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Mental Health Awareness Week: How to handle FOMO, the fear of missing out

Don't let the fear of missing out derail you from achieving success

  • Fenny Nadorp
  • 13 May 2019

Fenny Nadorp is an entertainment and creative industry life coach with more than a decade of experience. She has been trained by neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) legend Tony Robbins, Chloé Madanes, Magali and Mark Peysha. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, she has teamed up with Mixmag for a series of topic discussions that artists, industry members and fans alike face to create and encourage a safe environment to openly discuss mental health issues.

What is FOMO?

It stands for fear of missing out. But beyond its literal meaning, in an age of social media, FOMO can be a driver for many decisions. Have you experienced the feeling of wanting to be everywhere to avoid missing out on anything? Do you feel unsatisfied, and like you're always searching for a better opportunity?

The fear of missing out has been defined in many ways. One study describes it as having general anxiety over the idea that other people might be having fulfilling experiences without you. Others take this a bit further and describe FOMO as a “social anxiety” that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media. FOMO relates to a feeling that friends and connections are leading more interesting and rewarding lives, creating a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing online.

It's one thing to simply feel disgruntled at the end of a night on the off chance you might've missed a great party, but what happens when FOMO becomes a business issue?

"The entertainment industry markets to FOMO literally all the time," Lorne Padman, Vice President of Dim Mak Records says. Take one look around music industry marketing, and it's evident. Every festival is promoted as the event of the century, the one that you definitely can't miss. Each label suggests that its the label to sign on. Today, an artist is more than just their music. The promise of success is built on staying relevant, putting pressure on artists and industry folk to show up to the events, to stay after the gig, go to the afterparty, and hope to meet the right people to further your career.

Artists have come to me before, expressing these stresses. Once, a client came to me asking for advice. He had created an amazing remix and the artist loved it, but it ultimately was turned down by the label because he did not have enough followers on his social platforms. Unfortunately, it's inevitable that today, some will confuse followings and numbers as value.

Social media is something people, and especially artists, can't do without today. It's important to remember that what you see online is never the true picture of someone's life. Think about it - when was the last time your favorite, successful artist uploaded a photo of themselves at the dentist? Cleaning their house? Social media is designed to show us the highlights of each other’s lives, like a nostalgic clip show focusing on the best bits, while skipping all of the boring episodes.

Dr Halley Pontes, a psychologist in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences says: “It is important to know that FOMO may be worsened by the fact that we are being constantly reminded about what we are missing out on via all the notifications we receive to our phones. One potential strategy to curb FOMO may be to manage which notifications we want to receive. Although the origin of FOMO may vary from one person to another, it is often a result of a deficit in psychological need, such as social connection. For this reason, living a socially fulfilling life where psychological needs toward social connections can be met may also help overcome anxiety associated with FOMO.”

Consequences of FOMO can hold you back from personal success by making it harder to feel good and confident about your choices, especially in a culture that suggests that it is possible to have it all. Those inundated by FOMO contemplate countless other options and results, while some postpone and never start anything. It can make you feel stuck, anxious or even pull you out of living in the moment.

Do you think you might be experiencing consequences of having FOMO?

Ask yourself (and be honest):

1. Are you constantly checking your phone?

2. Are you endlessly scrolling through your socials or newsfeed?

3. Are you constantly checking your likes and comments?

4. Do you feel lost without your phone?

5. Do you ever say yes, when actually your heart says no?

6. Do you feel a constant pressure to be everywhere?

7. Are you enjoying what you’re currently doing, or is your mind occupied?

How many times did you answer “yes”?

Now it’s time to decide what you want. When you are constantly busy on what you’re missing out on, your actually missing out on the moment. One way to defeat FOMO is to be definitive with yourself: decide where you want to be and what you want to gain. The world might feel full of endless opportunities, like a big “choose your own adventure” game, but when you are honest with yourself about what you value more - the event you’re at, the company you’re in - and choose actively, you will begin to see more of the positives your choices bring you, rather than things you potentially missed out on.

Other things that help are actively cutting down your phone use, or being intentional about when you do pick up your devices. Instead of endlessly scrolling and allowing your jealousy to feed on beautiful photos of lives you wish you had, only pick up your phone to intentionally achieve something, like reaching out to a friend or checking an email. There are many tools available on smartphones today that assist with cutting down on excessive screen time. It can also help to involve friends and family and stay committed to less screen time for everyone. What’s out of sight will eventually become out of mind.

Fenny Nadorp is an entertainment and creative industry life coach, trainer and speaker based in The Netherlands. Find her on Instagram here and contact her at hello@fennynadorp.com.

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