FOMO is real. But, does it rule your life?
“You can sleep when you’re dead.”
Those words uttered by my dear old dad have peppered many of our conversations for as long as I can remember.
And while I get the appeal to this pithy little dictum - toughen up, buttercup...rub some dirt in it...youth is wasted on the young - it started taking a toll on my wellbeing when I took the sentiment a bit too far.
I like to learn from others’ mistakes before I screw up anything further on my own (spontaneous trips wandering into PetSmart and walking out with unplanned purchases aka pets, opting for a third helping of cruciferous vegetables on a second date, agreeing to help clean up a friend’s rotten watermelon in her kitchen - which nearly made me vom on the spot, swiftly - and acrylic nails, to name a few). So please, learn from my periodic moments of idiocy and heed to my newfound wisdom here.
When I was a teenager, I started this habit of overcommitting myself. Subtly, at first. The factors at play here were my multiple interests, a people-pleasing mentality, a misplaced notion of where my self worth laid, and an aggressive pursuit of income. In other words, my FOMO on activities I started neglecting, my FOMO on praise and approval, and my FOMO on opportunities to make money. FOMO - fear of missing out - had started to take over my life.
This carried into college, where I, as many of us do, had to face many a harsh wake-up call. Nasty red pen slashed over papers turned in late. Annoyed reactions from friends, for my frequent tardiness to or worse, flakiness toward, our plans. Stern chats with professors, concerned about my inability to manage my time. I had said yes to a part-time job, rushing a sorority, training for equestrian competitions, a bustling social calendar, and a position in high school ministry and mentoring. All on top of being a full-time student. I was overcommitted, burned out, exhausted, and more often than I should have been, unhappy.
So what happened? By my third year into college, I made a choice to take better care of myself. I reconnected with my spirituality, and initiated more self-love from the inside, out. I learned how to say no - which at first made me cringe inwardly, but over time I started to recognize how nice it was to come home and simply do nothing. I took more naps. I went on hikes alone, and journaled. Some days I allowed my timeline to have no timeline at all, so I wouldn’t have to rush home from wherever I’d wandered. I learned, over time, that saying no became one of the best things for me - my health, my sanity, my work ethic, and my relationships.
Nowadays, I still love staying busy, and I’m not knocking the busyness-prone. Allowing room for boredom is out of the question for me, and it really does make life more fun when things pick up into a steady stream of things that make life vibrant and fun. But the secret is to facilitate the ebb and flow - life is hella fun in the flow, but it’s made that much richer and more enjoyable when you carve out room for the ebb. Tuck yourself away, shut off your phone, take a bath, get up early before the rest of the world wakes and watch the sunrise, say no to a happy hour to go for a long and self-loving run instead. Find whatever it takes to allow yourself to unwind, because the cumulative value of saying no allows you to say yes to life’s adventures that you love. When you’ve rested, reguvinated, and reconnected, you can call yourself wholly ready to leap back into the next flow with eyes wide open, ready to embrace life’s next sweet delight. Feast away, ladies.
Cover image via Talkspace