FOMO or JOMO? Turn the Fear of Missing Out into the Joy of Missing Out 



The struggle is real.

A bit more than a year ago, I wrote an article for Psych Central called Do You Have FOMO? In a study called “Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out,” it is defined as: “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”  

The manner in which it arrived in my life had little to do with being envious with what I saw on social media, and all the way-cool things others were doing, like traveling to exotic locations, feathering their nests, or meeting celebrities. I travel at my comfort level, decorate my cozy home with eclectic items that put a smile on my face when I look at them and interview notables for various venues.

Mine looks like wishing I could be multiple places simultaneously, since I am blessed to have an agenda of activities I am invited to by wonderful professionally and personally connected people. I desire to have the stamina to bound out of bed and to the gym daily (as it is, I get there 3-4 times a week), write a few articles, see clients and do outreach for teaching opportunities. Most who know me would say that I accomplish more in a day than they do in a week and experience vicarious fatigue just hearing my to-do-got-done lists.

And yet…there are times when this Type A recovering workaholic feels that sense of not enough, since I have not achieved the level of ‘success’ I know I am capable of. I envision TED talks and hosting an NPR podcast. I imagine having my words read in mainstream publications worldwide. I see taking the FREE HUGS movement to more places in the world. I encourage my clients to go for the gold in their own lives, using their imagination muscles to create what they would like. Sometimes they dive in enthusiastically and sometimes they balk and resist, believing the naysayers that have harangued them over the years. 

When I face that critical inner voice, I ramp up and spin my wheels, attempting to do more, faster and with increased fervency. When I find myself in that place, my body wisdom takes over and compels me to slow down and even cease all activity. Yesterday was one of those days.

A dear friend was visiting from her home on the West Coast and since she is a wonderful healer, she offered a massage session. I had been nursing an Achilles tendon strain and welcomed her nurturing and therapeutic touch to ease away the pain. Keep in mind, that I hadn’t allowed the injury to sideline me and I continued walking and working out at the gym, rationalizing that if I was sedentary, it would stiffen up and would also impact on my overall health. The night before, I was in the pharmacy department of a local supermarket and was perusing the pain patches. I brought it over to the pharmacist and asked her if I should place it on my leg. She read the packet and shook her head and told me to ice and elevate and avoid walking and working out; the very thing I least wanted to hear. I sometimes feel a sense of panic when I can’t work out. Part of my workaholism, for certain.

I followed her instructions that night. The next day, when Cindy came over, she worked her magic, my leg felt better, that is, until I stood up and began to walk. My left knee locked up, and I felt like a marionette. The pain surged through and had me groaning, in part because of the sensation and in part because I had a whole day planned that didn’t involve hunkering down at home. A Halloween festival in my town, beckoned, as well as a potluck gathering at the home of friends who live an hour away. Cindy shook her head and reinforced the pharmacist’s wise guidance.

Before she left, I got out the ice pack, bundled up in fleece robe and kicked back in the comfy recliner in my living room, while soothing music issued forth from the speakers. I contacted my friend and let him know I wouldn’t be joining them at their lovely home where I knew that welcoming hugs, a fire in the fire pit in their garden yard, yummy food, music, drumming, dance and fascinating conversation would await. “Bummer,” pouted my inner kiddo who so wanted to indulge in all those things. Enter JOMO, which to me indicates that I don’t need to be ON 24/7. I can let go of expectations for myself. I can surrender efforting. I can live fully in the present moment. I am not letting anyone down by taking care of myself. I am putting the symbolic oxygen mask on myself first. I can’t be there for anyone else if I am passed out on the floor from oxygen deprivation or limping in pain.

Dictionary.com defines JOMO as “a feeling of contentment with one’s own pursuits and activities, without worry over the possibility of missing out on what others may be doing.”

I think of this metaphor as an example. If you have a quiet evening planned at home; just you, a relaxing bath, a Netflix binge or good book, a cup of tea and a friend calls and asks you to go out to a movie or party, you get to decide which would be in your best interest, since saying yes to one of them means saying no to the other. Unless you have learned to bi-locate or clone yourself, you can only choose one of those experiences.

In my case, it was the other way around. I had peopled activities in the offing and I elected to be solo, taking care of my body. I could have pushed through, as I have over the years, to my detriment (cardiac event, shingles, Bakers cyst, kidney stones, adrenal fatigue and pneumonia), but I made a more self-honoring choice to care of my ‘knee-ds’. The reality is, I wasn’t truly missing out on anything, knowing that other opportunities await.

As of this morning, my pain and stiffness are significantly decreased. I am going to (carefully) get decked out as a butterfly to go to a friend’s Halloween gathering today and spread my wings.

“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” – Bill Watterson



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Box Tree Clinic | Your Key to World Class Private Therapy

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