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  • Dec 21, 2017
  • 6 Min

At the crossroads: coping with the fear of missing out


What is the fear of missing out?

It can safely be referred to as a disease of the XXI century, although the syndrome has existed since the time of the First Men. Our overly enhanced basic psychological characteristics resulted in many of us catching a “sickness” known as the fear of missing out. In Europe, they even came up with an acronym for the “disease” – FOMO. Essentially, it’s the fear of missing out on something crucial, interesting, sometimes even being afraid of losing the sense of purpose in life.

Unfortunately, modern society actively contributes to FOMO progression. Media channels keep sending out “unique offers”, while city ads and TV are filled to the brim with “incredible promotions”. We are literally flooded with information and new opportunities. Marketers are very good at capitalizing on our weaknesses and provoking us. And social networks are only happy to join in, actively adding fuel to the flames. There is no denying it – many people are living in the virtual world of social networks, immersing into the personal life of their friends, people they barely know and complete strangers.

You can go ahead and add our personal space to that: work, family, personal life, in which we give up one thing for the sake of another on a daily basis. Every day we find ourselves faced with a choice, choosing to take advantage of one opportunity, but missing out on many others. How do you keep your sanity with all that?

As a matter of fact, the fear of missing out has very specific symptoms: anxiety, jealousy, irritation (often unfounded).

How to cope with fear?

The truth is, making the right choice is not that difficult. First of all, you need to realize that your fear is baseless and exaggerated. It’s enough to know what you want, making a decision based on your needs. And for that to happen, it’s crucial not to get stuck in the past, in your inner turmoil and problems. We must live in the present, consciously and wholeheartedly, giving it our all.

Our motivation plays a significant role in the selection process. If motivation stems from love and positivity, then such a decision will be beneficial for us, make us better, stronger, more perfect. If, on the other hand, our decision is motivated by fear, this kind of negative foundation will be unlikely to result in anything even remotely beneficial for us.

What kind of emotions will the result you achieve bring? If it’s going to be pleasure, tranquility and peace, then you know you have made the right decision. If taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself encourages further action, gives strength, inspires, then the decision is right. Don’t even doubt that!

To be thorough here, the so-called “efficient remedies for coping with FOMO”, mostly representing smartphone apps that let you keep on top of the latest events, or chargers for gadgets that let you be online 24/7, are nothing but a sham. They are only likely to exacerbate the problem, aggravating the fear.

When making your choice, make sure you are guided by your real needs and desires, rather than the elusive pleasures being dangled in front of you.

Why you should not reflect on the opportunities you missed out on?

First and foremost, because every opportunity presenting itself is never the last or the only one. One missed opportunity is inevitably followed by a new one. Having missed out on one opportunity, we take advantage of another.

Second, by constantly doubting our own rightness and getting stuck at a virtual crossroads in the past, we are depriving ourselves of the present. We are running a serious risk of trading today’s real opportunity for foggy reflections on the past.

Thirdly, an important thing to understand is that nearly always there are more right decisions than just one. What made you think there is only one right choice? And what if there are several of them? Then it means you made the right choice in the past – but it was one of the possible few. So the very concept of missed opportunities is quite relative.

Fourth, it is worth acknowledging that by having missed some opportunities, we can never know for sure whether it was a good thing or bad. There is no way of knowing what exactly we are missing out on – but the same is true about knowing the bullet we dodged. It’s possible that the “wrong” (in your opinion) choice you made in the past saved you from something unpleasant, bad or even downright terrible.

Fifth, remember that you can’t have it all. Luckily, not only is it impossible but also unnecessary. Why would you need to do it all and have it all if you could just be happy here and now? You do have your very own goals, desires and dreams, don’t you? Then go ahead and pursue those, no need to spread yourself thin.

Sixth, the pursuit of everything and everyone results in us losing touch with reality. Trying to be everywhere and be a part of everything, we forget about the most important values that really give meaning to our life: simple human contact, taking care of our loved ones, compassion and empathy…

Always remember that thinking about something that does not exist means failing to see what you really do have.

Is there any use in FOMO?

Strange as it may seem, there is. Someone who is not naturally curious and eager to learn more simply stops growing. FOMO motivates us to communicate, achieve our goals and set new ones. The important thing here is to know when to stop, drawing clear boundaries of your “curiosity” and genuine interest.

As a matter of fact, the fear of missing out is directly related to perfectionism. Those used to looking for the perfect solution are most likely to doubt their every decision.
We will talk about this next time though.

P.S. All children, without exception, are prone to FOMO. They, like no one else, are eager to do it all. Just think back to when you were a child. The bitter disappointment of being sent to bed instead of being allowed to stay up late, to celebrate New Year’s Eve with the adults. And yet this “injustice” did not make the gifts under the Christmas tree disappear, and the winter fairy tale did not lose its magic over the years…

With age, as we mature psychologically, we learn to perceive the life around us differently. An adult (unlike a child) just knows how to brush aside the unnecessary, calmly focusing on what truly matters.

But does the huge army of FOMO cases point to the universal rise of immaturity in society? Only time will tell.

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