‘The fear of missing out on things makes you miss out on everything.’Etty Hillesum
Something that is becoming more and more prevalent in the world today is a particular type of anxiety. The Fear of Missing Out. This is a fear derived from feeling that others are doing much more interesting things than you might be, leading you to fret and worry about potentially missing opportunities.
It can also manifest in the fear that when you choose one path of life, that the others will not be available anymore. The thought is that when one door opens in life, ten more are close behind you. This can lead to people never choosing a path in life, never moving forward under the pretence of ‘Keeping my options open to ensure no doors close behind them yet additionally never taking any of the options to start with, and thus missing out on all of them.
In both manifestations this fear of missing out can be completely paralyzing, leaving you obsessing over what you are missing out on, instead of being able to move on forward with what you have. This can have a deeply negative impact on life, as it can lead to avoiding commitment and taking action when it might be needed.
This article aims to discuss the causes of this ever more prevalent condition that plagues a growing proportion of people. As well I intend to layout various questions that you can ask yourself when you are experiencing this fear that might help you move on past it.
What Causes the Fear of Missing Out?
Many factors can lead to the fear of missing out. Some of which are more recent, while others have been around for a great deal longer. At its heart, the fear of missing out is driven by the natural desire to ensure you do not miss out on potentially positive opportunities. However, it can often end up becoming out of control and having a detrimental impact.
For example, a lot of marketing and advertising works using this principle. Using peoples desires to get the opportunity to have the next best thing to sell them more and more items. “Limited-Time Offers” especially take advantage of this, adding to the pressure, by suggesting that if you do not get the item this very instant, you will miss out on the opportunity forever.
A newer factor that exacerbates this fear is social media and the false comparisons that can often be made when using it. For example, if you are returning home from a relatively mundane day, nothing is going to make you feel like you are missing out on life more than seeing someone else’s ‘perfect’ life relaxing in the Bahamas. Especially considering the majority of people do not post their standard day to day activities online, seeing only the highlights of their lives very much adds to the false comparisons and the fear of missing out.
Additionally, there are more options than ever in life, more and more paths that we can walk down. While this has its benefits, it also makes choosing any single path much harder. It can be all too easy to end up burdened and paralyzed by the sheer array of choices and paths that you could take. Especially in the realization that no matter what you do, you will end up having to miss out on some of those choices.
While there is a myriad of factors that can induce the fear of missing out and the great anxiety that it can produce, more than ever in the modern day. There are ways around it that can help you focus on enjoying and pushing forward in your own life, feeling confident in your decisions. Compared to worrying about others lives and opportunities, putting off making decisions due to the fear of them closing certain avenues.
Ways to Move Past the Fear of Missing Out
So how do we move past this fear? What questions can we ask ourselves at the moment when we feel this particular kind of anxiety creeping into our lives? I have listed a few suggestions below, this list is non-exhaustive and there are likely many other ways that can help you move past this fear.
- Ask yourself if it is something you truly want.
Interestingly, not everything you will worry about missing out on will be something you want. Sometimes you might feel the sensation of wanting something just because someone else is doing it, even if you otherwise wouldn’t.
Of course, it is important to realize that just because someone else might enjoy a certain activity does not mean it is right for you. Or even something you would want to do if you did not see others doing it. People make choices depending on their own lives and personalities, their choices and desires often reflect that and as such are unique to every individual.
So when you begin feeling the sensation of missing out, take time to reflect and ask yourself if you are missing out on something that you would truly want for yourself in the first place.
- Is the fear actually telling me something that I need to change?
Sometimes the fear of missing out is valid. Sometimes it is a sign that you need to change something, even if not always. A sense of restlessness in life can be a great motivating force to push forward if you are stuck in a dip in your life. This may not directly relate to something you want, but to a more broad change that you may wish to make in your life while motivating you to realize that change.
It can be difficult to tell between the fear of missing out due to seeing what others have and that fear of missing out on a personal unfulfilled desire. It takes a great deal of self-reflection to learn the difference, and learn what it is that you want out of life. But when you do, you will be able to act on this feeling and use it as a motivational force, without being filled with doubt about other missed opportunities.
- Am I properly appreciating what I have?
Sometimes it is easy to grow overly attached to the thought that other people have things that you do not, without appreciating the things in life that you have. This is a particularly dangerous mindset as if you do not learn to appreciate what you have you will never be satisfied in life.
Gratitude is incredibly important in life, as it allows you to enjoy what you have and will make every day you have much brighter. If you take care to ensure you appreciate what you have, you will feel the pull of envy much less and the fear of missing out will have much less impact on your life.
- Is what I am seeing an accurate version of reality?
As previously mentioned false comparisons can be a great cause for fear of missing out. When you get worried that you are missing out on something somebody else has and are displaying for the whole world to see. It is important to ask yourself if that image is the entire story. Often people choose to hide the more negative parts of their life from the world. While some people have some great opportunities, they also might have many challenges that go unseen, some of which would make the entire story a lot less enviable, even if what they show to the world is the image of a ‘perfect’ life.
To conclude, while having some fear of missing out and a drive to make the most of every opportunity you have is natural, care must also be taken. If left unchecked, without deep self-reflection on what it is that you want, the fear of missing out can easily turn into a paralyzing force that makes it impossible to take action, leading you to miss out as a result.
If you reflect on yourself to see what you want and reflect on what you see about others lives, especially online. You will have a better chance at moving past this fear, be able to act accordingly to what you want in life and be much better at avoiding the dangers of false comparisons to others.