FOMO, relationships and the avoidance mindset
Roger: Danielle do you think you’re a FOMO?
Danielle: I dunno, what’s that?
Roger: FOMO? Fear of missing out.
Danielle: Nah, I’m not a FOMO…But I’ll always be a MOFO!!
Roger: <laughs naughtily>
Office: <laughs incredulously>
Well two years and a lot of work on myself later and I realise that Roger (not his real name) was right. I am a FOMO.
I have a Fear of Missing Out.
Side note: why do I feel the urge to write FOMO as a hashtag? As in: #FOMO, #YOLO!
I’ve recognised some of my tendencies. My “weird little ways.” And they aren’t typical either. I’m not up til 3am on social media because I can’t bear to let the Twitter waterfall pass unwatched, unloved.
Nor am I crowding my schedule with plans because I just HAVE to go to 3 parties on a Friday night and catch up with ALL of my friends each day of the week.
Au contraire. My schedule is not very booked. Tumbleweeds could blow through my schedule without touching the edges of any “must do” appointment. In fact I wouldn’t mind a few more things to do.
But the thought of BEING LOCKED IN to doing things because once upon a time, a long long time ago in a far away galaxy, I said YES to those things is very uncomfortable.
Anything that required upwards of a 6 month commitment from me was near impossible.
A few examples — I chose my coaching program because it was a 1-month intensive, not the year-long distance program. I have a drop-in pass at the local pool, not a membership. I avoid memberships. I hate mobile phone contracts. I booked a one-way ticket for a 4 month trip to the UK, and put off buying the return portion until I knew I was returning.
FOMO isn’t just FOMO. For me, it can be a locked-in avoidance mindset.
This avoidance mindset sucks because it often results in thinking “I can do either this, or that.” Suddenly the great smorgasbord of options dwindles to either pickled herring (yuck) or bread. That’s not a hell of a choice.
My particular flavour of locked-in FOMO comes with a compulsion to find an escape hatch. Some weird rule emerges whereby if I didn’t find the escape hatch on my first approach, I retreat. If I didn’t state my riders and caveats in advance then I therefore waive ALL OF MY HUMAN RIGHTS and become a slave to whatever relationship, gym or job is currently happening in my life. Because that’s the way life works, right?
So here we have FOMO looking a lot like a warped view of commitment.
On commitment and cages
Once upon a time I said yes to living with a guy. My boyfriend at the time.
FOMO got me into it in the first place. I wondered ‘why haven’t I met that special someone yet?’ so I found a guy to date. Then I tried to make a life with him.
Trying my best failed because my heart was not in the relationship.
We were bickering. He refused to take part in my ‘chores rota’ (actually an ultimatum taped to the wall). So there, proof he didn’t love me — and I found lots of other proof as well.
I was now trapped with this guy in this space with all of my stuff, the anchor to my shipwreck. It would take a superhuman effort to get out, or so I thought. I would need to get rid of stuff, move other stuff, find a new place or get a housemate to afford the current 2-bed flat.
It was decision time. But somehow I couldn’t make a decision because life was just too comfortable — living with someone whom I didn’t particularly hate was just about doable. It was a gilded cage.
Why should I pay the startup cost to leave when I would still have to go through the pain of separation? Couldn’t I just defer it all? (More about this survival mechanism in future…)
The time finally came for The Talk because my sister was planning her wedding and I didn’t want my boyfriend to come. Basically, I didn’t want another yearlong commitment to a guy I didn’t love. Nor did I want the physical proof of our “wonderful relationship” to get people speculating at the wedding.
The Talk was the best thing that happened to me in that relationship. Okay, so I had found the escape hatch — massive relief! But I also realised that I had compromised so much that I no longer recognised myself.
Which of my freedoms did I violate in this relationship?
- The freedom to enjoy my friends and family.
- The freedom to an equal partnership and reciprocity.
- The freedom to communicate (be heard) and to be supported.
- The freedom to pursue my passions.
- The freedom to dress how I want.
- The freedom to stay up late if I want.
- The freedom to live in abundance.
- Freedom from scorn and jealousy.
It taught me plenty. I now know that I want a relationship with someone with whom I can talk. I now want to BE someone who will talk.
FOMO Public relations
PR around that which is vague, future-focused or messy is a FOMO MOFO’s worst nightmare. It’s like picking up glitter from carpet with your fingers. Word gets everywhere. It’s showy and damning.
I notice how I manage the PR when I communicate my travel plans. People who are barely acquaintances suddenly want to know tiny details of where I’m going, when, and then what, and then what, and by that time I’m done I’ve gone so far into the future I’m predicting what I’m doing when I’m in my forties and where I’ll live and how many cats I’ll have.
NO! Stop this mad fiction-building right now. “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.
Nobody will track me down and punish me if my plans change.
And, the way things are moving, I’m more likely to beat myself up for not getting to Bali this winter as it is definitely on my radar.
Consider all the options
Against my intuition, I have found myself considering options compulsively. Putting off making a decision by telling myself ‘there is still more research to be done’. This is how I research audio speakers, airplane fares, which movie to see, which restaurant to go to (I’ve spent hours roaming around Florence in the name of this!) and so on.
For instance, why commit to going to Bali when there are places in South America that are just as nice, at the same temperature and perhaps more of an adventure? In fact, there are places in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Australia, Spain, and so on.
I am always compelled to read the menu cover to cover before making a selection.
What else could I be doing right now that is a better use of my time? More fun? More varied? More practical? More social? Will I regret just doing this?
Don’t go there. It is madness.
The dictionary says that adventure is hazardous
My life is an adventure. Oxford dictionaries defines adventure as “an unusual and exciting or daring experience.” The word ‘hazardous’ pops up in other definitions.
Let me ask, when you last had an exciting, daring or unusual experience, were you certain of the outcome?
Was it hazardous?
However, I know it would be hazardous for me to never leave my house.
So onwards I go, trusting that this is where I am meant to be. Or more realistically, still keeping an eye out for traps, but choosing to trust.
I am choosing to trust that all the other options are beige compared to the 80-colour pencil set I’m scribbling with right now.
In the words of Steve Chandler:
“Don’t create your year, create your day. Figure out the perfect day and then live it. The year will take care of itself. So will your life.”
I would like to see Fear of Missing Out changed to Freedom over My Opportunities.
So what does FOMO look like to you?