F.O.M.O. | Fear Of Missing Out
Do you ever feel like you’re just floating?...
Like everyone around you, the people you expected to be surrounded by for life, are moving on to new things, better things, but you’re not there with them?
You feel like you’re doing what is right for you. You feel like you’re following the path that fits your season of life, but when you look around, it seems that those close to you are on a different path. And it’s not that your or their paths are good or bad, they are just... different.
It’s easy to feel alone, and easy to feel like you’re on the outside looking in, or that you may have made the wrong decision just because it doesn’t seem like the popular one.
- “Why am I the only one left out?"
- “Why do I have to be on the outside?"
- “Why does everyone else get to move into something new, and I’m stuck here?"
- “Why is everyone else still together, but I’m drifting away?"
- “Where I’m at feels right, but why do I feel so alone?"
- “Why do others get to pursue what they love, while I’m left behind?"
- “Everyone I used to follow has moved on. How do I do this by myself?"
These are all feelings I’ve had before, and chances are they are feelings you’ve had too. Why? Because change is a part of life. It’s inevitable. Life happens in seasons, so do relationships, and environments, and communities.
When you find yourself in a place in life that feels like where you’re supposed to be, but at the same time feels lonely and separate from others, it’s easy to have your expectations let down.
It’s easy to experience F.O.M.O.–
Fear Of Missing Out.
- “Did I make the wrong choice?"
- “Did I get left behind?"
- “Did I miss my shot?"
Understand that even if it feels like you’re still in the same place as before after everyone has moved on, that “Same” place is not the same anymore, it’s changed – and so have you. There’s a reason that others have moved where they have. And there is a reason you are still where you’re at.
You are called to lead in a unique way. And this new season is necessary for you to grow.
All leaders have their season of refining before they step into their calling. They all go through a period of testing, where they step out of who they used to be (younger, inexperienced, unlearned, etc.), and transition to a new level of living and leading (wisdom, influence, action). And a lot of the time, that season feels solitary, even lonely.
- The Beatles played 8+ hour nightly shows for two years in Germany for pennies before they ever gained worldwide fame.
- Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days for prayer and fasting before starting his ministry that would shape history.
- Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years before being elected South Africa’s first black President, after decades of institutionalized racism.
It may be a comfort to you (it was for me) to discover that the feeling of “aloneness" is a natural part of leadership.
Not because you are actually alone, however, but because you are first.
[See comic above]
You are the first to do what you are meant to do. And you are blazing the trail for those who will follow behind you. It feels like you’re alone because you don’t see anyone ahead of you, and when you look from side to side, you don’t see anyone else doing what you’re doing.
But if you look around further still, you would see there are others in your life who feel the same aloneness as you. People walking through their own uncharted territory who are also wondering if they are on their own. These are your peers: other trailblazers. You can find companionship and support together with these like-minded people.
And if you were to look behind you, you would see that you are paving the way for many others to follow. There are people who are watching you on your journey, they are following your example and paying attention to your decisions. There are others who long to do what you are attempting and whose own journeys will be made easier as a result of the steps you have taken.
If you think about it, you've had those people too. Whether they were a friend or a mentor, or someone you don’t even know who you looked up to, you followed their example, you emulated them, you learned from them. You followed the trail they were blazing as they pursued their passion. It’s important to have these people in your life.
Eventually, however, the time comes when it’s your turn to step off of their path and to forge your own unique path. The times comes for you to LEAD.
When this time comes, it’s easy to want to default to trailing in the shadow of those who have come before you. It’s much more comfortable to walk a well-worn path. It’s easy to anticipate that they will pave the way for you and you can just ride your way to the top. It’s a nice thought to want to have someone else keep opening all the doors for you. But that’s not the reality.
The reality is that although someone may have started you on your journey through mentorship or through their example, eventually your unique purpose requires you to forge a new path into uncharted territory.
If you try to live out someone else’s purpose, you will end up just being an echo of them – something that sounds the same but is diminished and delayed.
You can never do someone else’s purpose better than them. It will leave you in the shadows. But if you learn from others, and choose to pursue your own calling, then you will discover the unique way you are meant to travel through life. – I believe the reason we end up going in new directions is that it’s time for us to grow and mature to a new level.
I do, however, stress the difference between having peace with your new direction and not having peace.
“New” isn’t always right, even if it's popular.
But also, “New” isn’t always wrong, even if it’s unpopular.
So whether your FOMO is a result of stepping away from what’s familiar to start something new, or to stay where you are planted when others are moving away – as long as you have made that decision wisely, after consideration, counsel, prayer, etc., chances are you will have a measure of peace that helps you know you’re in the right place, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Moving in a different direction is hard,
but it doesn’t mean that you have to lose your close relationships.
As a matter of fact, it can be a great strengthening opportunity for your relationships.
You get the chance to discover what your relationship looks like when you’re not always around each other. It tests the real strength of the friendship when you are farther away but still choose to share the love, camaraderie and support with each other. True friendships support each other when life takes them in different directions.
Also, true friendship celebrates others when they experience success, even if you can’t see your own.
Dale Partridge just posted a great article called, “How To Not Feel Like You’re Losing When Others Are Winning” where he writes:
Rather than being resentful or bitter when our paths divert, it gives us peace to remember that growth and change is part of life.
Rather than a person or people being gone from your life when the path splits, it can actually broaden the reach of your relationship, if you let it. It spans a greater distance. It creates bigger influence, it brings in more perspective for each person because your vision is stretched further out. It pops the tiny social bubbles that we create around ourselves for safety, and replaces it with open sky.
Think of Healthy Relationship growth like this:
When we are young or starting out, there are usually others around us who are also starting out. Imagine each person being like a little plant in a garden.
You are packed close because it keeps you safe, you feed off of each other, your roots support each other. You are tended to and cared for and watered and fed. But as you grow, in order to keep growing healthy, you must be transplanted to a bigger pot. Your little plant grows branches that spread out as you grow in experience and wisdom. With time you then need to be planted in the ground, further apart, so that you have space to breathe, and so that you don’t choke each other out by trying to share a tiny space that can’t sustain everyone.
Eventually your plant grows into a tree, tall, strong, with branches that span wide. And although you are now planted much further apart from those you hold dear, your branches reach out and span the distance between. You are still connected, but you are wiser, stronger, smarter, bigger...
If we allow ourselves to grow and go different directions, then what happens is that we become able to reach higher and further than we ever could if we had stayed put in that little garden.
When we are afraid that we are missing out, I think what we are actually feeling is being further out of our comfort zone. This is a good thing. That space, which can feel like alone-ness at first, is the space required for us to grow bigger and stronger.
In order to grow, we need room to expand.
And that requires us to step out in faith into the new, unknown and uncomfortable opportunities. And what happens in us is a transformation - from small to big. From weak to strong. Our influence and capacity expand. Our vision grows.
Our perception of ourselves grows as we embrace a bigger space in life.
We begin to see that we can actually do it, that we are going to make it, that we have the ability to live at a new level. We discover parts of ourselves that we didn’t know existed: hidden talents, leadership ability, new ideas, fresh passions.
The other side of this plant analogy is that many plants will grow in proportion to the container they are in.
If you keep them in a small container, they will stay small in order to survive, because there is limited space and resources. But if you put that same plant in a bigger container, it will begin to grow and expand to fit that container.
In the same way, if we choose to give into fear and to stay in our comfort zone, whether that’s a job, a social group, a place we live, or whatever, then we limit our potential significantly.
It doesn’t mean we can’t have a good life in that smaller container, and it doesn’t mean that we are a bad person, it just means that we won’t reach our full potential, which is the true source of fulfillment in life. We are living beings, and anything that is alive grows. If a plant it isn’t growing, it’s a sign that it may be sick, malnourished, stuck, dead, or dying.
Too often we view big change in life as something that went wrong:
“If only this had never happened, then I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
But if we embrace that change is part of our very nature, and growth is part of our design, and the process is part of our purpose, then we can find peace and comfort with the new directions of life.
The antidote to F.O.M.O. is perspective.
Remember that your relationships don’t have to disappear. They might be different, and some might transition away, but you won’t be left alone.
You’re not a victim of your circumstances either. It’s unreasonable to expect that you can trail someone else’s footsteps for life and that success will just be handed to you. That’s not to say that opportunities aren’t given to you. But you must be ready to steward those opportunities when they come. The action part of your journey is totally up to you.
You decide what direction to walk, and evaluate each choice as you go. And the decisions you make ultimately decide whether you have a fulfilling life or not.
For me, part of that journey involves my faith. There is a scripture that says,
This is a reminder to me that each crossroads or open door in life, is an opportunity for me to think, consider, pray, take a step forward in faith, and adjust as I go.
Whatever you believe, you should have a process for making those big decisions and for finding peace with them.
And whether your faith is in God, in yourself, or just that life will always work out, taking bold steps in new directions requires faith, trust, and a belief that no failure is the end of the world.
Embrace your process.
Embrace your place, even if it is different than others around you.
If you feel that where you are is where you need to be, and it is fulfilling, then allow yourself to grow to fit that new container.
Reach your branches out to others who are taking similar steps and you will find that you aren’t alone. You have companionship with other people who are also taking steps into new territory. Connect with them, talk with them. Relate with each other. Be transparent. Reach out for help and perspective and encouragement, and give those things to them as well.
If you choose to grow this way, your life will eventually become a tall tree, strong and wide and able to stand on your own, but also part of a forest, with your branches connected to those you’ve built relationships with.