Conquering FOMO as a 20-Something

Before you read this post, I can’t help but recommend the song 20 Something by SZA.

Now, I wish this was a mindset change I made completely out of sheer will power. In reality, this was a change I tried to make for a really long time but couldn’t quite achieve. It happened more as a breath of fresh air, when I realized that, one random day, making better choices in my life had gradually led me to this point of clarity.

I’m talking about the mental switch from #fomo to #jomo.

Fomo, or the “fear of missing out,” had always felt like the most poignant and unavoidable feeling throughout my college years. When I first heard the word fomo, I instantly thought it was the most relatable term I’d come across on the internet. I feared missing out on friendships, perfect grades, travel, parties, romantic relationships, job opportunities, and pretty much everything else. I always thought this was because of problems specific to me– that I was too poor, too cheap, too young, too anxious, too introverted, too busy, etc. But seeing and hearing the word fomo from so many different people, strangers and friends alike, I realized this is something we all deal with. It’s not exclusive to women, to poor people, to wealthy people, to 20-somethings, to anyone. It’s pretty universal, but our culture just happens to promote comparison seemingly more than ever.

Many of the podcast/Youtube personalities I follow have talked about this problem. Rachel Cruze, who authored an entire book about this called Love Your Life, Not Theirs, did a live podcast with The Minimalists about comparison. The Minimalists also speak often about the idea of jomo, or the “joy of missing out.” Of course this sounds absolutely lovely, but it needs to be said that as much as I wanted to feel jomo over fomo, I could never force this change to happen. It hurt to miss out as much as ever. Not as much in terms of missing out on things, since minimalism has greatly changed my mindset on that, but missing out on experiences. This felt like the greatest obstacle to achieving my perception of what happiness meant

I have finally gotten to a point where the feeling of fomo is a rare, surprise occurrence that leaves my mind as quickly as it comes. I no longer dwell on it or make stupid financial or emotional decisions because of it. I believe this came from focusing on myself, being grateful, living in the moment, blah blah blah. But the major and notably practical illuminating factor in achieving jomo was, believe it or not…

… following a budget.

HA! I tricked you. This is actually a personal finance post!

But I really do mean it. When I miss out on experiences, it tends to be for monetary reasons. But I find that it doesn’t hurt when I say no, because I know it means getting out of debt and building wealth faster. It also doesn’t hurt when I say yes, because my budget has given me confidence in all my decisions. 

It has also made me realize that people aren’t more wealthy than me, as I had always perceived them to be.

Sure, when I lived with my parents, they definitely didn’t have nearly as much money to contribute to me as my friend’s parents did. And I can’t ignore that many of my friend’s parents supported them for longer than my parents did (I paid for my own rent, tuition, groceries, etc. in college and, of course, took on my own debt). 

But now that I and many of my peers are supporting ourselves with our first career jobs, I know that we’re in the same boat. Out of my friends salaries that I am aware of, most of us make around the same gross annual income.

This has made me realize that while it feels like my friends are more wealthy than me, because they have more/nicer things, live in more expensive areas, and spend more money on experiences, they aren’t actually appreciably better off than I am. They don’t have it any easier than I do, so I can step outside of my pity party for a moment and see that I’m choosing to live differently by attacking debt, saving, investing, and putting financial limitations on myself in order to do so. This is so empowering to me, because for so long it felt like I had no agency in missing out. But now I know that when I miss out, I do so by choice, and it actually makes me a happier, more joyful person.

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