“FOMO is the ‘fear of missing out’ and maybe it sounds like something reserved for kids in grade school, but it extends beyond social events. It is the creeping fear that you should be somewhere else, which can lead you to miss where you are right now.” ~ Gabby Bernstein, Intent Blog
You may have heard of the colloquial term FOMO, also known as the ‘fear of missing out’, used to describe the apprehension that one is missing out on an connection, experience, material possession, opportunity, etc. I thought this was an acronym created for social media use, but as it turns out it, it was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013. In Eric Barker’s TIME article, This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out, he quotes a definition from another article Motivational, Emotional, and Behavioral Correlates of Fear of Missing Out as:
“…‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’. Under this framing of FoMO, nearly three quarters of young adults reported they experienced the phenomenon.”
The term FOMO, which I initially thought was “cutsie” and relevant for the millennial generation, is in fact pervasive throughout our society as a whole. Not being invited to a party, missing out on a career opportunity, envying a friend’s home, are all tangibly relevant to adulthood. Unfortunately, FOMO is problematic for our emotional well-being. If we live in a state of fear or regret, we are not living in the present and are likely far too concerned with comparisons.
In Eric Barker’s TIME article, he also refers to the “Facebook Illusion”. As the name implies, Facebook posts often show the best of someone’s life, not the overall reality. He goes on to say that, “After controlling for the possibility of reverse causality, our results suggest that (Social Network Site) users have a higher probability to compare their achievements with those of others.”
And we all know that “comparison is the thief of joy”.
How do we overcome FOMO?
1) Embrace “NO” – This has been a theme I have bumped into a lot lately and for good reason. Jonathan Fields from the Good Life Project and the author of How to Live a Good Life, was interviewed on a couple of podcasts I listened to recently and he says “it is time to start practicing the art of the loving but firm no”. He says everything suffers if we say ‘yes’ to things that aren’t meaningful to us and it also takes us away from the relationships that mean the most to us. Although it is nice to feel valued and sought after, saying ‘yes’ to many requests is not being true to what matters most to us. I have talked about the art of saying ‘no’ in a previous post, How to Politely Decline – The Art of Saying ‘No’. This is a practice for most of us, but one worth the time.
2) Be present – As we mentioned, if we are in FOMO mode, we are not living in the present moment. Living in the past or future, or land of ‘what ifs’, is a direct path to feeling unhappy. If you have declined an offer and you are thinking about it when it is taking place, I encourage you to really reflect on whether it would have made a difference in your life? If social media is flooded with reminders that you are not involved, it might be a great time to take a break from devices. People usually lean toward over-valuing or exaggerating something they were involved in. Most of us tend to hang onto positive memories, Why Does the Past Seem Happy?, making something seem better than it was. How often have you asked someone, “How was your trip?”, and their reply was “awesome”. Only when the details get dissected does the true reality come into focus.
3) Be grateful – In his article mentioned above, Barker outlines that gratitude is essential and he is absolutely right! When we are in a place of gratitude for what we do have, we can’t simultaneously fear we are missing out on something better. Practicing gratitude should be a daily practice – it is highly correlated with happiness and positive emotions. I have mentioned this many times in previous posts, including Prescription for Unhappiness – Dose of Gratitude, and have been really working on fitting in my daily practice of gratitude. For me, bedtime seems to be the answer, I tell myself 3 things from the day I am grateful for. Journal entries have also been effective as well, but I do not tend to write them on a daily basis. As with anything, you need to find what works best for you.
4) Be aware – Self-awareness is the primary aspect of emotional intelligence. It requires us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviours, and in turn, fosters the important attribute of self-regulation. It is okay to feel left out if we know why. When we realize it is related to comparisons, whether it be to either an untrue reality or our ego, it is easier to let go of FOMO and live our own life.
Can you think of the last time you felt FOMO? Does the lack of it really matter in your life today?