Overcoming #FOMO in Your Twenties

Written by Amanda Polster, LMSW

#Fomo. Fear of missing out. The modern plague of our 20s. What should be our decade of wonder, our prime and our time, is often a decade of endless memes reflecting back to us what our life is missing. Fresh out of school we quickly realize that we have to get our $#!% together because if we don’t have a job, aren’t paying our own rent, and can’t affording a social life, then we have completely failed.

Our 20s are full of societal expectations. And those are a contradiction.  We are told to be free spirits while also being pressured to pick a career and settle down (aka put a ring on it).

The insecurity, ambivalence, and ambiguity of this stage of life becomes a fluctuating decade of judgment and jealousy, evaluating our success based on our achievements compared to others. To make it even more confusing, we are in constant “split energy” where we have one foot in and one foot out in the choices we are faced with; where we want something and doubt it at the same time; we want something and resent others who have already achieved it.[1]

Some people’s 20s are defined by fear. The fear that our youth is ending and we have taken life too seriously, or that we haven’t been serious enough to settle down. The fear that we may never get what we want and our entire life is ending.

The good thing is… we do not have to look back on our twenties and realize it was rules by fear. We have an opportunity at this time in our lives to reframe what this stage in development means for our relationship to ourselves and to others. Below are some tips that can help center us when we begin to the worry too much about the fear of missing out.

Recognize You Are Not Alone

I don’t know about you, but it always brings me satisfaction to go on Instagram and see a meme reach half a million likes stating “being in your 20’s is like playing a video game where you skip the tutorial and you just sort of run around with no idea how anything works.” Acknowledging this stage of development as not only a phase of growth but also a mutual stage of complicated decision making brings security and comfort. Understanding that no matter how aspired someone else’s life seems from the outside does not deny the difficult and likely struggle they took to reach this point, while also acknowledging that their presentation is not always an appropriate reflection of their happiness and satisfaction with their success. We are all pushing and pulling to make decisions that are meant to better ourselves, and we are not alone in this rambunctious and competitive race.

Focus Less on What You Are Missing and More on What You Have[2]

This may sound very Buddhist, but it actually is a way of incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy into our perceptions of the world we live in. One of my closest friends always tells me that “life happens for you, not to you.” When we acknowledge that the choices we are making are a reflection of how we are perceiving ourselves and others, we are able to reframe and reshape the lens we are using. When we look at the world with insecurity and fear of potentially missing out on an opportunity or constantly question the choices we are making, we have lost focus of the things we already have in our lives and the accomplishments we have made. The more energy and momentum we put forth towards focusing on what we have achieved, the easier it will be to continue growing on that spectrum. What this really means is… when we focus more on what we already have gained for ourselves, our confidence continues to grow and we are capable of growing at a faster rate than when we are persistently questioning our success and our decision making.

Reevaluate Your Capacity by Focusing on What is Important to You

This is one of my favorites, and has helped me reframe and understand that where I am right now in my life makes complete sense in the context of my beliefs, values and capacity. The progress we make in our life is a reflection of what we have chosen to prioritize, and at the same time a reflection of the amount of responsibility we can physically, emotionally, and mentally handle. When we choose to direct our energy and attention to one area of our life (i.e. progressing in our career), this may cause us to put on hold other things that we desire to accomplish, yet are willing to compromise at this time (i.e. settling down and starting a family). This is not to say there aren’t people out there who are tackling everything at once like superstars, but it is perfectly acceptable, and often encouraged, to slow ourselves down and focus on longevity and sustainability.

Reflect on What You Are Seeking

There are many tips that can fall under coping with the fear of missing out, yet all methods to a degree culminate to this all-encompassing self-awareness practice of reflection. When we live in a world of social media and technology, it is easy to get wrapped up in seeking validation from others to overcome our insecurities about our state of being at this present moment. “Let me post a selfie to the gram before my job interview” #soready #professional. When we seek positive reinforcements from others to validate our stability, we can lose sight of our intrinsic worth and self-gratification. Our interest in seeking attention externally distracts us from our strength to evoke this confidence from within. Once we understand that #Fomo includes our insecurities of not making the right choices, we can reevaluate what it is we are searching for and where we are searching. Love, self-worth, self-acceptance, and affirmation starts from within, and the sooner we acknowledge our resilience and growth, the quicker we will achieve our desired goals.

Blog written by Amanda Polster LMSW.  You can learn more about Amanda here. 

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZTuN69hCBE&t=486s

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz8iM9Amn0A