As we circled the downtown street looking for parking in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I felt my panic growing more intense. It was the first night of SXSW in Austin, which meant I was entering one of the busiest weeks of the year – I’d committed to a jam-packed schedule of panels, parties, and business meet-ups. To kick it off, Adam and I were headed to a party for a friend who ran a massively successful fashion brand — no doubt the table would be full of some of the coolest, most creative people in town for the conference. So why was I on the verge of a panic attack? As we drove around trying to find a parking spot, I watched the clock tick later and later, and the fact that I had one of the most important business meetings of my career early the next morning was beginning to weigh very heavily on my mind. I mentally did the math for what was probably the fifth time: we’d sit for the first course around 8…finish dinner around 10… and knowing that I’d probably be deep in conversation and a couple glasses in by then, I’d realistically be home by midnight. Oof. So why was I going to a late-night event when I should be at home, having a healthy dinner, not drinking wine, and getting to bed early so I could be on my A-game the next morning for my big meeting?
Because I had a major case of FOMO, of course. The fear of missing out was rearing its ugly head and whispering that this was going to be THE event of the year and I absolutely could not miss it.
But then I heard a different voice. “You don’t have to go.” What? My inner voice spoke again. “You don’t have to go to a party that’s causing you anxiety and that may compromise how hard you’ve been preparing for tomorrow’s meeting.” I considered, I wrestled, I took a step back and thought about all the other “parties of the year” that turned out to be, well, just normal parties. And I chose to listen to that inner voice (she’s smart) and asked Adam to turn the car around and head towards home, where I ate my veggies, drank my sleepy tea and climbed into bed early. The next morning, I felt confident, clear-headed, and I nailed that meeting. My friends who were at the party said it was “pretty fun.” And there was not a doubt in my mind that I’d made the right call skipping it.
That experience stuck with me, becoming the beacon I refer back to when FOMO starts to take over and tempts me to say yes to something that, for whatever reason, I have no business saying yes to. It’s my reminder that the vast majority of the time, events or trips or get-togethers are not once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and that if our gut instinct is saying “no,” then we should skip it and never look back. In the age of social media when we have the 24/7 ability to see what everyone else is doing all the time, most of us have to make a concerted effort to not let the fear of missing out influence the decisions we make.
So how can we conquer FOMO once and for all? There are a couple practices I’ve put into place over the last year that have really helped me, and I’m happy to report that my struggle with FOMO is a thing of the past.
And once you realize how good it feels to confidently say “no thank you” and move on with no regrets? You’ll be hooked.
Scroll on for 3 strategies that have cured my FOMO.
Chase joy – not the illusion of happiness.
Connection over status. Relationships over bragging rights. Mindfulness over materialism. So often when we look within ourselves at why a particular experience is causing FOMO, it’s because we’re identifying our experience as lacking in comparison to others. But when we realize what’s truly valuable — connections, joy, relationships, meaningful conversation — we can cultivate gratitude for what’s in our lives right now. Those are things that will actually fulfill us, instead of just keeping our schedules busy and leaving us wanting more.
Remember that social media reflects the way people want their lives to look – not their realities.
Let that sink in for a sec. When you’re scrolling through your feed and asking yourself why your house, vacation, family (insert any life experience) doesn’t look like that, remind yourself that those smiling faces on Instagram are hiding pain and heartache of their own that we’ll never see. And at the very least, those experiences that appear to be the most incredible events of a lifetime through the lens of social media may actually have just been, like, kinda fun. Have you ever been at a party or wedding where a friend looked only mildly engaged in the experience, and the next day, her post made it look like she was having the best night ever?! Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. When you find yourself comparing your life to some unrealistic portrayal of someone else’s, it’s time to unplug and immerse yourself in your own life. The ability to be mindful and fully present in whatever you’re doing is the surest way to make your own experience pretty damn awesome.
Realize that you can’t do it all — and you actually don’t want to.
Get very clear on your highest priorities. Say yes to less. Focus on the quality over the quantity of your experiences. I’ve had to learn to give myself permission to take a day or night off and rest — sure, I could be filling my schedule with whatever commitments come into my inbox or my texts, but instead of being reactive and saying “yes” out of that FOMO feeling, I’ve learned to take back the driver’s seat and decide what it is that I actually want to do that night. Sometimes that means staying home, resting, taking a bath, watching a movie, eating breakfast for dinner — whatever it is that my soul is longing for in that moment.
The struggle is real, and with so many demands vying for our attention, it’s time to embrace what’s recently been coined as JOMO: the joy of missing out.
Awesome, right? Sometimes we all need a detox from people, parties, technology, or just having to be on our A-game, and the idea of putting on pajamas, washing off my makeup and lighting my favorite candle is making me feel pretty happy right now. It’s JOMO guys – get on it.