Have you ever noticed that we’re already entering the year 2023? Have you ever realized that this year, we're all going to enter the age of 20s? Shocking, isn't it? It is for me, too. Taylor Swift once said, “We're roaring 20s, tossing pennies in the pool.” She approves that this is our golden age, a time when we're roaring, hoping for good fortune, or eventually craving and trying hard for them. But have you ever felt like other people’s lives are fast, smooth sailing, get everything they wanted to while you are still stuck here, missing out on life, missing out on events, missing out on the so-called ideal phase when society dictated that you should be somebody when you reach a certain age by the definition of society unspoken rules? These unspoken rules create fear in us, fear that we are actually missing a lot, and when someone achieves something by the age of society's timeframe, it means we're missing. We sometimes refer to that as a FoMO or Fear of Missing Out.

Based on (Przybylski et al. 2013), Fear of Missing Out is defined as a pervasive anxiety that one might be missing out on pleasant experiences that others are having. It is also characterized by the need to always keep connected with what other people are doing. In other sources (Baker, Krieger, and LeRoy 2016), fear of missing out can be fear of losing out to someone else. The symptoms are various, and at a higher level, it can affect our mindfulness, depression level, and, worse, our physical health. In my FoMo experiences, sometimes, when I realized that I was left behind by other people my age, I would constantly overthink about what I did wrong to an extended level of worriedness. It also reduces my confidence level and affects my social skills. My guilt constantly chases me, and I feel like I have to push myself beyond my limit to catch up to other people without considering my own ability and that I am different from other people. In a worse situation, this feeling did not help me to move forward at all, but I went further back instead.

And how did I recover from the guilt that I was far losing out to other people? Well, I changed my mindset. I once read a book by Ichiro Kishimi called The Courage to Be Disliked, which said, "The reason that so many people don't really feel happy while they're building up their success in the eyes of society is that they are living in competition." When I first read this, I realized that sometimes I feel uncomfortable or panicked because everyone seems to go smoothly in their way, while here I am stuck in the same phase for an extended time. I take people as my competitors; I see life as a competition: who's faster, who's smarter. I always push myself in a mindset that my life progress always has to be faster than others, at least people my age. But again, the truth is everyone's pace is different. We all face different and unique circumstances, struggles, and privileges. I have my struggles and privileges. Like most people, I try hard, but if another person moves faster than me, I can't entirely agree that it is my fault. They have their own struggles and privileges. It is the same when others move slower than me; is it their fault for not giving the same effort as me? Of course not; they probably gave much more effort than I did, but because they live in different circumstances, the effort just did not work.

Then, is it fine to let it flow and have zero ambition in life? Or is it okay that we do not have to do anything because we struggle differently than others? No, of course not. It is not that we can be lazy or it is okay to give up pursuing our success because let others do it; we don't have to. Well, all I am saying is that it is okay even if we struggle differently from others; we still have the power to shape our own lives and make choices that align with our values and goals, whether pursuing a passion, contributing to a cause we care about, or simply striving to be our best version. We can also be successful at our own pace in our lists of goals.

Moreover, having ambition also doesn't necessarily mean that we have to strive for traditional forms of success or follow the same path as others. Still, we can have different ways, ambitions, and goals than society tells us. So, while it's okay to take a step back and reassess our priorities, we shouldn't let go of the drive and determination that propel us toward our personal vision of success.

Well, the good news is that life is not a field of competition, and it is perfectly fine to miss out on others or to lose to someone else. It is okay when you feel it is hard to build success; why am I still stuck here on my thesis while my friend happily gets their first job? You can be happy for your friend without feeling guilty because your pace is not as fast as theirs because you know that you're also trying at your own pace and you are not missing out on something; you walk on your path, and it is okay. If I can succeed in my version at my own pace on my path, why do I bother to fear that I have missed out a lot from others who walk on a different path?

Sources you can read about FOMO:

Baker, Zachary G., Heather Krieger, and Angie S. LeRoy. 2016. “Fear of Missing out: Relationships with Depression, Mindfulness, and Physical Symptoms.” Translational Issues in Psychological Science 2(3): 275–82.

Przybylski, Andrew K., Kou Murayama, Cody R. Dehaan, and Valerie Gladwell. 2013. “Motivational, Emotional, and Behavioral Correlates of Fear of Missing Out.” Computers in Human Behavior 29(4): 1841–48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014.

Writer: Rani Roanliq L.
Editor: Febby Cahya D.