I don’t usually doubt my own feelings about what’s good for me, but…

For some reason today I ran across a whole bunch of different people talking about nail-biting and hair-pulling and lip-biting and so forth, and how they struggle with them and are trying to stop.  And it’s making me start to doubt my usual confidence that the things I do aren’t bad for me.

These are the things that I do:

  • My fingers callus very easily, and then peel.  Having bits of skin sticking up on my fingertips is uncomfortable, so I peel off the dead skin.
  • When I get dry, dead skin on my lips, I sometimes bite it and peel it off.
  • I get a lot of ingrown hairs on my legs.  Rarely (because I rarely sit around with my legs uncovered) I use tweezers to pull them out.

Basically what I’m wondering is, what makes the difference between a good coping mechanism and a bad coping mechanism?  Because it’s true that organizing things, fixing things, and doing simple, repetitive work helps me calm down when I’m stressed.  But I don’t consciously do these things because of stress, although I do sort of enjoy them in that way?  When I think to myself “I’m stressed and I can’t focus, I need to do something to calm down,” I usually wash dishes, or fold laundry, or play some warm-ups over and over.  I pick at things because they’re there and I’m bored, or because they’re physically irritating me in some way.  Also, I can decide not to.  I can deal with the irritation if I need to.

I’m not a big fan of the idea that these things are obviously bad because they’re hurting myself or causing myself pain.  I like pain in some circumstances, and I voluntarily let other people cause me pain, so obviously I don’t think that everything that’s painful is harmful.  And anyway, the things that I do don’t usually hurt.  They never hurt bad enough to actually make me feel bad, like I really want it to stop.  (Sometime I should try to find a good way to explain the difference I feel between “this isn’t actually pain,” “this hurts but not bad enough to be important,” and “this is bad, make it go away!”)

So what I have is this: I don’t think what I’m doing is actually harmful– I don’t think it’s physically bad for me in a way that means I should stop.  And I don’t think it’s coming from a bad emotional place.  So why does it seem like things like this are always classified as bad every time I hear about them?

An extra note: I welcome comments on this, because I really am doubting my own logic a bit and I’m curious about other people’s perspectives on this.  But please keep in mind that you’re telling me about your experiences and/or your opinion, not delivering a verdict from on high.  I really hate that.

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