Today was again a foggy night. The air still smells like warm summer rain. Since we are on a mountain, the fog is creeping up in meters around us. It looks like I am walking on clouds.
The last two days were wild and weird. After hiking through some giant rock formations, and having freshly grilled sardines for the first time in my life, we decided it is time to kick back and dive into Guimaraes nightlife. On a Monday.
As you can imagine, not the most epic night of our lives.
But it made me think. About my own restlessness lately.
I am always on the hunt for the next epic night, the next trip, a new romantic adventure.
I could not make sense of my inner turmoil today, so I decided to write about the fear of missing out. FOMO in short. I first heard about FOMO when I read an article by Mark Manson. If you have not already, definitely check him out.
What Is FOMO For Me?
The fear of missing out is a form of social anxiety that you are missing out on something right now. A desire to leave and experience more. It is within the family of feeling that this moment that I am experiencing right now is not enough. That I need more.
It is the addiction to consume something, or wanting to consume things that, right now, you cannot have.
So, if you are a fellow traveller, you might as well suffer from the same disease. The addiction of “more”.
FOMO, for me, manifests itself mostly with travel. If I see a picture of a mystic landscape, my initial reaction is to leave everything behind, sell my last shirt and go there immediately. Totally ignoring if I have the money if it is a wise move to take some time off from university or work. My initial reaction is always, fck it! Go now, I should have been there yesterday, I better hurry before this place is no longer there!
Travellers haste so to say. And some of my craziest stories and most beautiful memories are as a result of me going balls to the wall and just go wherever I want to go.
But, some of my most recent struggles are also a result of this mentality.
For me, excessive travelling, often in the afterthought, feels like an overcorrection to phases where I am not as happy or even slightly depressed.
I get bored easily, so the casual monotony of life can be like a straitjacket for me.
I recently interviewed a person who is Bi-Polar, and withing that conversation, when she told me about her extreme ups and downs. I recognised some of my own patterns.
So, let me walk you through why FOMO, for me, is a double-edged sword.
If I have a phase in my life that is scarce of adventure, meaning, and excitement, this as a lifelong vagabond here, makes me not happy, so I get depressed.
Once I recognise that I am behaving like a 2-meter tall emotional lesbian, I overcorrect things. I jump straight into the biggest adventure that my little savings can buy me (and more – debts suck).
Then I travel around the world like a freaking lunatic and return home. Depleted. Exhausted. Broke. Rich in memories but also anxious because I have to deal with the monotony of life, and with the fact that all my credit cards are bleeding.
This causes me to have another phase of “this sucks” because, well, being broke is not fun at all. So I get depressed again—a perfect vicious circle.
A perfect recipe for disaster. A happiness trap so to say.
As I am writing this, I feel like an unsuccessful escape artist. I am unsure of what I am escaping from, but I am deeply curious about what happens if I stop running.
Joy Versus Fear
I think two big driving forces shape behaviour like nothing else. Anticipated pleasure and the fear of pain.
We repeat what is rewarded, and we avoid what is punished—basic behaviour psychology.
FOMO is being motivated by the anticipated joy of experiencing something new.
FOMO is being motivated by fear. FOMO means that you are motivated by being afraid of not experiencing something new.
Very big difference.
For me, FOMO means that I am afraid of staying where I am right now. Standing still and not moving forward is a nightmare for me because my coping mechanism to deal with everything is to create a crazy plan for fixing something.
Fixing something implies that something is broken. This is exactly where the problem lies.
You internalised that your life, your current situation, your current experience, and you yourself, ultimately, are not enough somehow. That you need more.
There are multiple observable phenomena of FOMO.
This Moment Is Not Enough
On a situational level, you feel that: this moment is not enough.
While travelling, for example, you are unhappy with your experience, even if unfounded. You are in constant haste. You will not find beauty in being still and enjoying the simpleness of life.
Staying in a house with my buddies is good training for me. That being in one place is just as fun as road tripping the entire time.
For me, as of late, this mentality was like self-inflicted psychological torture.
And it peaked around two days ago when I decided against staying home and went out to party on a Monday.
I knew beforehand that it probably was going to suck, but I went anyway because I was afraid I was missing out on something.
I believe that alcohol and drugs fall into this category, as well. As my pal and I chugged down beer after beer, the driving psychological force behind it was FOMO, in my opinion.
The idea that how I feel right now is not enough. I need more. More mania. More fun.
Of course, when you think like this, there is never an end to it.
And frankly, not only do you not feel better, but you also zoom out and become less able to enjoy the moment, and your stupidity is rewarded with a nuclear hangover the next day.
So what is the next level of FOMO?
If you are motivated by FOMO, then on a personal level, you are motivated by fear as well. You are constantly on the hunt for the next fix of escaping from yourself. In a social situation, for example, you are more likely to drink or consume drugs, because after this beer you will be finally funny enough.
Also, you are driven by fear of yourself. You need to repair yourself constantly, you are broken, and you need to fix yourself.
After the next book, the next conference, the next raise, the next trip, you will be enough finally.
I think we all still crave attention and external validation. We believe that if we do this next thing that makes us “better” we will finally be worthy of love.
But we are children of the world. Miraculous creates who were born enough. More even, we are part of the best time to be alive ever, and we are a huge awesome organism that floats on a giant rock through space. So, thinking that you do not matter, or that you are not ordinary is blasphemy. You are a child of earth, the most amazing planet in this solar system, and you are in no position to argue against the meaning of your position.
You are not a mistake.
You Are Not Enough
The third level of FOMO is that you project your inner struggles on to your partners, friends, and onto your family.
If you think of yourself as not enough, you are also not fully capable of accepting other people’s imperfections.
This might represent itself by having the urge to hang each weekend with somebody else, or your lack of stability in your relationship, or you hating your own family. Because you, in reality, hate yourself.
We live in a generation where, with apps like Tinder, Der, and Bumble, we can have an infinite number of dates. So, we end relationships because we are afraid of missing out.
We feel like there is always a prettier, a more intelligent, and more perfect person. We leave good relationships to find great ones.
Like a vagabond, I internalised this mentality so much that frankly, I do not know if I am still capable of having an ordinary relationship anymore.
Because, after all, the number of people that I miss out on far outweighs the stability and comfort of having only one person.
It is contra-intuitive to humans I feel. The condition we fear most is loneliness. To be alone.
So, what better way to not feel alone than to constantly seek new company.
Weirdly enough, FOMO is driving us to more sexual partners but is leaving us more alone than any other mental strategy.
It is not how long you live, how many trips you do, how many adventures you have, but how well you live them. So, I encourage you to do nothing. At least for a while. Come to peace that not every moment has to be epic. You do not have to be happy 24/7. So stop worrying about how many stamps you have in your passport. Leave FOMO behind and start living.
Fall in love with being still. How about you stop escaping for 5 minutes, and observe this very second, and internalise that at this moment you are enough.
As always, thank you for reading, and go kick ass in life.