By Alli Worthington
I know Eve gets a lot of blame for causing the original sin and all, but let’s take a minute to think about the underlying reasons. Could one of them be Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)?
There she was, just minding her own business, all the while listening to Adam naming every last thing in the garden, having himself a ball, swinging from vines and yelling, “Eve, you have got to do this!” Suddenly, from out of nowhere, up slithers that evil serpent, convincing her she is missing out on something big, something God doesn’t want her to have.
Suddenly, maybe, she felt discontent.
The enemy wields the weapon of discontent through FOMO and it spreads like a virus. Listen to how he convinced Eve that she only “thought” she had it all. Watch how he created FOMO in her, despite her truly perfect life.
Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. ”For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1–6)
See what the enemy did there? He planted the seed of longing in her, a seed of discontent that made Eve certain she was missing out. The enemy robbed Eve of the joy of her present circumstances and convinced her to trade that in for a chance at what she was missing.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
And if that weren’t bad enough, Eve had to bring Adam into her FOMO state of mind. Adam was doing stuff in the garden, wrestling bears, skipping rocks, and, well, I don’t know, other man stuff. He had no idea he was missing out on anything until Eve made him aware of his own FOMO.
I can just imagine the scene in the Garden of Eden.
“Adam, I have the most exciting news. The best thing just happened. You have got to try it!”
Adam probably resisted for a moment, but then I imagine he too was captured by the fear of missing out, and he caved in to the call of FOMO.
Later in the Bible, we read the story of the prodigal son and his equally epic case of FOMO (see Luke 15:11–32). There are not many details given us in Scripture as to why he asked his father for his inheritance, but I like to imagine FOMO had a part in it. He must have felt the world outside his homeland offered something he was missing, and he had to have it at all costs.
Just like Adam and Eve, he had everything: a stable home, a loving father, everything he could possibly want or need there at his fingertips. And just like Adam and Eve, he gave up everything to answer the call of FOMO.
And that’s the way FOMO is. It’s highly contagious. We’ve been catching it from each other ever since. The problem now is we catch it in real time from millions of people!
What happened to Adam and Eve and to the prodigal son is the same thing that happens to many of us. We question, “If we stay here, in this place God has created for us, within the confines and safety of his will, will we be missing out?” Knowing that the enemy uses FOMO to draw us outside of the circle of God’s will is the primary reason we must have a battle plan to fight him. Next time you feel an attack of FOMO coming on, try these steps.
1. Check Yourself
The first step is to check yourself. When you are feeling left out or like you’re missing out on something amazing, ask yourself some version of the following questions:
- Do I really want to be there instead of here?
- Is that what’s really important right now?
- Am I feeling jealous of someone else’s fun or success? Is that really my lane to run in?
- How can I stay focused ahead in my own lane?
- What do I want that I don’t have right now?
- Do I have PMS? (Seriously, I always get FOMO when I’m hormonal.)
Most of the time if we go through the process of asking ourselves the tough questions, even when we are upset and emotional, the answers bring freedom.
2. Name the Underlying Emotions
Some have argued that FOMO is a combination of anxiety and envy. (Ouch, that kind of hurts, doesn’t it? No one likes to think of themselves as being envious.) But when we think about all the different ways in our lives that we feel FOMO, one or both of those two emotions tends to be a root cause. In one instance as I watched my sweet girlfriends have the time of their lives in Las Vegas, I felt both anxiety and envy. My anxiety caused me to question my own sense of security. Was I okay? Was I enough? Was my life good enough? Do my friends really still love me? And in my envy I wished I were doing all the things they were doing in that moment. I wanted to go spend a lot of money in the spa, eat fancy dinners, and go see all those shows. But I have five kids, a mortgage, tuition, and lots of sets of braces. Recognizing our ugly emotions like anxiety and envy, then naming them and claiming them (even when they’re uncomfortable), actually helps us move past the very short-lived fear of missing out.
3. Switch Your FOMO into JOMO
“Turn off your phone, go be with the family you adore, and do what you actually love to do.” I had become so focused on what my friends were doing I was neglecting my family at home. Instead of enjoying what was right in front of me, the people I loved most in the world, I was wasting my time, ruining my own happiness. And Megan was right to call me out on it and tell me not to post anything on Instagram. We can’t try to stage joy for shallow validation from people out in social media land; instead, we have to find joy with the people who share our homes and hold our hearts. The way not to buy into the fear of missing out is by opening our eyes to what surrounds us right now, finding the magic in our lives, because often it’s hidden in plain sight. When we see what is wonderful around us we can change our FOMO into JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out.
4. Do Happy Now
This is one of my favorites. Do happy now means going for the quick win. Do something you love immediately: go for a walk, snuggle your kids (or your nieces and nephews), watch your favorite movie on Netflix, love on your pets, read a good book, or do whatever it is you do that always puts a smile on your face.
Just a word of caution on this one, though. Don’t give in to negative ways of alleviating your FOMO, strategies like retail therapy (no matter how great you’ll look in those shoes) or overindulging in your favorite foods or certain beverages. Those things might make you happy in the moment, but down the road, they will be much worse for you than the worst case of FOMO.
The great news about FOMO is it is temporary. When you are in the middle of a FOMO attack, going for the quick win, the fun distraction, or even a quick cuddle from someone you love will usually be enough to let those FOMO storm clouds pass on by.
5. Reframe your thoughts
There is a very cool technique that therapists use called reframing. Essentially it means we take our thoughts or situations and look at them with a new lens, or put them in new frame. When we feel sad, we frame all situations negatively. Our thoughts are more negative.
When we feel angry, we frame things in an angry way. The secret is taking a step back and looking at our thoughts and reactions to see if we can reframe them.
After talking with someone about my friends in Vegas, I realized all the negative thoughts were playing in a loop and making everything look bad. I happened to have a hair elastic around my wrist, so I decided that for the rest of the weekend, every time I found myself brooding or blaming, I’d snap that hair elastic. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt, but it did serve as a silly reminder.
It was so silly, so simple, and amazingly it did make me aware of how often the negative thoughts were dragging me down. Just being aware helped me remember to let out a little “help me, Jesus” prayer, take my thoughts captive, reframe them, and direct my energy back to my family.
Reframing thoughts is a cool trick for battling FOMO. For example, instead of thinking of my friends in Vegas having fun without me and feeling sorry for myself with thoughts like this: Must be nice to go to Vegas and have all that fun. I’ll just be here cleaning the rug, I reframed it to: I chose not to go to Vegas because when I’m there, I don’t like it there. I’m home with the family I love.
6. Stay Focused on Jesus
Five years ago, I wouldn’t have included this section on staying focused on Jesus to battle FOMO. I would’ve found it too trite, too easy, too Sunday school lesson-ish. But as I’ve grown, and walked with Jesus a little longer, I see now that if I’m focused on him, he helps me squash the feelings of envy with gratefulness, his acceptance replaces my feelings of rejection, and his presence fills up my loneliness.
It is only by keeping focused on him and trusting his plans for me that I can silence and defeat the work of the enemy and his tool: FOMO.
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). His command is so clear, so simple—“Do not worry, believe in God, and believe in me.”
He makes our paths straight; he guides us along still waters; he restores our soul; he knew us before we were born; he sees our lives from beginning to end; and he alone determines our destiny.
He’s teaching me that if I’m meant to do something, or I’m meant to have something, or if I’m meant to be included in something, I will be. Where he wants me is where I’ll be.
Because I know he holds the future, I don’t have to fear that I am missing out. On anything.
Adapted from Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety by Alli Worthington. Click here to learn more about this title.
Sometimes Jesus’s call to “fear not” seems like the hardest instruction to follow.
Some days you faultlessly juggle everything that is your life—kids, husband, house, job, church, friendships, school, pets, appointments, and on and on. Other days the very thought of which ball you’re going to drop puts your anxiety level through the roof. You’re afraid you’re forgetting something. And you are: God’s advice to fear not.
Alli Worthington knows all about the ways a woman can be hard on herself. She shares her own fear struggles with humor and honesty—while offering real strategies for coping with life’s big worries as well as those little everyday worries.
Alli uses biblical wisdom and practical insight to help you:
- Identify fear-based thinking.
- Overcome the big and little worries in life.
- Learn a simple trick to stop the anxiety spiral.
- Live a more confident, less worried life.
Grab a cup of coffee and sit down for some encouragement from a friend. Alli’s no-nonsense, wise advice will lighten your heart and help you cut through the daily clutter of fear and worry to reconnect with your own fierce faith.
Alli Worthington helps people be successful in life and business. She is an advisor, speaker, and the Executive Director of Propel Women. As an executive and entrepreneurial coach, Alli helps individuals, small business owners, and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. Alli’s no-nonsense, guilt-free take on motherhood, parenting, and balance has led to appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, and a pampered rescued dog. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com.