How a Fear of Missing Out was Detrimental to My Health
How I overcame FOMO
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a social anxiety disorder wherein the sufferer believes they are missing out on important events. Usually the sufferer will compare their life to the lives of others, feeling inferior that they are not sharing in similar experiences. FOMO has been made worse by social media culture. With a constant stream of your peers successes fed to you through your phone, it’s no wonder that so many people feel inadequate, worrying that their life is not as fulfilling as it could be.
What Causes FOMO?
FOMO can be brought on by a variety of events. Have your friends gone out for lunch, but you’re not able to meet them because of scheduling differences? Maybe a colleague has reached a career milestone and you’re feeling left behind? Is someone on your Facebook feed continually posting about their storybook romance, and you’re feeling lonely? Each of these events, and many other similar situations, can cast a feeling of doubt about how you conduct your life. You begin to wonder what you’re doing wrong, worrying why you can’t achieve the same things, despite trying your hardest.
These feelings can quickly spiral into an anxiety disorder.
I had FOMO a lot during my teenage years. Diagnosed with a chronic illness at 13, I missed a lot of defining moments during my adolescence due to my poor health. I watched as my friends went on adventures, went to parties, had their first kisses and their first heartbreaks, all whilst I was hooked up to an IV in a hospital, fighting for my life. A part of me knew that, in the grand scheme of things, my health was more important than meeting boys at the food court, but even then I couldn’t shake the jealousy. I began to resent my friends for things that were out of our control, and for a while it soured our relationship.
As my health stabilised I began to try and catch up on what I had missed, but it felt impossible. Everyone else had grown up, moved onto other things, and yet I was stuck in an adolescent mindset, with desires unwarranted for a girl of my age. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to aim for in my social life and withdrew into myself, becoming a hermit with bitter feelings toward a life I never had the chance to live. My mental health took a turn for the worse. I stopped looking after myself, rarely washing or eating unless forced. I battled through Lupus symptoms with very little perseverance. I didn’t talk to anyone unless I was spoken to, and became very lonely, with no drive to improve my situation.
I’m 23 now. I’ve done the Uni thing, and I’m stepping into the adult world for the first time. I’m a bit older than my peers, those who are on the journey with me, but now that I’m older, the age difference no longer matters. I’m taking the world at my own pace, and no longer feel rushed into hitting milestones that just aren’t achievable for me. It took a long time to feel okay with the life I’ve been given, and I still have the occasional hiccup, but I feel a lot more grounded in my own reality than I did at 16.
How I Battled FOMO
The key factor in my recovery came from my understanding that social media is fake. People only show you the best of themselves – their achievements, their triumphs, the highlights of their lives. Behind the screen, the person celebrating a promotion has their own problems dwindling in the background. Realising that there is no such thing as a perfect life helped to heal the part of my soul that craved one.
I reached out to the few people I trusted and told them how I felt, and surprise, surprise! They were completely understanding. They had felt similarly in the past, opening up to me about their own struggles, and in turn I felt less alone. We arranged to meet up more in settings that my Lupus could handle, we talked through our feelings and, slowly, I found peace within my limitations.
Of course, this may not work for everyone, and I’m not a mental health professional so do not take my words as gospel.
If you’re suffering from FOMO do not be afraid to reach out to those you trust. There is nothing wrong with taking life at a slower pace, there is no one size fits all plan. Our unique experiences should be celebrated, and success at any age is an achievement to be admired.
Put your social media away every now and then, stop comparing yourself to the hoards on the internet. Their successes, whilst applaudable, are streamlined. They will not show you the in between, where they feel inadequate themselves, and so perpetuate a cycle of positivity that can be overwhelming to take in all at once. Remind yourself that they are not superhuman, and when they put their phone down, they are just like you.