What is FOMO? And How Do We Overcome the Fear Of Missing Out?
Are you unable to say “no” to a party invitation - even if you have some work to do? Or have you ever come across a picture on Instagram that your friend has posted while on vacation and you desperately wish you were there with them instead of at your 9-5 job that you're not passionate about?
Those are examples of FOMO - the Fear Of Missing Out. When I Google FOMO - I come up with "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website."
With this definition, we can see it's more a fear about the possibility of NOT having something rather than about HAVING what we truly want. It's a scarcity mindset - one with an energetic sense of lack.
But how does one develop FOMO?
A lot of people blame social media for FOMO. However, I personally am not one to vilify social media. FOMO has been around way before social media even existed. I actually think it's wonderful how technology now allows us to instantly communicate with people from all over the world. It's what allows me to connect with you right now.
But what I feel social media has done is bring to light that FOMO - this anxiety - has always existed. Social media has just allowed us to see more quickly the things that other people have or are experiencing (even if they're fake!). This can bring about feelings of envy or wanting to "keep up with the Joneses."
Because of this, some people believe that FOMO is actually a type of social anxiety. Social anxiety can be about more than just shyness. It's also about whenever we feel self-conscious out of fear of being judged by others. And if we determine our self-worth and self-esteem based on comparing our lives to what we see on social media or elsewhere, it can lead to self-judgement and feelings of inadequacy.
These feelings can often be instilled during childhood and our formative years. Especially if parents or early caregivers, like family members or teachers, weren't capable of loving and nurturing the uniqueness and authenticity of a child. Instead, the child may have felt "forced" to behave in certain acceptable ways - and that there would be negative consequences like shame or disapproval if he or she was unable or unwilling to comply.
As a result, the child developed a fear of disappointing others - and learned to conform to the desires of others, because this became critical in order for them to feel loved and accepted.
So instead of relying on their own inner guidance to know what felt good and in alignment for themselves, they learned to defer to other people's wants and needs to avoid negative consequences.
Therefore the child becomes disempowered from creating a life that feels good to them and can begin to lose touch with their intuition. This fosters a sense of powerlessness - and that fun and rewarding experiences are actually just passing opportunities outside of their control. They feel like they only come by chance or at the whim of others or factors external to themselves.
This disconnection from intuition can lead to a lack of self-trust. For example, when presented with 2 different opportunities or experiences, people with FOMO struggle with indecision. They will typically do what is expected of them - out of obligation - and not necessarily what they feel would be the more enriching experience.
Again, they do this out of the fear of negative consequences like shame or disapproval they've been trying to avoid since childhood - so that they can feel loved and accepted. They have a strong fear of disappointing people and not being included.
So what happens is that they have a fear of choosing between experiences. If they choose what they feel is expected of them out of obligation - they fear they will be missing out on another experience that may be more fun or more rewarding. And if they choose an experience that they perceive to be more fun and rewarding (which often can be just a projection) - they fear they won't be loved and accepted by whomever was offering the first opportunity. So to them, it feels like a "no win" situation.
As such, people with FOMO often lead very busy lives. They may go from one engagement to the next - trying their best not to ever miss out on anything or disappoint others. Obviously, this anxious lifestyle is very hard to sustain long-term and many people with FOMO experience burnout at some point in their lives…which often forces them to slow down.
If you experience the fear of missing out often - there's probably aspects of your life that you're not very satisfied or happy with right now.
So how can you overcome FOMO?
The key is to focus on working on yourself. Try to understand where your FOMO is coming from. Try to identify the root of what's causing this anxiety in the first place.
Are you afraid that you won't be loved or that you won't be included in future opportunities if you don't participate in a current one? We often create stories in our mind that are simply not true or based on fears instilled in us during childhood.
But if someone is intentionally withdrawing or making you feel guilty and purposely not including you in future experiences - it's good to be aware that their love and connection is conditional and that they aren't truly accepting you in the first place. So it's a good way to gain some perspective on how much you may be living your life out of obligation.
It's also helpful to remind ourselves that it isn't humanly possible to be everywhere and to do everything. And not only that - it's important to acknowledge to ourselves that the pursuit of that isn't making us happier or solving the problem.
Ultimately, people that don't have FOMO like what they have in life. They feel fulfilled and are fully present in the activities and experiences they choose. They aren't focusing on what they could be doing or what they could have instead.
This would indicate they're living from a lack and scarcity mindset. Instead, they feel empowered to create a life that they love that feels good to them and they see themselves as the creator of opportunities.
Here are 4 things to focus on when trying to understand and overcome FOMO:
- KNOW THYSELF. Self-awareness is key. Know what you want and what your values are. Not what someone else or society wants for you. For example, if you know without a shadow of a doubt that you want to make that side hustle into your main gig and quit that corporate job you hate - you will not feel like you're missing out on anything if you have to forego that party on a Friday night just so you can make progress on that business you're trying to build.
- BUILD SELF-CONFIDENCE. Even when you know what you want, it takes confidence to show up in the world authentically and be able to express yourself with integrity and set boundaries with others.
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS. It's not anyone else's job but your own to make yourself happy. Try to attract compatible people into your life - with similar values and needs as your own. That way you won't feel the need to fit into someone else's idealized version of you. How do you do this? See steps 1 and 2.
- PRACTICE GRATITUDE. When you take the time to appreciate all the things you have in your life, you understand you don't really need more than you have. What you do need is to change your mindset and focus on your happiness instead of others. And to be clear, practicing gratitude for what you have now isn't the same thing as complacency. You can be grateful for all that you have now and still want to grow and improve your life.