When I was a kid, I went 100 mph non-stop. It was very seldom that I would take a break to catch my breath. Personally, I think some of that had to do with my asthma diagnosis—I would not let that slow me down; I wanted to prove that I could keep up with my peers. I did the obvious by going to school, but I participated in countless extracurriculars that kept me extremely busy. Looking back at it now, it seemed to prepare me for my current lifestyle.
Now, almost 60, I work as a therapist, journalist, minister, editor, teacher, speaker and facilitator. On top of all those things, I volunteer and have a beautiful social life where I spend time with family and friends. There are days where I feel like the wild child I once was with serious FOMO (fear of missing out).
In a study called “Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out,” FOMO is defined as: “A pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”
Social media is a great tool used to keep people connected with others and the world around them. However, if not utilized correctly, social media can create added anxiety if someone doesn’t feel like their life is as fulfilling as the lives of those they follow. Comparing your life to others on social media can be tough. You can never be sure whether the way one portrays themselves is an accurate depiction of their life, or if they’re trying to present a falsified version. This can tie into the concept of impostor syndrome in which one believes that no matter how successful they are by worldly standards, they’ll be discovered as the emperor/empress who has no clothes. This could cause someone to embellish their profile to increase one’s envy of their “exciting life.”
When people spend the day constantly checking social media to see who has responded to their posts and who has the most “likes” on their photo, it has the ability to distract them from fully living life in the present. Comparison and judgment are two common causes of this behavior. When you live your life comparing yourself to others, you start to feel as if you aren’t enough.
Have you ever heard of the famous Woodstock emcee/clown Wavy Gravy? He created the phrase, “We are all Bozos on the bus.” This is something I share with my clients who are afraid of never being sufficient. They feel as if they are missing out on what everybody else has. When in reality, these are the people with more money, who earn better grades, who have nicer/more stylish clothes, who have countless friends, the list could go on and on. These are the people that Wavy refers to as Bozos in drag whose masks slip at times to reveal the vulnerable person underneath. Whenever I talk to clients about this topic, I reassure them that it’s OK to completely embrace their Bozo-hood.
I took a quiz recently that could determine the amount of FOMO you embody. Full disclosure—I had a feeling as to what my results would be, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that I am at risk for FOMO. I utilize social media several times throughout the day. Sure, I use it for networking, but I also utilize it to keep myself up to date with all that’s going on in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I get jealous of happy, partnered people traveling the world and/or of other authors speaking at conferences I would love to be at. However, I do not resent them for their exciting life events, nor do I worry my life won’t be as exciting. Instead, I choose to focus on what fulfils me in my life. I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland with a tour group of people—none of whom I knew until we connected on Facebook. Social media allowed me to take my home and online family and friends along on my trip with me.
Since 2013, I have undergone a series of health emergencies—shingles, a heart attack, two rounds of kidney stones, adrenal fatigue, pneumonia—each serving as wake up calls, reminding me to pace myself. I used to go-go-go, with no down time. Sensory overload, people overload, play overload. I used to think that if I slowed down, I would miss something (FOMO). Now that I am forced to slow down, I have a newfound sense of appreciation for it. Leisure suits me. I used to think that if I eased up, I wouldn’t be as productive. Isn’t that funny? Now, I am actually getting more done, fulfilling agreements and my own wishes.
I used to be afraid that I would never be enough, have enough, or do enough. The joke being that once I stopped seeking, life found me and all that I worked and strived for, is showing up gracefully. And for that, I am grateful.