Fear of missing out.
Do we inherently feel this, or are we forced to feel alone by the world we live in? Can we miss out on not just one night, but many nights, and feel like we haven’t lost out on our chances of love?
FOMO by definition, as according to the all knowing Wikipedia, is a “form of social anxiety, whereby one is compulsively concerned that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event” if they do not attend.
FOMO was something funny I first told my friends about, back when I lived in LA. It was a concept that a lot of my friends identified with, had not heard and quickly made the rounds in my circle of friends.
I know I did not invent this word. However, I remember hearing it for the first time many years ago, and instantly identifying with it, as I had been the kid, who growing up was left out of many Friday night hangouts, parties and play-dates.
When you are developing and clearly being left out, you acquire an array of mind contortions that you are not good enough. Not good enough to be someone’s friend, not cool enough to be invited to the party, not enough of really any positive adjective to be at any desirable happening.
You grow up lacking buoyancy, lacking confidence, lacking sureness. You know you are not a bad person, but you do not know how amazing you truly are.
Then one day you get the phone call. You are invited to “the party,” and you know you have to employ every ounce of effort to make sure you are in fact there.
You are finally given your chance to fit in.
You jump over hurdles, rush around and force yourself to make it to the pregame, to the bar, to the after-party, to the after-after-party. You lose sleep. You drink more than you probably should or want to. You constantly look tired, your skin is a mess and you are bloated, but “hey people like you!”
You are fun, and they now see that.
This cycle of destruction continues on for months, years, and sometimes, forever.
You have nights when all you want to do is stay in, but you know if you do, all you will be thinking about is the amazing time you are missing out on, with the amazing people you NEVER get to see. So, you force yourself to go out.
Again, and again, and again.
Then one day you tell yourself you really need a break, so you do the unthinkable and stay in. You let yourself relax, breathe, recover. You make yourself dinner, read, chill. Then you whip out your phone, and start looking through your endless social media accounts only to see all your bestest friends out and about without you.
Panic takes over.
FOMO kicks in.
You see them all looking amazing, having so much fun and at the craziest party. You feel disappointed that you did not go out, you have a moment of regret, and you try to tear yourself away from your phone, but you cannot stop guilting yourself into shame for being so lame.
Eventually you fall asleep.
Morning comes, and you arise from your sorrowful slumber. Something feels different. You wake up feeling less sluggish, less rundown, less like death. You realize you actually feel pretty great, and that you are okay with the fact that you may have missed out on an “epic” night.
What is happening?
Slowly, but surely you realize that you really did not miss out on anything, and those friends that you never get to see are actually people you can see any night that there is a party.
Your crazy has been kicked. Your maturity has kicked in. Growth is in play.
You allow yourself more nights in, less nights out and more time to just be. You still want to be social, and you are, but just in different ways. You don’t lose your fun; however, you begin to discover it through new avenues, new friends, new notions.
FOMO is something we all go through as humans. We all have a basic desire to be a part of a collective. We are programmed to want to be in a community, a group, a family. We yearn for people to share things with, and it truly is a beautiful thing.
However, what you learn as you mature, is that FOMO is something that creeps up on you in an immediate and anxious way, but when you let yourself process exactly what it is that you are missing out on, you begin to understand that you are in fact not missing out on anything because you are living your life in a different truth, moment, presence.
Once the time has come and gone, you will realize you missed just another night like all the ones you have had before. Nothing crazy happened, no one out of the ordinary showed up, and if in fact either of these do take a turn for the exciting, and you were not there, you understand it is not the end of the world.
What is truly even more motivating is that you are not missing out on the next day. The “fun” of being wasted, intoxicated, fucked-up forces you into an unhealthier state the next day, and you end up missing out on a lot more.
You miss out on sleep. You miss out on productivity. You miss out on being with yourself. You miss out on being clear, hydrated and focused.
And what for?
Parties? People? Popularity?
As I have grown older I have realized I do not suffer from FOMO nearly as much as I used to. Yes, I will admit there are still moments that I see a group of friends together, and think, “I wish I had been invited to that,” or “I should have just rallied,” But I also recognize the gifts I give myself by not chasing an unrealistic and never-ending dream of fun.
I’ve processed my own FOMO for what it really is. The going out, the partying, the late nights are all ways to fill voids for the emptiness felt, and many of us would rather mask it then deal with it.
I have allowed myself the crazy nights, and I will allow for more to come, but I have recognized what it is that I am really scared of missing out on, and its love, acceptance, adoration.
FOMO has been replaced by FOML. Fear of missing love.
I know I do not have a fear of missing out, but rather I yearn for something substantial. For companionship. For someone to not have FOMO with me, but rather be in the moment with me. For someone to not chase the dream, but live in it with me. For someone who rather lose out on an extra hour of “fun,” so that they we can fall asleep next to each other. Drunk or sober. Early or late. Sunrise or sunset.
I have a fear of missing out, and I am honest about it. I am scared to miss out on cuddling, kissing, passion. I am terrified to miss the closeness, the tenderness, the love.
FOMO is simply another fear that as you conquer it, you realize there was nothing to fear at all. Maybe the same is true for FOML. Maybe the things we are scared to miss out on are already there. Maybe we have all the love we need in ourselves, just waiting to be tapped into.
Fear of missing out, fear of missing love, fear of anything is just our younger, more insecure selves telling us we still are not enough. We will never escape that nerdy kid with glasses, braces and a bowl cut that we once were, so rather than chasing the “fun,” we sit with our twelve-year-old self and love him or her like no other.
When we do, it seems the universe sends someone our way that wants nothing more than to help us quiet our fears, remind us of our amazingness, and show us the love we have been searching for.
Lots of Love,
Let me know what makes you feel FOMO, scared, or stressed. I am sure we all can relate, and it feels so amazing to just get it out.
Photography: Stephanie Westerman @stephwesterman
Outfit: Levi's Vintage Jean Vest, Uniqlo Black Denim Pants, Gap White Oxford, Johnston & Murphy Shoes.