FOMO – anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. The ‘fear of missing out’
I am definitely a lifelong FOMO sufferer. It started when I was fairly young and has only gotten worse over the years with easy access to other peoples best moments plastered all over the Internet. That combined with my ticking biological clock and the feeling of urgency to have my ‘shit together’ and life planned out – the experiences I’m dying to have and are fearful of missing out on are a weight on my mind.
Part of me thinks this stems from being a bit of a perfectionist. A lazy one, but one none-the-less. I have a need to have everything just right (right as I see it) – whether it’s the right haircut, the perfect present for a friend, a fun-filled enviable trip, the most interesting blog post, right down to how my kitchen cupboards are stacked (I’m a little neurotic). Life being what it is, not everything goes to plan and not everything is perfect. And although I know there’s beauty in it’s imperfections, it still always hits a nerve.
So when I’m not the ‘first’ to do something, or somebody else did it better, my neurosis takes over and the anxiety levels rise. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely become better at handling these situations. There aren’t any temper tantrums, (hardly) any tears and the envy is all but gone (because envy is an ugly, ugly thing). But the FOMO still hangs on, lingering in the darkest pits of my stomach and niggling at the back of my mind.
For example, I had planned an exciting trip to Mexico this year. I’d managed to lock down a pretty special place to stay that I’d had my eye on for some time and I was going to experience it all with my little sister (this would be her first big overseas trip, so also a bit of a milestone to share with her). Due to some circumstances that have arisen, that trip is no longer on the cards, so there is definitely a level of disappointment there. But what’s worse than the disappointment is seeing other people I know in Mexico or planning to go and that’s when the FOMO kicks in hard!
Travel is probably one of the things that leads to FOMO the most (at least for me anyway – experiences always outweigh material possessions). There are so, so many beautiful and exciting places to visit and things to see in this world and in reality, it really is too much for just one person to see (without an enormous amount of sacrifice). That reality is still a little unclear to me – I still secretly (or now not so secretly) believe I’ll get to see it all. Dream big right??
For obvious reasons (sanity, happiness and appreciation) FOMO can really get in the way of you living your life. What’s the point in spending so much time caught up on what other people are doing and what you’re not? I know from experience that it can be a pretty miserable way to spend your time. So how do you fix it? What’s the cure? I’m not sure there’s anything that can cure a bad case of FOMO 100% but there are a few things you can do to lessen the sting and turn it around and they’re things I’ve been practicing lately (hoping to one day perfect…)
Talk to someone
FOMO usually comes down to getting way too caught up in a moment and up in your own head. Talking to somebody about how you’re feeling is almost always a sure fire way of bringing you back down to earth. Those closest to you will always be able to remind you how fantastic your own life is or offer words of encouragement to go and find your own moment!
‘But did you die?’
(Hangover II quote for those playing at home) If you’re healthy and happy, think about how much impact missing out is really having on your life. A lot of the time, you’re no worse off! But if it is big enough, put your head down and come up with a plan to get there/do that/see it for yourself. It won’t happen right away, but when you do get to experience it, you’ll feel proud for following through and FOMO will no longer hold meaning over that memory or place.
Chose inspiration over frustration
Deciding to be inspired by other peoples memories, stories and pictures rather than getting frustrated and anxious is a step that definitely needs work. But if you practice it regularly it starts to become habit, as with anything, and soon those smiling faces, unique spaces and exciting tales are a source of encouragement and motivation for you.
Create a space for your own memories
Creating a scrapbook photo album, keeping a box full of trinkets from your travels, a ‘thankful’ diary or even keeping a blog are great ways for you to look back on your own experiences and realise just how lucky you’ve been to have had them. A little thing you might know as gratitude.
These days we fill up nearly all of our spare time and it can be a rare thing to have a moment for ourselves to sit down and take it all in. So every now and then, turn off the distractions and take some time to eat that meal, make love, have a long conversation or get lost in a good book. This step definitely works in your best interest, and can leave you feeling relaxed, content and inspired.
Learn to Say No
Although this may seem counterproductive, learning to say no to some things frees up some of your precious time to devote towards things you know you really want. Doing it all isn’t necessarily what’s best – it’s the special moments and unique experiences that tend to mean the most. Go for quality over quantity.
Focus on the Experience
A feeling of accomplishment, adventure, connection, fun or freedom. It’s the feelings or things we gain from something rather than what it symbolises. Getting too caught up on symbols – the fast car, new home or five star resort – are what tends to lead to envy which can lead to an even uglier feeling of resentment. Actively choosing to focus on things that go deeper than just pleasure, but are instead fulfilling and soul nourishing, is the key!
Be okay with not having it all
I once read something that struck a chord with me: Needs are limited. Desires are endless. Trying to fulfil every wish and desire we have can be a never-ending, exhaustive (and sometimes costly) process and with the focus so heavily on what we want, we can forget about and neglect what we actually need. Love, nourishment, a roof over our heads and good people to share things with are staples. Anything else is the icing on the cake!
Don’t play the Game
Know that FOMO is an unwinnable game, even for the people that gave you such a hard case of it! Not only is it physically impossible for one person to be everywhere and see it all, it’s also draining (sweat, tears and cash). So instead of getting caught up in the rules, decide sit this one out. It’s much more fun when you decide not to play.