A fear of missing out may be one of the underlying issues that make you feel like your life is in a rut. It can also be refined into fuel that drives you to live out your God-given dreams. This article will discuss that feeling and what can be done to overcome it.
FOMO Fear of Missing Out
Fear of being average
It was the day after Christmas in 2005 when it hit me. I had just spent the entire year paying off all my credit card debt, and it felt great! The problem was that it was now the day after Christmas and all that credit card debt was back. We just had to give our children the best holiday experience ever, right?
My kids played with their new toys that morning. My wife was happy they were happy. All I could think about was spending another year paying off that debt, scrimping and scraping together a living for them. There was so much we could not do because of that in the previous year.
It was said at that time that about 93% of Americans had one or more credit cards with an average debt of around $5,000 on those credit cards. It may have been higher. I was the average American. I had a mortgage, a car payment, and extra credit card debts. It felt like a crushing weight on my shoulders.
On top of that, I was turning 30 in a couple of months and thought long and hard about where my life was going. My outlook on life was that I had to trade my freedom to pay off a recurring debt I didn’t need.
A fear of missing out was creeping into my life. I didn’t want to be average. I didn’t want to lose my freedom to travel, find new experiences and meet new people. I would go from war veteran to unnamed, unknown office worker. I was about to shut the door on life in a sense.
For my wife, she was driven by a different fear of mediocrity. Average for her meant our children not having anything they wanted. It meant depriving our family of things. Little did she know at the time that she was getting caught up in a game of “Keeping Up with the Joneses.”
The comparison of our lives to the lives of others is a great way to insert misery and contempt into your life. It’s best not to play that game at all.
The Result of FOMO Marketing
The marketing industry is a powerful one. Almost a quarter of a trillion dollars is spent annually in the United States to drive a machine designed to capture your attention and convince you that you desperately need their products or services.
In those expenditures, there is a lot learned about human motivations. The industry has identified our deepest fears and needs. The biggest ones being aging, losing freedom, losing power. You buy their products and you’ll have youth, freedom, happiness, and power.
Even our fear of missing out in relationships gets tapped into. I’m thinking about commercials for shaving products. Can’t get a close shave, so no one will want you. Buy our product, you can have a close shave and a beautiful woman will want to touch your face. Problem solved! Sounds like a stretch, right? That’s not why you bought their razor or shaving gel. Deep down though. Those are the emotions that the company was tapping into.
Marketing doesn’t even have to do all the work anymore. Social media seems to have a bigger stake in the game. Fear of missing out through social media can make us feel lonely or unaccomplished. We see photos of our friends hanging out with everyone except us. Family vacations that are not our own. Social media is filled with images of people living life, enjoying happiness, and experiencing deep relationships. Those snapshots lead many people to believe that is the entire picture and it is not the case.
Three FOMO Symptoms
Your fear of missing out could possibly be driven by any one of these fears of missing out symptoms.
1 – You check your social media while you’re in the middle of a social setting!
Let’s say you’re at a mixer, or hanging out with people at a table. In the middle of the conversation, you pull out your smartphone to check your Streaks on SnapChat or peruse through the latest Tweets.
You’re looking for an escape at that moment and you’re doing it in front of people who are sharing their time with you. Chances are that you don’t even realize you are doing this, or think it is perfectly normal. The other people may be doing this as well! This may also be a dopamine addiction, but that should be a different article.
2 – You catch yourself wondering why that other guy has a great career and you don’t.
The comparison game is a brutal one. You’ve worked in your career field or industry for years, maybe decades. Peers, some of them may be younger or with less time in the field than you, are getting promoted ahead of you. “It’s just not fair!” you’re thinking to yourself over and over again.
3 – You feel sad because your “Friend” is enjoying a great vacation and you’re not.
It’s not enough to congratulate someone who is taking a hard-earned vacation. While it’s okay to say yourself what a great idea it would be to go there as well in the future, check your feelings to see if you are feeling jealous, sad, or disheartened in any way. Are you feeling this way because somehow you’ve connected your sense of achievement to what kind of vacation photos you can post on social media?
How to Overcome that Fear of Missing Out
The previous section just honed in on three symptoms that you may be suffering from FOMO, and ultimately a deep underlying fear of mediocrity. Below are some tips to help you overcome that.
Quit Playing the Game. What?!
That game we may be inadvertently playing called “Keeping Up with the Joneses” does not require our participation.
Quit wasting time, money and effort to achieve or acquire things to impress people you don’t know. Strive to impress yourself and please God instead. The world needs that kind of influence from you.
Put That Smartphone Down
This tip is more about living beyond mediocrity in our relationships than it is about the fear of mediocrity. Our addictions to our smartphone are hurting not helping our most important relationships.
You will not explode if you step away from your smartphone for that 30-minute meeting. There is a price we pay for being plugged in 24/7. You lose that connection with people when you’re face-to-face IRL (In real life.) Stop snubbing your guests by pulling out your phone to check a text message, scroll through Facebook or some other addiction behavior born out of insecurity.
Find Contentment in Jesus Christ
You are uniquely made in God’s image, and your talents and gifts uniquely impact the lives of the people who come into contact with you. Remembering Jeremiah 29:11 helps us to fill the gap of not playing the game “Keeping up with the Joneses.”
Spending ten minutes every morning to thank God in prayer for the life He has given us can set a positive tone for the rest of the day.
The book titled The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor covers the importance of going to bed (and thus waking up) with an attitude of gratitude is key. This is also talked about in Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning.
Be Content Where You Are Now While you Journey Further On
Life is a journey. You weren’t meant to teleport from here to the finish line. If you are frustrated with where you are now, take a step back. Reflection on what successes you’ve had, then considering what you have in front of you puts things into perspective. You should be making forward progress. That is good. If you are not making forward progress, that reflection helped you identify your opportunity and that is also good.
Listen to the Full Episode of Beyond the Rut
Scroll back to the top of this article and download this episode about How to Battle Your Fear of Missing Out. Share us with a friend, family member, co-worker, or that neighbor across the street.
Resources and Links
BtR 138 – How the Happiness Advantage Can Change Your World (Part 1)
BtR 139 – How the Happiness Advantage Can Change Your World (Part 2)
This is the Best Way to Ovecome the Fear of Missing Out – Time Magazine
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