16. Nail biting

Father and daughter.
3 min readDec 7, 2020

I bite my nails. Always have, except for short periods when I did not. Usually, periods when my levels of anxiety were low.

Anxiety is not what you see in cheap movies. You do not move frantically and have a lost look in your eyes. You do not start shaking and act as if you had lost control. Anxiety, as I feel it, is a state of mind, a perspective towards life driven mostly by some type of doubt that gets hooked in your brain and results in thoughts of fear and despair, at different degrees.

You can lead an apparently normal life and people might not even notice that you are actually anxious unless a certain situation triggers a reaction that is not completely average or expected. If things stay quiet, and inconvenience or problems come one at a time, you are in general able to cope with it, even if anxiety makes it more challenging.

You learn to cope with it and develop certain mechanisms to do so. All the time and effort you dedicate to develop such mechanisms is a time of quality you lost in your life. It is important that people understand this. You cope with it, but although the result may seem quite normal unless you have an anxiety attack in a public space and need to lay down in the middle of a bank, supermarket, or wherever. If this does not happen, people will not notice.

Biting my nails is probably one of the collateral damage of anxiety, and it is a very visual one. People do not like it. Over the years, signs of uncertainty or insecurity that are not under control are seen as a weakness. Society is becoming a very judgmental place, and it makes the life of the people who are not 24/7 super confident and secure quite difficult. That is the life of the majority of human beings. But because we live in such a cosmetic society, we do not only despise other people’s weaknesses, we also neglect our own’s.

I see my daughter is pulling her lips very often. It seems to be a nervous tick. She is making an effort to control it, but it does not seem to be working. It is not getting better, but she tries. To be honest, I do not really know how to help her, besides telling her words that might help, but definitely not being able to help her with my example, which would be powerful. My example is not a good one. She knows I sometimes bite my nails, I know she knows. So I keep telling her to try not to pull her lips, to try to do something different, less harming to herself, while I hope she will feel less nervous and more confident and at ease, and the nervous tick will fade away. At least this is my hope.

Often, as a father, I think of myself, my virtues and my flaws, and wonder how much can I really actually avoid bringing to my daughter, and how much is just a genetic correspondence from me to her. Due to my not so high levels of self-esteem, this worries me often. I try to think of her mother, since she is much more resilient than I am, and I hope my daughter will be able to take after her in terms of resilience.

As I write, I am trying not to bite my nails. I feel though, that too many things in me require a constant effort, an effort that spans through decades now. Does it make much sense to keep fighting to become who you would like to be? I think it is about time to be who I am, accept it, and live through it. It will be a relief and a great example for my daughter. It is not about giving up or stop trying to be nice and decent. It is actually about starting finally to be nice and decent to myself.

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Father and daughter.

Stay-at-home ex-pat father, following his wife work-post after work-post, struggling with parenting far from friends and family. And the son of divorced parents