FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out – Colette Boylan

With the occurrence of the holiday season, there is no other time in our calendar year that Americans, in particular, hold and exhibit such great feelings of gratitude. Families and friends produce copious amounts of food, stuff themselves beyond satiation, and generously give to others gifts of love and appreciation. We are constantly reminded through these acts how fortunate we are in our varied circumstances.

It is ironic that during this time of the year, while surrounded by loving family members and friends, food beyond my fill, and exceptional health, that my mind is consumed by a wicked, gnawing anxiety of inadequacy.

The term, as it has been modernly deemed, is FOMO: the fear of missing out.

It begins with the mere colette-beachglimpse of a picturesque destination, a shared online image or tweet, or a conversation held with a friend describing their recent ten-month backpacking journey.

You soon find yourself in a voracious frenzy, staring longingly at a webpage of airline prices or backpacking gear intended for your upcoming adventure; that is if you can afford to take the three months off of work or become close to paying off the debt already accrued onto your credit card.

This is the devil of FOMO. The psychological sensation has always existed, but has become more evident, and exacerbated, through the recent surge of social media and advanced technologies.

While some find the ability to live vicariously through others escapades a healthy way stay connected with adventurous friends; the FOMO community dreads the pure existence and accessibility of such modern tools. They question their current life path and decisions based on the adventures of others, constantly wondering if they missed out on some amazing opportunity or not made themselves available enough to have had such magnificent adventures? The concept of constant Facebook and Twitter updates makes them queasy.

colette-facebook-twitterExternally, the idea of having FOMO simply seems unreasonable. To those fallen ill to its spell, though, it has created a strong misconception of one’s personal choices while simultaneously providing a sort of exaggerated story to the lives of others. Overall, it distracts us from our own lives, our personal advancement, and our own true successes.

As I laid on my bed, reading a friend’s travel blog this Thanksgiving Eve, I found the ability to evaluate my personal achievements this year more difficult than ever. Even as I poured over images from my road trip up the coast of California or my recent five-month journey around Europe, a bullying devil on my shoulder continued to whisper, “…but you can be doing more!” These sentiments are unwarranted to the healthy mind.

Why, as rational beings, would we ever put ourselves through such personal misery?

While some argue that such anxieties are created with the assistance of modern technologies, these fears of inadequacy are developed greatly through our own means. On some sort of conscious level, we understand and recognize this; our ability to overcome it, though, proves much more difficult.

As I sat alongside my family and friends with a Thanksgiving feast before us, I contemplated all that I should be thankful for over the past 22 years of my life. The opportunities I have been provided with in my life have proven endless, and the care and love I have received from all those around me is boundless. It occurred to me that we become so enwrapped by the material trivialities present in our world that we fail to see the beauty of what we have, and have been given, in our own lives. The gratitude we are intended to feel at this time of year becomes overcome by the unjustified fears of a life not lived; when, paradoxically, these fears are self-developed and intensified in our own minds.

With a new year ahead of us, take the time to reevaluate your fears. Reconsider any notion of inadequacy hovering greatly over your life’s successes. There is a world of beauty and opportunity about us despite the circumstances we feel hold us back, and the reminder of it is imperative. The vicious cycle we undergo as a result of these manifested anxieties can seriously affect our psychological health and personal wellbeing, which, in return, buries us deeper into our emotional mire.

This upcoming year, take the time to step away from the any such FOMO stimuli and relish in all that you have accomplished. Do not miss out on another day with time spent in its fear.

At High Trails Outdoor Science School, we literally force our instructors to write about elementary outdoor education, teaching outside, learning outside, our dirty classroom (the forest…gosh), environmental science, outdoor science, and all other tree hugging student and kid loving things that keep us engaged, passionate, driven, loving our job, digging our life, and spreading the word to anyone whose attention we can hold for long enough to actually make it through reading this entire sentence. Whew….

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