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.