Whenever my friends are, say, getting lunch or making beach plans or even chatting without me, I can’t help but wonder what I’m missing out on. When my family is getting together without me, I can’t help but wish I was there and picture all the good times I’m not experiencing. Whenever anybody I love is doing something that I can’t attend, I am overtaken by the strongest FOMO (or fear of missing out for those who aren’t hip to the lingo just yet). It’s FOMO over here, FOMO over there, FOMO everywhere. And while it seemed as if this was just a piece of slang and weird trend I was buying into, I knew that there was something very real and powerful behind it.
FOMO (or the fear of missing out) has seemed to crash land into the center of everyone’s lives as of late. But actually, FOMO—or at least the essence behind it—has affected people long before you and I even existed. It’s in our biology. The psychology behind FOMO is explained mostly by loss aversion: the tendency to want and work to avoid any losses, which affect people twice as much as gains do. Basically, we’re human and that means we don’t like to miss out on anything. But another part of being human is the inability to be in two or more places at once. So, FOMO is pretty unavoidable for many. For example, you’ve been invited to catch up with some old friends from college, but your work friends are planning something for the very same night. Which do you choose? It’s a tough one. And will most likely result in FOMO either way, as you’ll been thinking about what the other group is doing and wishing you could be there too.
FOMO Should Really Stand for: Fear of Many Overdrafts
FOMO also affects another aspect of our lives, which many don’t consider or even realize: our bank accounts. People experience FOMO when they’re shopping or making big purchases. How so? Consider this: you’ve finally saved enough money to buy a house for your family. However, the real estate agent accidentally shows you a few houses that are completely out of your budget. You experience FOMO on these high-end houses that you now wish you could afford because you’ve envisioned what it would be like to live in them. In some instances, you might even make a purchase (probably on a smaller scale) that you realistically can’t afford and burn a serious hole in your wallet. Moral of the story, don’t set yourself up for failure or for FOMO when it comes to making small or large purchases: look at the cheaper options first and probably stop there.
The Fated FOMO Sufferers
While many of us can admit to having FOMO at some point in our lives, there are actually certain individuals who are more at risk of experiencing the phenomenon or who feel its effects more deeply: maximizers or those who are always looking to get the best out of a given situation. Maximizers dedicate a lot more time and energy into making a decision than most people do. They’re also typically anxious about whether or not they’re making the right choice and can spiral into regret and depression because of it. A prime example of a maximizer is, well, me. I always thought I was simply indecisive, but it turns out that’s just a piece of the puzzle. I’m always examining every option and really dedicating my efforts to making the best possible choice. This explains why I experience FOMO so often and so heavily. I need to stop striving for perfection and accept good enough instead. If you’re a maximizer like me, it helps to focus on being grateful for the good, rather than focusing on regret or disappointment when it comes to making a decision.
The Fight Against the Fear
While FOMO is very real and very prevalent, it doesn’t have to go unmatched. You can follow these tips to better deal with feelings of FOMO and get your life back:
- Be mindful. Oftentimes, we’re really not missing out on much. We have this tendency of picturing everyone having a great time without us, when in reality it’s just another day.
- Prioritize meaningful relationships and activities. When you’re stuck between plans, it can help to prioritize people as well as activities that you care a lot about. Do what you really want to do, rather than giving into the fear of missing out on something else.
- Accept that you can’t have it all. The truth of the matter is we can’t have it all. The sooner you accept this, the easier it will be to brush off the FOMO.
- Live in the moment. Appreciate the moment that you’re in right now. Don’t focus on what you might be missing out on or a decision you have to make in the future. Live in the here and now.
- Be grateful. Recognize how lucky you are: if you have the opportunity to experience FOMO you must have some pretty awesome people in your life and a pretty awesome life in general. So be grateful for that.