Starting university (well, college, since I’m in America) has been an amazing journey. I’ve met a whole bunch of new people, had a lot of new experiences, and tried things that’d normally be outside my comfort zone. I’ve had some really memorable adventures; yet, I’ve often felt that others are having a much better time than I am. Social media doesn’t help my cause here, either. There are definitely times when I’d spend hours on Instagram aimlessly, scrolling through post after post of others apparently having the time of their lives. Sadly, my brain would eventually reach this conclusion: “Why am I missing out on so much good stuff?”. Each post would just add a new layer of envy, sadness and disappointment, and by the time I’d be done scrolling, I’d often come out feeling terrible. This is just about as classic an example you can get of the fear of missing out (FOMO), and I can confirm that it is a very real phenomenon. If you’re feeling this way, here’s a few things that you should try to remember:
1. You can only experience your own life, and nobody else’s.
Sure, you can scroll through all the posts you want of others and their amazing adventures. But you can NEVER know what somebody else is feeling, or what their life is like below the surface. A person could be laughing and surrounded by happy-looking people, and still be feeling miserable thanks to things in their life you’ll never know about. The thing is, what you see on the surface is never the whole picture. Comparing your own life to a small surface-level snapshot of somebody else’s is like separating gold from a gold mine, and still expecting to see the same beauty in both (that was my best shot at an analogy). Everybody’s life is full of good and bad experiences, and unfortunately social media promotes only the most positive ones. Realize that no matter what you see, everybody is having both good and bad turns in their life, and nobody’s life is “better” than another’s. Embrace the human experience!
2. Everybody has different measures of happiness and fun.
There are things in society, like parties, beach retreats and concerts, that we’ve collectively come to associate with fun. It’s important to realize, though, that different people can have their own ideas of what fun means to them. While this can definitely be partying on a Saturday night to one person, it can just as validly mean curling up with a good book to someone else. The important thing is that no one activity is better than another. I’d highly recommend trying every activity you have the opportunity to, even if it’s outside your comfort zone; but if you’ve decided that Netflix at home is more appealing than partying with your friends this weekend, go for it! Make your decision without feeling bad about missing out. After all, this is your life to live, not society’s.
3. Life isn’t a competition.
This one’s definitely a lot easier to say than to experience. As subtle as it may be, a lot of us (myself included) are often trapped in a competitive mindset when it comes to our lives. We’re constantly looking to outdo and outshine each other, whether that’s through more productivity in our work lives, more impressive relationships, or one of several other comparison metrics. The craziest thing, though, is that life isn’t even a competition! We do not need to prove ourselves to anybody else, and trying to do so just leads to more envy and self-doubt. If you allow yourself to feel superior to someone about some aspect of your life, you will undoubtedly feel inferior about a different aspect of your life. You aren’t perfect; nobody is. Why not strive for as many life experiences you can have, embrace both the good and bad, and celebrate your peers, instead of envying them and feeling left out?
The truth is that you will miss out on experiences that your friends and colleagues have. That’s because, well, you can’t be everywhere and with everyone at the same time! If that’s the case, then maybe it’s time to stop comparing your life experiences to others’, and start focusing completely on your own. After all, we all have a limited amount of time on Earth. The question is, will you use that time to ruminate about the lives of others, or fully immerse yourself in your own?
Hope you got something from this post, and I’ll see you again soon!