FOMO. Also known as “the fear of missing out.”
You’ve felt this before, right?
Of course you have. Humans are built to survive and thrive around other humans. We gain much of our identity based on how we relate to other humans. So it stands to reason every single one of us is prone to feel like we’re missing out when we’re not included.
That feeling of missing out is not comfortable for us tribe-centric humans, so we come to fear it. We come to notice the possibility of missing out and do many things to prevent not being part of the tribe.
Say you’re traveling with three of your friends in a busy, bustling city. You do everything you can to stay with the group, don’t you? And in the moment when you look up, thinking your friends are right next to you and they’re not, you can’t even spot them in the store anymore, panic pricks into your chest and up the back of your neck.
See, we’re keenly aware of when we’re alone because being alone, even in today’s world, feels more physically dangerous than when you’re with your tribe.
Even more common for us today is how being alone feels more emotionally dangerous.
This came up for one of my clients recently. She had been paying for a membership online for close to two years. In the first six months, the membership was incredibly helpful, making her feel more connected, seen, heard, and valued. Then, as membership grew and shifted, she felt like she belonged there less and less. It ultimately was a big distraction for her. And yet, two years later, she was still paying to be a part of the group.
Why? Because FOMO drives us to believe that it’ll be more dangerous to break from the crowd than to stay. If we break away, we might end up alone – unseen, unheard, unsupported.
That’s why FOMO exists. We fear going unseen, unheard, unsupported, away from the tribe.
And while it all makes perfect sense for survival and sometimes FOMO helps to keep us supported by the tribe, the truth of the matter is…
FOMO also often keeps us in detrimental, predictable situations for far too long.
Just as FOMO keeps you close to our friends while traveling, it also keeps you tied to a crappy, needy relationship, knowing the person isn’t right for you but fearing missing out if you let go.
FOMO keeps you reading a lack-luster book, not enjoying it, but also fearing missing out on what could be in the next chapter.
FOMO keeps you in a soul-sucking job, being called to a different career, but fearing missing out on the “security” of a regular paycheck and the friendship of your coworkers.
FOMO keeps you in the same old routine, that doesn’t light you up anymore, but fearing the unpredictability of a new one.
These fears are all valid. They are. They’re there to keep us safe.
But we’re often missing out on much more by staying in that detrimental, predictable situation.
See, by focusing on what you might be missing out on if you break from the tribe, you’re operating in a scarcity mindset. You’re thinking only of what you could lose.
When you feel FOMO, I encourage you, instead, to reframe the situation with an abundance-driven mindset.
In the case of my client and the membership she was afraid to cut ties with, I helped her do this by guiding her through these few steps:
First, know that when you experience FOMO, you identify a space in your life that doesn’t feel like it’s serving you anymore.
Now that you’ve identified that space, you get to choose what to fill that space with.
Your choices are:
- Fill the space with something different
- OR, continue filling the space with the current lack-luster thing.
To make a decision between the two options, ask yourself, “If I let go of this current detrimental, predictable thing, can I fill its space with something better?”
If the answer is yes, you can choose to either:
- Go find something better
- OR, not.
If the answer is no, you can still choose to either:
- Try to go find something better
- OR, not.
As I laid it out like this for my client, she sighed deeply, feeling the expansiveness of the space and choices she now had. From there, she clearly realized she could cut ties with the current tribe, open that space in her life up, and easily fill it with a more enriching tribe.
It truly is simple. The trouble is that FOMO emotionally drains us, which causes us to make things more complicated than necessary. It makes us feel stuck.
But you’re not. The beautiful thing about this FOMO reframe is that you’re not. You’re not actually stuck. You may feel like you are, but you always, always have the option to choose.
Now consider what has you feeling stuck right now. Is FOMO to blame? How might you reframe the situation using the framework I’ve just presented to make a clearer decision about the space in your life you’ve just found?