Bob Edelstein L.M.F.T., M.F.T

Authentic Engagement

The Fear of Missing Out and the Courage to Go In

Discovering our authentic enoughness.

Posted Feb 06, 2018

The fear of missing out is a modern day phenomenon in our society. We get afraid of not being able to do everything. There are two parties we can attend. If we choose one, what will we be missing at the other? Will the other party be better? There are two great workshops we can attend on the same day. Which one do we choose? There is something off in this way of being. In our obsession with not wanting to miss anything, we are perpetually riding the hamster wheel of trying to do everything. This has accelerated with the age of the internet, which gives us access to so many more options. It is overwhelming. The popularity of the acronym FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) demonstrates this point.

The dilemma stems from buying into the collaborative narrative that our worth and life satisfaction is based on not missing out on anything. It stems from the belief that our worth and satisfaction is contingent upon how many events we go to, how many friends we have, and so on. Our value becomes quantitatively based. We believe there is something wrong with us if we haven’t done it all. This is a self-defeating attitude, and an impossible goal. There are a limited number of things we can do and there are an excess of options. If we deny this reality, we are denying our healthy limits. We are finite human beings. Refusing to acknowledge this so we can attain the fantasy of doing it all leads to anxiety and depression, punctuated by brief moments of satisfaction when we feel we’ve really done it all, for now. It becomes hard to discover what the authentic level of enoughness is for us, moment to moment.

If we are in touch with our authentic enoughness, while there still may be feelings of disappointment over what we’ve missed, there is a conscious choosing. We won’t be victims of all of life’s choices coming at us. We choose our life, with all of life’s choices coming at us. As my mentor Jim Bugental would say, “The art of living is the art of relinquishment.”

What does authentic enoughness mean? Authentic enoughness is getting in touch with our subjective sense of what is right for us in terms of our unique well-being in the here and now. It is based on our internal sense of what supports us in our life qualitatively. Our authentic enoughness is not based on the number of friends we have or the number of events we go to. Our inner knowing is our compass for making choices in the world. Without that compass, we’re a chicken without a head. We’re grasping onto the next experience that we think will make us okay. There is no center in this orientation. Instead there is a sense of lack, no matter how many friends we have and how many events we attend.

How do we discover our authentic enoughness? In order to get to our authentic enoughness, we have to go inward, not outward. We need to be still and ask what is best for our well-being right now, then listen to what emerges. See if what emerges fits. Does it resonate? If it doesn’t, we keep on asking that question until we get a felt resonance in our body. “Yes, that is it.”

Our authentic enoughness is always in flux. It’s dynamic and changes in accordance with the context in that particular time in our life. We may go to both concerts tonight or we may not go to any concerts tonight. What is important is to feel an internal sense of rightness about whatever our choice is. When we go inward and find out what is true for ourselves, the fear of missing out subsides. We have an anchor in our decision making. When we don’t use our inward compass to guide us in our outward direction, it is like only using the right side of our body and ignoring the left side. If this was the case, our life would be a lot more limited and difficult. Similarly, if we don’t go inward and listen to our intuitive center, we are handicapping our mental and emotional well-being.

Our society emphasizes not missing out on anything. Using our internal resources to guide us in our external choices takes courage. There is a vulnerability in changing this value orientation within ourselves. There can be a challenge to this value orientation from others. If our friends and community are driven by the fear of not wanting to miss out, will we be excluded? Will our friends think less of us? Will our connection to others be damaged?

Being authentic is not for the faint of heart. One possibility is, we find out we are still valued and liked by our friends and community. We may impact them to examine their value orientation as well. I believe this is the most likely outcome. The other outcome, and this one is painful, is that we will need to find new friends and community. However, once we do, I believe our life will be better. We will have friends and a community who don’t value us based on what we have done and what we will do. They value us because we choose what is best for us and act from that place. They value us for who we are, not what we missed.

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