one that’s taken years to figure out—it doesn’t have to be perfect. A DIY mani/pedi is good enough. It’s not like my DIY job looks like a toddler painted my nails. I do a decent enough job…and that’s ok. Self-care doesn’t have to be perfect and how you practice it can evolve over time. Just do something for you!
Do what works, when it works, but most importantly, take care of yourself!