15 Ways FOMO Can Stand In The Way Of Your Success

Image via Unsplash/Austin Ban

Acronyms! Don’t they suck? (They really do suck.) I hate acronyms, but sometimes I see one that makes me pause because it actually hits pretty close to home. FOMO, which it was my original instinct to dismiss as some stupid Twitter-related thing or possibly a pointless hashtag on Instagram, is one of these.

FOMO — otherwise known as Fear of Missing Out — is a pervasive condition that it is incredibly easy to fall prey to in these heady days of Facebook, Instagram, the online news media and instantly searchable job postings. It’s that feeling that no matter what you’re doing, you must be missing out on something, whether that’s a better job, a cooler vacation, a more exciting party or a more adventurous breakfast. Even Psych Central acknowledges the existence of FOMO, which it calls “the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what we’re currently doing,” also noting that the root of FOMO is “the potential for simply a different connection. It may be better, it may be worse — we just don’t know until we check.”

But all this fear of missing out can often lead to even more missing out because we’re so busy desperately trying to find something better that we ignore what we already have. Here are 15 ways that FOMO can stand in the way of your success in life — so quit acronymizing and relax! You’re not missing out on anything.

1. FOMO Makes You Doubt Yourself

You were having a great day until you went on Facebook and saw that one of your high school friends just got engaged to a millionaire… in the Bahamas… on a yacht… while on vacation from her job as a best-selling novelist. Now you feel like nothing you ever do will be that cool and you tell yourself you could never be that successful, even though you felt perfectly fine and motivated before you went online.

2. It Makes You Less Productive

How can you give your full attention to your job when you spend the whole day surfing job postings, looking for your dream job? You can’t. Your fear of missing out on the other, better jobs out there will make you miss out on the actual job that you have, along with your actual coworkers and the actual tasks that you have to accomplish (which, ironically, could lead to a promotion or a better job someday if you do well).

3. You Look at Everything as an Obstacle

When you’re worried about missing out on all the cool stuff, all the normal things in your life start to seem like burdens. Small, innocuous things like going to the gym make you think, “Ugh, I bet the gym in [insert your ideal location here] has a pool”; going grocery shopping makes you think, “Ugh, I bet the stores in [insert your ideal location here] never run out of almond milk.” You start to resent everything around you for not being as awesome as you imagine their counterparts are.

4. You Start to Believe the Lies of Social Media

That friend who just got engaged must have such a great life, right? Except maybe she doesn’t. Maybe her job stresses her out and she doesn’t actually make that much money. Maybe her parents paid for that amazing trip to the Bahamas. Maybe she lost all her best-selling novel money in a Ponzi scheme, but she’s not going to post that on Facebook. If you start believing the perfect, fake selves that everyone posts on social media because you’re always longing for that “perfect” life, you are so screwed.

5. You Assign Too Much Significance to Appearances

Basically, social media is the evil manure that fertilizes the growth of FOMO. The more you believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, the more time you’ll invest in trying to make your life perfect — or at least appear perfect. This leaves less time for doing actual things like being good at your job, having fun without worrying about how it’s going to look on Instagram or staying in and getting a good night’s sleep because you’re afraid you’ll miss out on the party of the century.

6. You Never Have Time For Just One Thing

When you’re busy trying to experience all the cool things all at once, you won’t actually have time to do any of them. You also won’t enjoy yourself because you’ll constantly be wondering if there’s something better/cooler/more fun happening somewhere else.

7. You Need to Be Connected at all Times

Your productivity — both professional and personal — will go way down when you’re constantly checking Facebook and Twitter and stalking people you went to college with. Not only will this suck away hours and hours of your useful time, it’ll also suck away further hours that you spend brooding on the question of why your life sucks so much more than everyone else’s.

8. You Focus Less on Self-Enrichment

When you’re afraid of missing out, you don’t take the time to ask yourself what you really want and/or need out of life. You simply do what other people are doing because it’s all there for you to choose from, and if other people are doing it, you think it must be worth it. However, you won’t discover some big, magical secret to happiness by flailing from one random thing to another. Everyone is different; therefore, everyone is fulfilled by different things. It’s OK if you don’t do everything.

9. Indecision

The fear of missing out, as I mentioned above, often makes people flail desperately from one thing to another. Often, the sheer amount of things they feel they have to do makes them freeze up and become unable to decide between any of them. So instead of doing one useful over the weekend, like finally figuring out where you want to apply to grad school or finally applying for that great job you’ve been eying, your FOMO might instead cause you to waver between six things, ultimately not doing any of them because you can’t figure out which one is the right choice.

10. You Base Your Success on What Other People Think

Success isn’t about how other people see us; it’s about how we feel. But when you’re afraid of missing out, your ideas of success become warped until all you care about is whether you’ve done enough awesome shit to impress other people.

11. It Makes You More Insecure

It’s hard to be successful when you’re constantly wondering if all your friends are having fun without you or why the latest picture of your cat hasn’t gotten an adequate number of likes.

12. You Might End up Spending Too Much Money

Nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) millennials experience FOMO, according to a recent study, which also stated that 55 percent of millennials say they’re spending more on events than ever before, “with no signs of slowing.”

“In a world where newsfeeds and social media broadcast what friends are experiencing, the fear of missing out propels millennials to show up, share and engage,” according to the study. Basically, your FOMO is making you spend money and robotically “share and engage” because you’re afraid that if you don’t shell out cash for these events and experiences, you’ll miss out.

13. You Might Not Pay As Much Attention to the Long Term as You Should

While you’re busy flinging money around for concert tickets and climbing gear and basket-weaving classes (or whatever it is you feel like you should be doing, because you must experience it all!), you’re probably neglecting your savings and retirement accounts. According to the Huffington Post, “millennials are more likely to set aside 10 percent or less of their pay” instead of the standard 15 percent. This could be because we’re getting paid less, but it also could be because we’re not paying as much attention to savings as we could be. This is the curse of FOMO; you might temporarily soothe your fears of missing out now, but what will you miss out on when you’re older if you haven’t saved enough money?

14. It Makes You Suspicious, Jealous and Weird

Generally, those who succeed in their careers are not the people who obsess over calendars and meetings, constantly flipping out whether or not they should have been invited to a meeting or included in a brainstorming session. Successful people are, for the most part, not the ones who try to look at their coworkers’ emails and texts when they’re out of the room just to see if that asshole has been having fun without them and talking about them behind their back.

15. You’ll Never Be Satisfied

It’s one thing to always leave room for improvement; it’s another to never, ever let anything go and to constantly question your own work, as well as the work of those around you. People with FOMO are usually unsettled and restless, and this combination makes for an uneasy working environment. When you’re demanding to the people around you yet disengaged from what you’re actually doing, it’s not exactly inspiring.