Fear of missing out - FOMO. Those thoughts that tell us others are having more fun or a better experience than we are. We’ve all felt this stressor to some degree or another, at some time or another. But what if it’s possible to stop FOMO forever?
As I frequently discuss, much of our experiences in life start with our thoughts. Fear of missing out is no different. So perhaps the answer to quieting FOMO lies not in a series of outward steps but rather in some inward ones… in flipping how you’re viewing abundance and scarcity… in acknowledging your power to create the feelings you’re desiring... Let’s talk about it.
“The thoughts that you have about missing out are actually the only thing causing your current unhappiness… making you feel lack and scarcity... If you didn’t have thoughts about missing out… you would probably be perfectly happy right now.” – Dr. Sara Dill
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Dr. Sara Dill: I'm Dr. Sara Dill, and this is the Stressless Physician Podcast, episode number 43.
Welcome to the Stressless Physician Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Sarah Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. How are you? I am doing great. I think most of you probably know I live in California, although I spent a lot of time, many years in New England as a wannabe New Englander, but I am born and raised in California and we are having a little rainstorm here, which those of us in California get very excited about rain, but we don't want too much rain. You don't wanna have a mudslide. We've had problems with those here in Santa Barbara and other places, and we actually think a lot about rain. I think probably because we are often in a drought. And so it's sort of funny how excited we Californians get about a little sprinkle and it's such a different mindset from when I lived in Rhode Island where it rains quite a lot.
Which is also why it's so beautiful and lush, but it just reminds me that the weather is indeed a circumstance and we can have whatever kinds of thoughts we want to about it. So I love a good rainstorm. I got out my raincoat and my rain boots. My puppy isn't that familiar with rain. I'm not sure how much he likes it, but we have already walked about three times today, and we will take another walk or two and get out there. I like to enjoy nature however it is.
And so it's interesting as well how this ties into what I wanted to talk about today, which is FOMO or the fear of missing out. And I think so much, right? Our brain is wired to think about how we would just be happier if we were experiencing something else. If you live in a place where it snows, maybe you wanna live in a place where it doesn't snow.
And here in California we often fantasize about how nice it would be to get more rain, and yet when it rains, we often aren't always that happy either. And so I wanted to talk about FOMO and the fear of missing out what the real problem is with it, how it causes a lot of anxiety and happiness that I would say is somewhat unnecessary, and how to stop it really forever.
And so this is something that I see not infrequently in a lot of clients. I don't know that we, physicians are particularly prone to it, although I do think as a group who has a lot of delayed gratification, who went through a lot of school, delayed paychecks, delayed a lot of things in light of rather intense training. Years of college and then medical school and then residency, whatever fellowships you did. Maybe we do get a little bit more FOMO than other folks. I'm not sure. But as with everything, I like to start by sort of providing a high level definition and really just diving into it.
So FOMO, right? Is the abbreviation. For this fear of missing out, it's something that's actually been around for a long time, but most of us, myself included, think that it's probably. Exacerbated by social media and just the ready availability of comparison. I think that is something that maybe is new with our more current culture.
Right, and it's been studied a whole lot more. So FOMO or this fear of missing out is a very real phenomenon that, again, I think is becoming increasingly common and can be a significant cause of stress and unhappiness and anxiety in one's life. Right. It can affect pretty much anyone. And this fear of missing out generally refers to the feeling or perception that other people are having more fun or living better lives, or experiencing better things than you are right now, or maybe in the future.
It often involves a deep sense of envy, right? And maybe. Can also affect your self-esteem. I think sometimes it goes along with a sense of feeling sorry for oneself, right? Feeling less than feeling left out. And again, I think that it often is exacerbated. By social media in that you can very readily compare whatever you're currently doing with the highlights, right?
The things people are posting about, the highlights of other people's lives. You're comparing whatever normal sort of life you're leading in the moment to the highlights. That are also photoshopped sometimes and carefully selected, and often only the best circumstances are discussed and posted. I found this definition for FOMO and I really like it.
So it says that FOMO is not just the sense that there might be better things that you could be doing at this moment, but it's also the feeling that you're missing out on something fundamentally important that others are experiencing right now. Right? Almost like you can never get it back. There's a lot of scarcity with FOMO.
It's, it's definitely a very constricting feeling. And I would actually say that I think FOMO is a pattern of thoughts that then trigger emotions like anxiety and second guessing or regret. It's sort of an interesting constellation, so we can either decide that FOMO is both the thoughts and the feelings, or you can sort of split it up, whatever works better for you.
But I would say it's sort of this whole thought pattern. Of thoughts of like, I should be doing something else, 'I'm missing out'. And then creating all of the different emotions I went online cuz I was interested to see like what other experts talk about how to fix FOMO. Right. And it's interesting because there's all sorts of steps to solve this fear of missing out, which mostly involve changing your situation or journaling or getting off social media. Being grateful, like I've talked about, which might be sort of using gratitude against yourself as a way to paper over a negative emotion, like I talked about in last week's episode, of how not to use gratitude against yourself. So a lot of things to solve this sort of pattern of fear of missing out and the anxiety and unhappiness, and scarcity that comes along with it.
But what I'd like to suggest is that the real problem, is that FOMO, this fear of missing out is created by your thoughts, and changing the circumstances of your life is also just a way to paper over it, right? Your brain is gonna suggest that the way to fix FOMO is to go do different things or hang out with different people, to change your outside life. What hopefully you should know from this podcast already is that the real problem with FOMO is the thoughts that you're thinking that are creating the problem in the first place. The thoughts that you have about missing out are actually the only thing causing your current unhappiness.
The fear of missing out is what's making you feel lack and scarcity right now. If you didn't have thoughts about missing out or other better things happening or what other people were doing that you're missing out on, you would probably be perfectly happy right now. That's like the best news I can give you.
So you don't need to change what you're doing or with whom you're doing it, now or in the future, to have these thoughts of FOMO, to not feel the lack. All you have to do is notice. What your thoughts are doing? The reality they're creating for you right now, how your thoughts about what you're missing out on are actually ruining this very moment for you.
It's a very meta process. You're thinking about your thinking and noticing the consequences right now for you, because if you didn't have FOMO right now, you would be happy. I think it's sort of mind blowing, right? That's the power of this. So yes, you can read about different ways to change it and get off social media or things like that, but I would say why not work with that?
If you're someone who has a lot of FOMO, use that as an opportunity to work through this and to start to notice how often your brain is sort of misperceiving potential future and happiness, and then creating it. Notice how much your brain is wanting you to fix the problem of FOMO by changing the outside world when it's not an outside world problem.
This is an example of what one of my favorite coaches describes often as, 'the call is coming from inside the house', you know, in all those classic like ghost stories you would tell, or bad horror movies, right? They would get that scary call and then the police would trace it and it was coming from inside the house. The call is coming from inside the house, meaning, your brain is creating the problem that's causing your unhappiness, and then suggesting outside fixes when it's not an outside fix.
And the truth is, there are a lot of things in this world that you will probably not choose to experience. When you decide to take a vacation in one place, you aren't going to a whole host of others. If you decide to become a physician, there's a bunch of other careers that you aren't going to be pursue. It's even as simple as if you decide that you are gonna go to one party, you aren't gonna go to another party that's happening simultaneously. Or maybe you want to get some sleep and you've decided to stay home, and go to bed early. And then you notice that the fear of missing out has you one second guessing your decision not to go to the party. And two, not even getting rest. So you are missing out on both rest and the. party
So the truth is you can't do it all. Picking one thing means that there are other things you're saying no to, and I think that's a wonderful thing. I think it means there's an abundance of options and opportunities in our world. We do not have a scarcity of options and opportunities. There are so many choices that we have. I'm gonna do another podcast I think on constraint.
There's a great book called The Paradox of Choice. This is a total segue, but we often have too many choices and then that sort of plunges us into this fear of missing out, and what's more, often we're making decisions that when we think about it, we really like. Sometimes on a Friday night, I don't want to go out. Friday night is often when I like to stay in. Have sort of a cozy meal, go to bed early. If I've had a long week, I'm not at my best on Friday night for socializing. It doesn't mean that I don't sometimes go out. But I often like my decision to not go out.
So sometimes reminding yourself of that when your brain is offering you FOMO thoughts, and FOMO feelings. Like, 'Oh no, I actually didn't want to do that. I don't wanna.' But we create the anxiety and unhappiness and scarcity by believing we would be happier doing something other than what we are doing right now.
It reminds me of those bumper stickers. I see a lot of them here that say, I'd rather be skydiving or scuba diving or sailing, or whatever it is. And it's always a little sad to me. How many of us go through our life thinking we would be happier if we were doing something else? Something that we're not currently doing, but the unhappiness we're feeling in the moment is coming from that thought, not from whatever we're doing or not doing.
And that is why this is such good news, and so powerful. And I promise you this is what's also really interesting is that whatever you think you are missing out on whoever, whatever you see on social media or that your friend is telling you about or whatever, I can guarantee you there's someone in the world who is experiencing that, who is not happy. How often have we had that experience even where on the surface we appear to be having a great time, but in our mind, in our brain, in our body, we are not.
So I wanted to talk about sort of a simple three step process for how to fix or cure or eliminate this fear of missing out tendency, these fear of missing out feelings. And again, this involves managing your mind. You do not have to go change your life or go do something else to cure FOMO. And in fact, that is just going to sort of continue the problem because then there's always gonna be another thing. That's what our brain does. There's always something next.
So the cure for FOMO is mind management. That's something we can do right now. Anytime. The first question I have for you is to notice and ask yourself, what are you feeling FOMO about? What are you afraid you're missing out on? It's usually a feeling. You wanna get down to what is the feeling you think you are missing out on by not doing X, Y, or Z?
The second step is to notice, and name what you're feeling. Usually it's the opposite. So for example, if you have FOMO that everyone else is out at a party and connecting, and experiencing a lot of fun, you might feel lonely. You're probably not gonna feel like you're having fun. Might be more miserable. You might have some anxiety, some scarcity.
And number three, can you create whatever feeling it is that you're worried you're missing out on right now? How can you do that? So for example, if you are afraid you're missing out on fun, can you have fun doing whatever it is you're doing right now? We bring the fun, we create the fun. Fun doesn't just happen spontaneously. Some people aren't just fun and some activities aren't just fun. I know I did a whole podcast on fun, but there are certain things that each one of us finds fun that other people don't, and sometimes something that I find fun, I might not find fun depending on my own mind state.
So this cure for the fear of missing out again, one, what are you feeling FOMO about? What is the feeling you're thinking you're missing out on? Two, can you notice and name what you're feeling instead, notice how your current thoughts are creating that for you. Your current thoughts about missing out. And what's the emotion that you are feeling? And then three, how can you start to create the feeling that you are wanting right now. Let's not wait.
All right. I love talking about this. This has been such a good reminder for me to revisit as well. I know there's all sorts of other acronyms. There's the joy of missing out. For those of you who might be more like me, I'm a very extroverted introvert. Sometimes I like to be at home and think about all the things that other people are out there doing that I don't wanna be doing. That's actually a thought pattern you could cultivate or all sorts of things. But what this work is really all about is, again, bringing up those sort of unconscious or subconscious thought patterns. These shortcuts that our brain do, causing current unhappiness by our thoughts, and then somehow trying to convince us that the way to fix it is not just changing what we're thinking and believing, but that we have to go out and change, the outside world, we have to go do something different so that we don't feel unhappy.
The best news I have for you is that that is not true. FOMO can be fixed right now, and in fact, that's really the only way you can permanently cure it, is to start to intentionally decide how you wanna feel now and create that. Don't just indulge in these thoughts about missing out. Those thoughts are completely optional.
All right, love talking to you. I would welcome, as always, any emails, thoughts, comments, criticisms, anything. I love to talk about this stuff, so feel free to email me anytime at Sarah, firstname.lastname@example.org. I read and answer all my own emails and otherwise, I will talk to you next week. All right, bye.
If you are a busy practicing physician, ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at Saradill.com. It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.