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Fear of Missing Out: Why We Say Yes When We'd Rather Say No

Do you struggle with FOMO--Fear of Missing Out?

An introverted friend asks about FOMO.

"I find it fascinating," she said. "Perhaps because I relate."

FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.

That nagging feeling that if you say "no," this will be the party that Colin Firth pops into. This will be the night a band nobody's ever heard of sets the crowd on fire before skyrocketing to international acclaim. This will be the night when a mysterious stranger will turn out to be the love of your life. This will be the night when...what?

No really...what are you afraid of missing?

There is a school of thought that tells us to say "yes" to everything because you never know where yes can lead you. Many an adventure has started with yes. This is true.

It's also true that you never know who you might meet when you leave the house. If you're looking for the love of your life, accepting invitations is always a good idea.

So yes, it's absolutely true that you never know what might to happen if you say yes.

It's also absolutely true that a lot of times, you do.

The usual stuff.

Colin Firth won't drop in. You'll go, you'll see the usual suspects. The people who usually don't show up won't show up, the people who usually drink too much will drink too much, the band will either be good or it won't be, You won't talk to the mysterious stranger or if you do, it will be no more than a pleasant conversation. And you'll be ready to leave after about a couple of hours.

FOMO makes us say yes when we'd rather say no, and yes doesn't always pay off. Sometimes it does, Mostly it doesn't. Not in any big way. Sometimes we go full of hope and end up disappointed. And sometimes, we'd rather just get to bed early.

Other people will plant the seeds of FOMO. My husband and I have one friend who, when we do show up at an event, invariably says the same thing when we prepare to leave: "You're not goin' already, are you?" This question implies that the real action is still to come and that we'll to miss out.

Let's be real: Amazing things happen only now and then. Most of the time what you miss out on will be run-of-the-mill fun. Or, it might be an amazing blast of extrovert fun, but will it be the kind of fun that feels amazing for you? Because if you're honest, the things you miss out on don't always sound as amazing as other people say they are.

I mean, when someone says, "Oh, you totally missed out. After you left, we all drove to the lake and everyone went skinny dipping," I feel nothing but relief to have missed out.

Sometimes saying yes is a no-brainer. Sometimes it's a smart move. Saying no is a crapshoot. You might miss out. But odds are you won't. So if you think FOMO is pushing you to say yes when you'd rather not, do a little reality check.

  • Is there anything about this event that clearly distinguishes it from a million other events you've attended?
  • Do you know exactly what it is you are afraid of missing out on? Any idea how likely this is to occur?
  • Does the event sound like fun even if nothing splendiferous occurs?
  • Are you inclined to say yes because you want to go, or because other people think you should want to go?
  • Will you wake up the next morning filled with regrets if you don't go?
  • If you say yes, will you be able to leave when you want? (If you say no, will you be able to change your mind?)

I have known FOMO. I actually did miss out a couple of weeks ago, when my husband and a friend went to a glamorous rock and roll party that, after much FOMO agonizing, I opted out of. I'd been through an intense phase of interacting and just didn't have the juice to get dolled up and make a scene. And it was a scene, with great bands and glamorous people. When they told me about it the next day, I had a twinge of regret. DId I miss the party of the decade?

Maybe. But probably not. It was just a good party. And there will be others.


My book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released December 4, just in time for party/festive/family-togetherness season. You know you need it.

Please join me on Facebook and visit my other blog, Better Living Through Pithy Quotes.

Photo by Anne-Lise Heinrichs via Flickr (Creative Commons).