How to deal with the “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO)!

Dealing with the fear of missing out (FOMO) can be quite tough in the modern day and age. Everything’s going crazy, people getting rich everywhere — except for you. All those Bitcoin billionaires, WallStreetBets GameStop millionaires and some more thousand Dollar from Dogecoin. If only you had invested. If only you went in sooner. If only you went out sooner. It’s precisely that. If only you had, what would have been different!

But fear not! Your feelings are what makes you human and they are completely natural; and yet, if they’re not controlled, can turn out to be quite dangerous. However, there are quite a few ways of dealing with FOMO in a simple and rational manner, helping you in the long term.

This story focuses mostly on the financial aspects of a “FOMO feeling”.

What is the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) even?!

Generally speaking, it’s self-explanatory. Albeit I previously mentioned financial situations, the fear of missing out can also be found in any other social situation or interaction. If your friends are having a party without you, you usually feel bad because you’re missing out on the good times they’ll have. Your dog, that’s eagerly waiting for you to return home, also feels the same way. He just wished to be with you, enjoying all the cool things you would probably enjoy. Even if you, yourself, know that you’re just sitting at work on a boring day.

It does not need to be based in you rationally knowing everyone else has a good time. It could, very well, also be your mind playing tricks on you. Painting various stories for you on what could have happend or even will happen and that quite vividly. You’re feeling this for past events, for current events, for future events. You just want to be part of it and get your fair share of fun, knowledge or money.

Questionable is, whether FOMO is useful nowadays or just a remnant of our Neanderthal past. I’d argue it is not even remotely useful and in fact can be quite harmful if this emotion is not under control!

Anecdotes from my life (and my failures)

I admit to my failures. And yet, in every failure I had, I’m glad to still have a shred of success in controlling my own fear of missing out. Not loosing this control is key.

By far, I am no lucky guy, and if there’s a craze that catches me, it’s always too late. I went in Bitcoin as it reached $15000 in December 2017, I went in to GameStop (GME) as it reached $300. There’s at least a positive note for anyone else listening to me, though: I could make perfect reverse financial advise — as soon as I’m in, you should get out. While I’m considering but remain wary, you should get in.

I am not perfect, but I manage. And why do I manage? Because I know my limits. And if you’re feeling like you’re missing out: Know your limits!

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If it’s too good to be true …

… it most likely is. Messages of salvation and other panacea are often not what they’re claimed to be, as history has shown many times. A great portion of doubt and distance is always necessary. Indeed, it is alluring to join and get a slice of the pie you desire. Whether it’s a good time or financial gain. But what exactly are your risks? What do you have to trade for it?

GameStop (GME) Stock at $321. One of the major heights, making both buying and selling tempting. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

In financial situations, you have to trade your money away. In social situations, you have to trade your time away. If you enter it, it’s gone. You have to make that clear to yourself. If they claim it’s “risk-free” or something is “guaranteed” — run away, don’t bother. It’s most likely a trick or even an elaborate scam trying to get your time and labor or even money.

From my personal point of view: Whatever system you’re (trying to get) in is usually rigged against you and your interests. If you are not a true mastermind, the system will win — even if you try to outsmart it. If you think you’ve cheated it for good and end up winning, it’s too good to be true.

Luck needs to be on your side – but realistically it often isn’t. When it’s currently going too well, you should take what you’ve won and leave before you loose everything.

Keep on pushing, of course, but push slowly and steadily. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Cutting short will get you disqualified.

FOMO: Are you gonna give in, or will you resist?

Realizing that you’ve been infected with FOMO is the first, and most important, step in dealing with the fear of missing out. The sole realization allows you to utilize coping mechanism against it in the first place. In general, there are three approaches.

Dealing with FOMO by Avoidance

The most obvious and yet surprisingly hardest possible way of dealing with the fear of missing out is to log off of social media and lay low for a while. Wait for the craze to be over and return back to normal after a week or even a month.

It may seem like it’s the most straight-forward, but have you ever tried going a week – or even month – without Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even Medium? And does this really help?

It depends. If it’s about some investment cue some people claim to have, maybe. But if it’s about a social situation and you just want to share some fun experiences with your friends, you probably just end up enforcing your feeling of missing out.

“Nobody really cares if you don’t go to the party.”, Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

However, the fear of missing out can be mitigated by less “lurking activity”. Often when something exciting happens, the exciting things get shared while the boring ones or even the bad ones aren’t mentioned at all. Let your social media, your phone and your lurking rest and take some time in the day to focus on yourself. Doing “menial tasks”, like cleaning your kitchen or vacuum cleaning your flat a little, may not be the most productive thing but it’s good to have it done once in a while and it keeps you busy and distracted if nothing else will.

The key to avoid the fear of missing out is to keep your mind and thoughts busy. Even an engaging movie would do well. Or talking to different friends that have time right now. Or writing a short essay. Or looking for other investments you could sink your money in, that may be more useful in the long run for you. Distraction helps.

Dealing with FOMO by Acceptance

Accepting that you are missing out right now, have missed out in the past and will miss out in the future is a very admirable but hard thing to achieve. Being one level above the need to participate is a commendable feat. Not something everyone can do. The past is in the past and bygone is bygone, but can you really let the bygone be bygone?

Admittedly, you will eventually keep coming back to the thoughts of the typical “What Ifs” and why you didn’t participate.

The Fox and the Grapes – the grapes too high to reach, Image by MJ Jin from Pixabay

There’s an ancient fable about “The Fox and the Grapes“. The fox wanted to have some grapes but couldn’t reach them, so he said that they’re not worth his time and they weren’t even ripe yet, anyway. Indeed, this very well be the best coping mechanism against FOMO that’s out there. Telling yourself that, if you had participated, it would not have been a big deal because many other good times would have come or you would have sold your Bitcoin for double and not tenfold the profit.

Furthermore, those undertakings often involve a high risk and a high stress level with them accordingly. Even if you could handle the risk, what about the stress involved?

Accepting yourself, the fact that you missed the chance and that some other chance might come along some day might be the healthy and sane way to go, if you choose to accept that you were just out of luck but lucky enough to not loose anything. Opportunities will come and go.

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Dealing with FOMO by Engagement

The most complex and most dangerous one is dealing with the fear of missing out by simply embracing it, engaging in it and going into it.

You tried to avoid it, you tried to accept it. And yet, the feeling persists. You still feel like you’re missing out on something big. FOMO has got to your head and it doesn’t want to leave. It bugs you now, you’re trapped. Resistance seems to be futile, even though you fought it furiously.

Indeed, now it gets tricky. (And this is how I usually handle these situations.)

Dealing with the fear of missing out was key to not loose all of your money on the gamestop stock option pictured in the image.
The GameStop (GME) stocks at $280, Photo by Michael Förtsch on Unsplash

Engaging with your need to participate can be quite dangerous to your mental, physical and financial health. Caution is advised. But as soon as FOMO grips you, that caution is disregarded and risks are often being downplayed. You feel the urge to sooth your needs.

In that case, stick to six basic principles.

7 Ground Rules for dealing with the Fear Of Missing Out

If you are going in with your hard earned cash, here are seven ground rules:

  1. Only invest what you are ready to loose and could safely burn.
  2. Think firstly about the risks, then the rewards.
  3. Realize it’s a “gamble” and not an “investment”.
  4. Set yourself a fixed budget on how much you want to gamble with.
  5. Do not take out loans, do not use leverages.
  6. Set a clear goal in terms of how much you want to win and loose.
  7. If you reached your goal or depleted your budget – pull out immediately.

The human nature is a gambler’s nature. We want to test our abilities and our boundaries. For that, we need to create an environment as safe as possible where we can play but mitigate as much risk as we can.

Herein lies the biggest problem; we humans tend to overestimate ourselves. And if we are certain about achieving something, we try to make it happen. No matter how unrealistic our goal is. Sometimes, the fear of missing out is too overwhelming. For that case, engaging FOMO and participating can alleviate at least that fear. If you’re deciding to engage, it’s best to stick to the given seven ground rules – in the worst case scenario, the losses are minimized to a manageable degree.

The Success in my Failures

Did I not say I failed miserably in avoiding or even accepting my feelings of missing out? Did I really — willingly and willfully with full knowledge of what’s going to happen — throw myself into the pitfalls of potential ruins? Why yes of course, and that’s the crux! At the beginning, I talked about knowing your limits for a good reason. This should stick after reading my story.

Personally, and I am not going to lie, I gripe about my losses at GME but these losses sat me back “only” two month in buying a new lens for my camera I probably won’t even use often — so, no big deal. This loss hurts me emotionally because I should have, and did, know better but willingly took the gamble and associated risk. It, however, did not hurt me in my livelihood at all. I knew better not to take money off of my savings account, sell stock options or even take out a loan to make a quick buck with it — and so should you.

Hindsight is always 20/20?

Additionally, another way of dealing with a certain aspect of the fear of missing out is to look back at the time when the craze started. Did you know about it back then? If so, what were your thoughts on it at that time? Why didn’t you invest? Yes, you could have. But you didn’t. Why?

Before FOMO catches our minds, we tend to have a rational outlook on the thing others try to get us in to. The doubts we feel is due to the obvious risk involved that we start to ignore as FOMO sets in. The risk gets neglected and we start to give in, supposedly “knowing it better” – but afterwards, it has always been obvious to us, hasn’t it?

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Dealing with the Fear Of Missing Out in the right way

It’s hard, if not almost impossible, to not think about the “What Ifs” in our lives. We can either choose to act on our deepest desires and regret them afterwards or not act on them and regret it anyway, but there’s just something in us that forces us to participate.

The human psyche usually works that way. We are highly social animals and just want to be in. We want to be a part of something. The sanest and safest way is realizing just that and measuring our potential risks and costs before we think about ludicrous gains.

If you are the “gambler type”, make that clear to yourself. Set limits on what you want to gamble and what you’re ready to absolutely loose. Never take out a loan for a chance. If you like to play it safe, you should know that playing it safe means not participating. And if you do, know your limits.