How to lower your fear of missing out
Jeff has got two interesting invitations for Friday evening. Lucky man, you may think.
Well, the thing is that whichever event Jeff chooses, he will keep wondering whether he shouldn´t have chosen the other one.
Do you recognize yourself in this? The fear of missing out is really common and even has an acronym: FoMO. Don´t miss out on our tips for handling the fear:
Jeff is often afraid of making choices, because that means giving up the other options – and potentially missing out on something. So he remains undecided, or tries to go for several of the options – spending more time wondering, fearing, or travelling between the places, than having fun.
What if there is more fun at the other place? What if there is somebody really interesting?
Everybody is giving up many alternative choices, because we live in the world of numerous options and lots of different opportunities – which is actually great. The problem is not that we cannot go to everything. The problem is if, due to anxiety, we cannot find satisfaction with the option we have chosen.
FoMO = the Fear of Missing Out
The term FoMO was originally used in relation to social interaction, and the concern that one might miss out on an interesting opportunity for socializing; this is the opposite of a social phobias – the fear of socializing. But nowdays, you can come across the term FoMO also in other contexts: fear of missing out on opportunities for career progress, good investments, gaining impressive memories, choosing the best place to live, catching the best bargains in shop sales, and so on and so forth.
The fear of missing out is the anxiety one feels when deciding between multiple options that sound equally appealing. By choosing one option, the other options are given up, and the person can feel anxious.
When is the fear too big?
We have all experienced the uncomfortable feeling that other people´s lives might be more interesting, or at least more interesting to talk about, than ours; or that the other option might be better than the one we chose. Up to what extent is it sensible to wonder about the other options, and when does this becomes a problem?
The real problem starts when the fear of missing out on the other options prevents you from making the most of the option here and now. Or when, no matter which event or direction you choose, you are unable to enjoy it, because you keep thinking of the other alternatives. When the fear of missing out becomes the dominant driver and shadow of your days.
In the time of social networks and smart phones, FoMO can easily become more intense. These networks provide a constant opportunity to compare ourselves with others and follow information about all the events we didn´t go to. At the same time, as a study by Andrew Przybylski from the University of Oxford and his collaborators suggests, FoMO is actually a driving force behind the use of social media.
The same study has concluded that young people, and especially young men, are more likely to suffer from FoMO. Also, that a high level of FoMO is linked to low levels of need satisfaction and life satisfaction.
While increasing your life satifaction might take time (it’s worth it!), there are things you could already be doing now:
Little self-coaching techniques you can try
to lower your fear of missing out, when you are choosing between multiple options
If your mood goes down regularly after checking social networks and posts by other people, disconnect for some time. Do this regularly, for example for one day a week. Observe what you can gain from focusing on your activities fully, without checking your social networks all the time.
Remember, the point of this exercise is to reduce the time you spend comparing your own situation with other people´s, not to compensate by spending even more time on FB once you connect again.
If you have a tendency to keep thinking about the other options even after you have already decided on one, try developing the following habit: every time an obsessive thought about the other options appears, list at least three things you have gained by choosing the particular option.
It might be hard at the beginning, but soon you will be able to recognise the positive gains easily and remain aware of them.
A bye-bye and hello ritual
When you need to decide between several options and reduce your sadness about giving up the other ones, the following ritual can help: write all your options down, each on a small piece of paper. Choose one option you will not go for, discard it and give it a symbolic bye-bye – throw it away. Then do the same with another option, until you are left with the one option of your choice, the alternative you are going for.
Take the paper with the option of your choice and make friends with it. The option is offering you all sorts of chances and it wants your commitment. Will you commit?
Form your own words to say that you look forward to focusing on this option and making the most of it. Repeat the words (whether in your mind or out loud) until you can feel the commitment growing in you. Then walk a symbolic step ahead. It is your big step towards this opportunity.
From the moment of the decision, consider the other alternatives to be out of question. If this choice turns out to be unsatisfactory later on, you will have new opportunities to take new decisions. For now it has been decided, and it is OK to focus fully on this one option. Stick to it and try to make the most out of it – commitment and persistence bring rewards.