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Entrepreneurial FOMO: how to deal

Entrepreneurial Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). All those selfies got you down? Here’s how entrepreneurs can cope

Open any social media app and you’re likely to find beautiful images of people living their perfect lives. While many discussions of social media talk about the effect on individuals, entrepreneurs can be just as vulnerable to the effects of social media. Here at Consultant Journal, many of the people who request our tips on building expert status say they feel overwhelmed and need direction.

Fear of missing out – often hashtagged as #FOMO – means “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media”, according to the Oxford Dictionary.

“FOMO has grown as the presence of social media has developed due to the increased access to people’s everyday lives,” says Lindsay Cooke, LMHC. “

Fear of missing out – the FOMO origin story

First mentioned by Dan Herman in an article on branding tools for The Journal of Brand Management in 2000, FOMO has since made its way into discussions of everything from vacation envy to restaurant meals and from business school parties to awards. In fact, Harvard Business School student Patrick Mcginnis wrote about it in 2004 for The Harbus, detailing how it affected his social life during his time in biz school — Joseph Reagle provides in-depth notes about the etymology, if you’re interested.

Managing FOMO

For entrepreneurs, confronting FOMO can mean hard work. As you interact on social media, you may find yourself surrounded by images, clips and news of people speaking, presenting, attending conferences, working in prestigious locations, receiving certifications, and getting testimonials. Those posting may seem to have perfect hair, stylish clothes, fancy cars, amazing vacations, and a constant stream of business deals.

As with all marketing, entrepreneurs choose their messages carefully. What you see may even have been constructed by a marketing agency, photographed professionally, touched up, staged on a green screen and heavily edited. Entrepreneurs often blur the lines between personal and professional content.

Even experts on media literacy can fall prey to FOMO. “ I am like the doctor who suffers from what he treats,” muses Jim Wasserman, author of a three-book series on media literacy and behavioral economics (aff). After moving from the US to Spain, Wasserman relied on social media to promote his books. “”I was constantly checking and seeing how I could be on social media and interact. The fear of missing an opportunity to promote my books, do a podcast, write an article, or in any way interact became pretty bad. I could almost FEEL my positioning of my books losing ground and slipping spaces.” He notes the process was driving him to burnout and leaving him feeling like he was working harder in retirement than as an employee.

Tips for managing entrepreneurial FOMO

“ Usually when someone is experiencing FOMO it is similar to treating an anxiety issue,” says Cooke, an LMHC counsellor. She says she supports clients by helping them identify options, reflect on their decisions, explore the truth of their thoughts, and distract themselves. “Often times, utilizing these strategies can decease or even eliminate social media FOMO,” notes Cooke.

Distract yourself

“Engage in another activity at home that is distracting,” suggests Cooke. She recommends clients try movies, books, cooking, staying off social media or planning something fun for yourself. And “Give yourself a break for staying in.  

Fact check your FOMO

Sure, your friend, colleague or competitor may look like they’re up to amazing things, but is that the whole story? Entrepreneurs can make themselves look good, regardless of their qualifications, experience or outcomes.

Moreover, with such heavily curated and managed content, you’re only seeing part of the story. Someone may be posting pictures of their latest business deal, but they may not show up 2 months later to say they got stiffed or that they had a falling out.

You may also notice peers and competitors posting a stream of awards. An entire industry supports carefully worded applications, with some awards even representing a business revenue scheme for the awards organization. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s paid.

Embrace your feelings

Recognize your feelings, says Whitney Hawkins LMHC, a psychotherapist In Miami. “Recognize that you are feeling that way for a reason. Don’t push it away or punish yourself.” But examine whether there’s evidence that your thoughts are true.

Tune into your goals

Revisit your personal plan and see if you’re making steps toward your own goals. “”Focus on gratitude. Did anything else positive happen today? Is there anything that helped you with this situation?” suggests Hawkins “You can even be grateful you’re having this problem in the first place, like if you have the privilege of having a business in the first place.” Once you’ve invested time in the problem, move on, she adds.


And create connections. Wasserman turned to family. Visiting his wife’s family in Asia, where family is first, helped him reconnect face-to-face. “ would go many days without  the ability to check social media, or even the news, and found not much changed, except that I had dricher living and less worry about ‘What will happen?’

Walk away

Upon returning to Spain, Wasserman and his wife hiked El Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route. “We are  not religious, but walking that route, disconnected from news of the world, social media, and really anything but living in the now and having to look people in the face when communicating brought it home for me; when you are stressed about how hitting yourself with a hammer hurts, don’t redesign the hammer or change the frequency of swinging…just put it down.”

Move on

Go back to your own business plan and goals.. Hawkins, a business owner and a psychotherapist, says, “I make a plan for the future and continue to work on the reason I am comparing myself to others online.


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