We’ve all experienced it; the dread that comes with feeling like you are inadequately living up to your social/life potential. In a time when we are all intimately connected with each other’s personal and professional lives, it seems that we’re always aware of how much more fun/success other people are apparently having.
This very real struggle is called Fear of Missing Out or FOMO for those of you who like acronyms (LOL. JK, I despise LOL). FOMO can be an unhealthy timesuck that affects both personal and professional development and in some cases leads to further anxiety issues.
What exactly is FOMO?
FOMO or fear of missing out has become such a popular feeling that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. It’s defined as: “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”
It can be characterized by a general feeling of insecurity or jealousy when comparing yourself to others usually as seen through the filter of social media. But it’s not a new phenomenon; it’s just “a modern day take on the grass being greener on the other side,” as Psychologies columnist Philippa Perry points out. However, experts such as psychologist Dr. Rebecca McGuire-Snieckus agree that the syndrome has been compounded by the internet, saying:
“Social networking fuels FOMO. Platforms for social comparisons, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, make it more apparent to people what they aren’t achieving, doing or having.”
--Dr. Rebecca McGuire-Snieckus
Even if we won't readily admit it, we have all felt the feels of this, and it kind of sucks. While we may not be able to eliminate our FOMO entirely we can certainly work on managing it better.
Be okay with your FOMO
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Be okay with that fear and own it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Recognizing those feelings can help to deconstruct the core cause of why you feel them.
Understand how FOMO relates to your freelance career
FOMO can be a catalyst for unsound decisions as they relate to your career. Constantly worrying about long-term (and entirely hypothetical) repercussions of passing up opportunities is utterly pointless. If you are feeling that something doesn’t feel right for you to pursue in the here and now, trust your judgement and move on.
Live in the now
Being present in the reality of your situation is extremely applicable to dealing with FOMO. Whether it be feeling a little stuck in a rut with where you are professionally, or feeling like a lot of your FOMO is stemming from having projects and deadlines that keep you from a fulfilling social life. The point is to find happiness and contentment with your present state, whether that be through practicing meditation, keeping a gratitude journal, or the ancient art of putting on your big kid pants and doing what needs to be done.
Go off the grid
While this is WAY easier said than done, sometimes tuning out various social media platforms can give your psyche a much needed breather from virtual reality. If you don’t want to tune out entirely, or you simply can’t because of the nature of your business, try to set limitations for yourself.
It’s also important to remember that while the grass may seem greener on the other side, it’s still just grass. And often that grass isn’t what it appears to be on the surface. The trick with FOMO is to be happy with your grass, pull up a lawn chair, and chill out.
Freelancers, how does FOMO affect your professional or personal development?
Ashlee Christian is from the north-side of Chicago and will never stop saying "pop" or eating pizza with a fork and knife, so please stop trying to change her. Follow her on Twitter @nomadnation