• Theresa Gray

Don't FOMO your way to "oh no!"

Juliet's drawing of "FOMO"

At the risk of being too transparent right off the bat (and turning you off of our new relationship) I’m going to admit that I’m a little ‘out of it’. I’m a 45 year old stay at home mom of two young kids and I practically live in a bubble. I don’t have a lot of exposure anymore to what is glam or cool - and if it’s not included in an SNL skit, ‘Game of Thrones’ or a ’Walking Dead’ episode, then I’m ignorant of pop culture.

But I learned a new acronym last weekend! And it resonated with me, so I wanted to use it right away, but I was afraid of missing out on the best time to use it, so I’ve refrained until now. ;-)

FOMO: fear of missing out. Urban dictionary says it is an omnipresent anxiety brought on by our cognitive ability to recognize potential opportunities. I think a lot of FOMO is caused by comparison - comparing our life to what we see on social media posts, television, or our friends and neighbors’ lives.

The fear of missing out makes people indecisive. If you are afraid that making choice A cuts off all the opportunities for choice B, then you might just not make any choice (analysis paralysis). (Eg: You never try new food at a restaurant because you have a favorite order; you always talk about getting a nursing degree but don’t want to take the time away from your current life; you want to lose weight but don’t know which diet is best.)

Other times our indecision makes us choose to try to do all the choices. We might call it ‘efficiency’ or ‘multitasking’ but we recognize that we have one life with limited time and don’t want to miss out on anything, let alone have to decide which is the best thing. (Eg: You often overcommit yourself because you think you can do it all; you are reading five books at the same time and never finish one all the way before you start a new one; you choose three things off of the menu and overeat because you can’t pick between the choices; or it takes you an hour to get a glass of water because first you need to empty the dishwasher, start the laundry, clean the counter, and open the mail.)

I have said before that I wish I had multiple lives to live concurrently. I would have loved a glamorous working life in Manhattan; volunteering in the Peace Corps; living as an actress in Los Angeles; or roaming the world, seeing the sights and having few plans or possessions. But I decided that even though all those other choices would have been great, what I really wanted to be was a mom, and so I looked hard for a great husband and made this life! And, I really love being a stay at home mom in Southern California and I’m happy with my choice!

Here is how I think we can all fight FOMO:

  • Be grateful

  • Determine priorities

  • Be decisive and take action

  • Be grateful (again)

Attitude of Gratitude: Anytime I hear myself say “I wish I had ____”, I stop and make myself go down my “I’m thankful” list in relation to the thing I’m wishing for. (Eg: I think, “I wish I had a new cool car.” And then I consciously think, “I’m grateful that I have a van that works and is comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with driving an older car. I’m thankful that it is paid off. I’m thankful that I have something safe to drive my family around in. I’m thankful that I have a family to drive. I’m thankful that I get to be alive to spend this time with them.” It doesn’t take long going through this ‘I’m thankful’ list before I start to get my mind off of what I don’t have, and on to what I do have. It helps me to get my priorities in order. Which leads us nicely to:

Determine your Priorities: I am the last one to criticize anyone for having anxiety - it’s a lifelong struggle for me. But, we as a culture are anxious about so many things that we have stopped using anxiety correctly. Back in the day, if a lion showed up in front of your house you were his lunch if your ‘fight or flight’ mechanism didn’t kick in! Now that same emotional and chemical reaction gets triggered when someone cuts us off in traffic, if they mess up our order at Starbucks, or we have a fight with our spouse. We have become inundated with stress and anxiety and have become immune to the valid danger warnings that anxiety was meant to convey. We ignore the lion to worry about the lack of hazelnut in our coffee. Very specifically, I think that we ignore our financial health (the lion) to obsess about who’s buying a new car, what is the newest restaurant in town, where can you buy the softest leggings, political commentary and stupid celebrity gossip.

Having debt should make you anxious. There, I said it! The anchor for this whole article. You should fear missing out on the security that comes from knowing you are financially fit. You should fear having your marriage ruined by money fights. You should know that spending more than your income now means that you will be missing out on wealth later.

You’ve probably heard that ‘nothing tastes as good as being thin feels’. Well, I can attest to that personally, in that once we paid off our debts, I know that there is nothing (no vacation nor car nor luxury item) that can give us as much pleasure as not having the stress of debt (and having bills that we can't pay).

Be decisive and take action: If you do want something, acknowledge what you want and then find out why you want it. If your why makes sense then create a plan to get it in a timeframe that is appropriate.

Do you want a thing? 1) Evaluate if it is a want or a need. 2) Can you afford the thing? 3) Make a plan to purchase it without using debt.

Do you want an experience? 1) If you choose this experience what are you missing out on? Evaluate opportunity costs. 2) Can you afford the experience? 3) Make a plan to have the experience without using debt.

Be grateful (again). In all things, give thanks, and you can live your life in contentment. (Even if you are totally missing out on something cool!)

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