How I Forgot My FOMO and Found Myself

Say the word “FOMO” to nearly any person under the age of 40 and they will most certainly know what you’re talking about: the fear of missing out. Whether it is a local show, a party you weren’t invited to, or just a picture on Instagram, FOMO is the plague of young adults everywhere. 

 

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words Lauren Best
illustration Sarah Messina

In the Oxford English Dictionary, FOMO is described as, “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.” Anxiety was once my lifestyle of choice so, clearly, FOMO made perfect sense to me. 

I have basically been struggling with FOMO for most of my life in that I never quite felt like I fit in with any one group. The “cool kids” could sense my desperation for acceptance, and that only made me more uncool. At the ripe age of 16, I discovered a magical cure for my introversion and insecurity: Alcohol! Suddenly I felt cool, relaxed, fun, even outgoing. From college until my mid-twenties, I was in a continuous daze of drunken partying, hook ups, and a lot of bad choices. At 26, I faced a fork in the road: keep living like I was perpetually 23 or get my shit together. As is my true nature, the “get your shit together” plan did not go smoothly. 

That year, I decided to get sober. I didn’t think it would be manageable, much less permanent. I moved back home into my old bedroom at my mom’s house, which felt shameful at the time. Across every social media app, I could see my friends still having fun, going to parties, and living life – without me. At first, this was painful and depressing. Throw in the combination of being overly emotional and struggling with insomnia, lack of appetite, and the mood swings of early sobriety. Over many months, however, this experience became the best decision I ever made for myself. 

At the core of FOMO, in my opinion, is an insecurity or lack of happiness in one’s own life. My life had been stagnant for years, and for the first time in a long time, I felt my life moving forward in sobriety. I began to reach goals that once felt impossible. I started therapy around this time, and it truly saved my life. Thanks Obama… genuinely, thank you. Through therapy, I realized I had spent all my life replaying the same tape over and over in my head: that I was not worthy enough. It is frustrating and kind of heartbreaking to think of the time I wasted living this way. Being physically isolated from almost everyone I knew became a blessing in disguise. This was the beginning of my self-love journey and the beginning of the end of my FOMO. 

Nearly three years later, I am still sober and still struggle with FOMO sometimes. When I started this journey into sobriety years ago, I didn’t know I had the option to potentially be happy one day. When I let go of my fear of missing out, I found peace in living my own authentic, imperfect, beautifully simple life.