How to break a habit: first, admit it

Shaking off denial is a necessary preliminary. Admitting, for example, how badly I now pick my toenails. Yep. My toenails

Illustration painting print drawing: toenails, toes, feet and decking

Toenails. That bad habit needs nailing! Laura Eades 2014

Own up. Don’t worry, your bad habit probably isn’t as weird as this one of mine!

This is like the bit of the private and confidential meeting of Woenails Anonymous where I say, ‘My name’s Laura and I’m a toepickaholic’. I think if this meeting really existed, there would probably be only a couple of members worldwide. My ability to develop bad habits never fails to astonish me.

Look at your habit straight in the eye (cuticle?) and feel its grip. Its pull. Its might. (Big, annoying habit. Feels bigger than me right now).

Stand on the edge and see how deep is the well of temptation. (I love picking. I loooove picking. Ripping. Snagging. I want to pick. Yet, it seems, the price is an absence of toenails).

Shrug and accept your own responsibility

Purse your lips, nod slowly and knowingly, like a farmer who’s been asked directions by a wanderer. Mmm hmm. This is the place, yes. This is where you are. (With picked and missing toenails).

Knowing without shame that you got to this point yourself. Your own responsibility. Stuff happened, and you chose to do it this way. (Like, you gave up nailbiting, and became a toepicker. That was a mistake).

Just look at it. (Look at them. My feet). Make them present in your conscious. (But they are so often out of sight).

Sigh. But I don’t know how to fix it.

It’s the definition of depression, knowing that change is needed, but not knowing how to bring it about. But the good news is: knowing it’s needed, admitting it’s needed, is a step further forward than you were before!

Use your curiosity to beat any self-flagellation. 

Describe it to yourself. What exactly do you do? (I tear at the edges, the corners, of the nail with my fingernails, searching for a snag that I can pull downwards in a strip. Then I peel it down to the root. Then I wiggle it, painfully, until I can pull it out from the actual nailbed. Wiggling takes time and determination. Hours).

Describe it some more. (I pick the skin around the sides, I peel away the skin as it’s hardened through healing, I tear the tops off the nails if they get too long…)

When do you do it? Who with? What triggers it? 

This is DATA! Data is gonna be really valuable to you. Looking at it is absurd, I know. But you need to make all the unconscious things conscious.

Watching tv. Reading. When my hands are unoccupied. When I’m sitting. In the house. When I’m tired. When I’m in bed. When I’m alone. In Summer, in sandals. In winter, in front of a box set.

Observe it with your curiosity

Just by watching it for a bit, without even trying to change it, you are already changing it.

Change is coming…

More about that later. One step at a time with habits, my friends. Small steps.

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Got a freaky habit you wanna change? Willing to fess up? Click on the pale grey dot with a plus sign under this blogpost to open the comment thread.

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