Zeenat works at a marketing company. She falls sick just before a major business conference and she is unable to attend it. Although her team members have taken on the responsibility and are prepared for their presentation, Zeenat can’t seem to relax. She keeps checking social media to see if there are any updates about the event. She wants to know what is happening there. She even sends a message on the company Whatsapp group, hoping someone will update her. She anxiously waits for a response.

We’ve all been in Zeenat’s shoes at some point. This phenomenon of feeling left out is also known as the ‘fear of missing out’ or FOMO. Read on to learn why FOMO is an unhealthy emotion and how we can manage it. 

What Is FOMO?

The fear of missing out, better known as FOMO, has become increasingly common. The term 'fear of missing out' was coined by Dr. Dan Herman, a marketing strategist. It was later popularized by author Patrick James McGinnis, who even wrote a book about it. Several leading media channels picked up the term and used it to refer to the anxiety experienced by social media users. The acronym soon entered into common parlance. 

FOMO is a feeling or perception that other people are living better, more satisfying lives than you are. 

It can apply to anything—your friends going for dinner or a meeting at work. One can feel FOMO for things one was invited to do but couldn’t make it to, like Zeenat in the example above. 

One can also feel FOMO when one sees others doing things that seem to be fun or having experiences that seem to be meaningful. Oddly enough, you don’t even need to be part of a plan to feel bad about being excluded from it! That’s how powerful FOMO can be. 

FOMO is driven by negative thoughts that have several detrimental effects. It can lead to discomfort, dissatisfaction, stress and anxiety. Those who experience FOMO feel helpless and even excluded. 

The most important component in FOMO is ‘fear’. This fear of missing out may make people agree to participate in things they don’t really want to do. They fear that by saying no, they’re forever letting go of the opportunity.

Do You Have FOMO?

Let’s look at some of the common symptoms of FOMO:

  1. The Desire To Do Everything And Be Everywhere

The primary symptom of FOMO is the desire to participate in everything. If you find yourself chasing every opportunity out there, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if I miss this?”  Remember, it’s impossible to do everything and be everywhere. A jam-packed schedule may sound wonderful, but chasing after people and experiences can lead to fatigue and frustration. 

  1. Copying Other People’s Choices

Some people want to do everything that others are doing. Perhaps your friend returns from a holiday abroad and you see the pictures and long to go to the same place. Or your coworker speaks highly of a course they are taking and you immediately enroll in it as well, without thinking about whether it will help you at all. This is a sign of FOMO. People who don’t want to feel like outsiders tend to copy everything others do. They make their decisions based on others’ experiences, expectations and needs. But remember, there’s no guarantee that an experience or decision that makes someone else happy will be the right decision for you. 

  1. The Need To Catch Up To Others

When a friend or acquaintance achieves something monumental, the healthy response is to feel happy for them. But we often feel bad that we haven’t achieved that same thing. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others and trying to match up to them, it could be a sign of FOMO. Whether others are starting new business ventures, getting married or traveling to exotic destinations, you feel adequate or unsure of your path because you are not doing the same thing. FOMO makes you feel defeated even though there isn’t any need to compete. Pursuing someone else’s dream may not be as fulfilling, which is why you need to reflect on your needs and goals.

Some Examples Of FOMO

Now that we’ve established the common symptoms, let’s take a look at some examples of FOMO to understand its influence:

  • It’s a Friday night and you don’t have any plans, so you spend the evening stalking your friends on social media to see what they’re up to

  • There’s a new movie that has garnered plenty of attention and you decide to watch it as soon as possible

  • You purchase a product that your favorite celebrity is promoting

  • You notice many friends and acquaintances going to a particular city for a holiday so you plan a trip there too

  • Despite being on leave, you can’t seem to avoid checking your work email

  • You say ‘yes’ to everything and become frustrated when someone else says ‘no’ to you

Is FOMO Harmful?

Studies show that FOMO has detrimental effects, causing significant stress that can lead to a host of health problems. These are some ways in which FOMO harms people:

  • Oftentimes, people with FOMO are more focused on what others are doing, buying or pursuing—causing them to deprioritize their own needs and goals

  • People with FOMO battle with low self-esteem that negatively impacts their self-identity

  • People are unable to establish healthy personal boundaries—they bite off more than they can chew; they can’t say no because they’re afraid of jeopardizing their relationships with others

  • General dissatisfaction in life can lead to anxiety, loneliness and negative self-talk—impacting long-term goals and perceptions

How To Overcome FOMO

It’s nearly impossible to not have the fear of missing out in this age of social media and interconnectedness. But you can learn to acknowledge and manage your FOMO. Here are a few effective tips on how to deal with FOMO:

  1. Acknowledge FOMO

The first step to addressing FOMO is acknowledging it. When you find yourself feeling like you are missing out, pause. If it helps, write down your feelings on a piece of paper. Recognizing your emotions will help you understand and manage them better.

  1. Slow Down

Many of us chase unrealistic goals and timelines. A great way to pace yourself is to slow yourself down. Remember, everyone is unique and they have different outlooks, skills and expertise. Don’t try to catch up with others. It’s completely fine to take your time and do things on your own terms.

  1. Be Honest With Yourself

As tricky as it may sound, you need to be honest with yourself to deal with FOMO effectively. When you long to join in on something, listen to your gut or inner voice. Be honest with yourself about why you want to say yes. Consider whether participating will truly make you happy. If not, say no. 

  1. Get A Fresh Perspective

If you want to know how to deal with FOMO efficiently, you should change your perspective. For example, if you’re constantly bothered by your friends’ social media updates, you can limit your use of social media platforms for a while. Try to work on relationships in real life and spend time doing something new and refreshing. 

  1. Have An Attitude Of Gratitude

Instead of focusing on the things you don’t have, make a list of things that you already do. Fostering an attitude of gratitude will help you be thankful for the people you know, the opportunities you have and the things you have achieved. Take pleasure in the smallest of things that come your way—savor the moment!

How To Deal With FOMO At Work

Studies show that the sense of panic that comes from FOMO is common in professional settings. Professionals feel that they may miss out on new opportunities if they don’t keep their options open. The last thing one wants to do is watch from the sidelines as one’s peers get exciting opportunities, tackle the best projects and make new connections. But FOMO at the workplace can lead to many problems. If you have been wondering how to get over FOMO in business environments, read on:

  • Spend quality time with your managers and coworkers. Building strong rapport at the workplace helps expand your network. This gets you in touch with new ideas and opportunities that are right for you. 

  • Consider the potential you have in your current role. If there’s any way to learn or experience more, communicate it with your manager or team. Make sure you show them how the organization’s goals are aligned with your personal goals.

  • There may be times when you’re not invited to specific events or discussions. You may feel bad, but you need to be realistic and remind yourself that no one can be a part of everything. 

  • If you feel that you’ve been left out, try to understand the reason behind it. If you want to be included the next time, convey your interest to your manager and show them that you’re willing to take initiative. 

  • Celebrate even the smallest wins and reward yourself whenever possible. Practice celebrating all of your achievements. This will fill you with a sense of confidence and accomplishment and you will feel happier and more secure.

Overcome Limiting Beliefs First!

In order to get on the path of becoming the best version of yourself, you need to understand yourself properly. Your needs, expectations, hopes and dreams are unique to yourself. Harappa Education’s Leading Self course will teach you how to recognize your true potential. The Iceberg Model framework in the course will help you identify mental barriers that prevent you from pursuing anything. The Performance Equation framework will teach you how to fulfill your potential by overcoming those barriers. You’ll take ownership of your actions and make room for new opportunities and challenges. Embrace your true self and battle FOMO like a boss! 

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the LEAD Habit such as How to Build Self-Worth & What is Gratitude to become the best version of yourself.

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