No More FOMO: How I Overcame my Fear of Missing Out by Saying No
I’ve been struggling a little bit with how I wanted to write this post because it’s a little personal and fresh still. Recently, I’ve had some great career opportunities come my way and, the long and short of it is, I’ve had to learn how to let them go. This could end up being an Ode to Military Wives or, more realistically, a dirge to their careers. It could be a learning experience about finding balance in my life and prioritizing the things that consume my time. But really, I think this will end up being a moment where I actually begin to learn a lesson that life has repeatedly tried to force on me – and on women in general. That lesson is, we don’t have to do it all. And when we say no to the right things, our opportunities to say yes to the right things increase exponentially.
In 2016, we have a really trendy slang word for the guilt we feel when we’re not “doing it all.” We call it FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. We can laugh about it and make memes about how good it feels when our friends cancel plans. We can go through the motions of being kind to ourselves, but in our own minds we ask ourselves, “why am I wasting my Saturday night/youth/life?” We pressure ourselves to be social. We pressure ourselves to make a lot of money. We pressure ourselves to have certain possessions, to have certain experiences, to have the perfect Instagram vacation pictures. We need skinny waists, fat wallets, and a fulfilling existence and yet we all share the same platitudes about, “loving ourselves” and “filling our time with what really matters.” So where is the disconnect? Why did I do all of this stuff and not learn a lesson until now?
Recently, I’ve had jobs that I really did not enjoy. I’ve worked for bosses whose management style didn’t suit me. I’ve had jobs and bosses that I absolutely loved, but I would freeze under the weight of shame when people would ask me, “so what do you do?” I felt ashamed for not living up to some contrived potential. I wasn’t smart enough to be really impressive, but I was too smart for whatever I was currently doing. Probably the hardest thing I’ve had to learn since graduating college is how to manufacture a trajectory for my life. In college, we inherently have forward momentum; we’re working towards graduating. In life, where does that driving force come from and what is it pushing us towards? Marriage? Children? A mortgage? A six figure salary? I’ve had to learn that those things aren’t benchmarks for success unless they’re what I really want. I’ve had to learn that I don’t owe someone an impressive answer when they ask, “so what do you do?” We all know that that’s usually just another way of asking, “so tell me, am I better than you? I think I am, but tell me how.” It’s rude. I hate that question and I almost never ask it.
I digress. On a really recent, literal level, I had a job offer extended to me that seemed perfect on paper. It sounded like something I’d love. But the weird thing was, I didn’t love it. There were a few red flags, a few things that were somehow out of place. My intuition told me to turn it down. I tried to justify that decision to my parents, who assured me, I could say no without convincing them that it was the right thing to do. I felt like they’d be disappointed in me for not taking it. But for probably the first time in my life, the thought of turning it down didn’t disappoint me. I’ve taken jobs I should’ve said no to. I’ve ignored my intuition and worked in plenty of the wrong places. Each one of those little dead end roads was meant to teach me something that I couldn’t understand until now. So I said no. And I lived to see the next day after saying no. And strangely, I was proud as hell of myself for doing it.
I said no without the resentment of “wow, here we go again. My husband’s career is ruining my own.” Or without the guilt of “am I contributing enough to my marriage financially?” I said no because it was the right thing for me to do, and afterwards, I noticed a real marked change in how I was able to approach the things that mattered to me. I started writing more, I walked my dogs more, I took more responsibility at my current job and really interacted with the people there. I didn’t shit talk my husband or his job or complain about how hard military life is. Most importantly, I didn’t regret my decision or hold any hostility towards the experience. It’s still a great company, even if it wasn’t the right one for me at the moment.
Within the next few months, the military will be behind Troy and I and we’ll be back in Florida with our families. We’ll be starting school again trying to find some new forward momentum. In this moment, I’m able to be a little reflective about the whole military/job hopping/moving all the time life. And I am able to see now that all of those roads that seemed like dead ends weren’t really dead ends because they all lead me here. These are lessons I’m not sure I would’ve learned otherwise if I wasn’t forced out of my comfort zone after graduating college.
Packing up and following the man I love to the middle of nowhere and having to learn it all the hard way is something I wouldn’t trade for all the paychecks in the world. Now I can be confident that going back to school isn’t an act of cowardice or me trying to run away from the difficulties of life, but a step towards pursuing my passion. I have a few more wrinkles and a few less dollars than I probably would’ve had at 23 otherwise, but I certainly know what I’m capable of now. And it’s a lot. And the same is true for you. This is my call to action for you to go out and make yourself proud – whatever roads you need to take to reach that pride, go ahead and take ‘em. Difficult, lonely roads certainly are not always dead ends, and never let FOMO make you doubt your intuition.