Navigating the Return of FOMO
By Kristine Steinberg, CEO of Kismet
Anxiety. Mine has been bad lately. Chest heavy angst like something is not quite right, like something might go wrong, like I’m not quite good enough. This kind of anxiety is isolating, the kind you try to hide because when you look around… everyone else seems to be doing much better at life than I am.
The pandemic anxiety was shared — there was something communal about it all. I was getting used to a simpler life, the decreased social pressure, the joy of staying put and enjoying home and my immediate family. This jarring shift back to “normalcy” has me grasping for every tool in my toolbox to calm myself down and get a grip. I want to press pause, step back, and be sure that I’m consciously, calmly, and intentionally engaging back into post-pandemic life the way I truly want to. I want to avoid getting swept up in the unconscious momentum of saying yes to everything due to a fear of missing out: from social plans and travel to ensure that I’m doing cool things to taking on too much work to increase external validation that I’m still relevant.
This anxiety I feel — I’m going to let it be a warning sign and a reminder that true joy never did come from the race of life but rather in the restful, calm moments of just being — being in the moment, being present to family, being in connection with friends, supporting a client. It feels like a tug of war between who I think I should be and who I want to be.
Philosophers and psychologists call this tug of war between the two parts of self the conflict between the “essential self” and the “social self”. Your “essential self “is your essence, it’s you stripped down to your true human, base nature, your core and primal desires. Your “social self” is the part of you that has learned how to manage the social pressures and requirements needed to survive. For me, my essential self wants to work less, pursue quiet, calm activities (kayaking, reading, walking on a dirt road, meditating for hours at a time), but my social self is taking on too much work, planning trips and parties and filling my calendar.
We do need both elements to navigate the human experience. The key is to integrate these parts and create alignment between them. If we are only operating from our “social self”, we will be living for external validation only. If we are only operating from our “essential self”, we will be living in our own vacuum, giving into urges and desires that will not always serve our well-being or the health of our relationships. A truly integrated self is clear about their desires, and has found a way to manifest these desires within appropriate social parameters.
So, how exactly do we embark on a path towards balance?
First, we need to get to the root of why the imbalance exists in the first place. At the base of anxiety and at the foundation of disconnected social and essential selves is a feeling of being out of control. Our immediate instinct then is to grasp for control in hopes of feeling safe and ok again. Unfortunately, this strategy leads us even further away from an integrated, grounded, calm self. Any attempt of control from an anxious mindset will be unsustainable and won’t be derived from our authentic intentions.
The simplest answer I’ve found is to stop trying to control life. The trick is to let go and relax into the uncertainty that is life. As we relax, calm down, and breathe, we start to gain access to our internal wisdom, a self-directed compass that leads us towards the decisions, people and circumstances that are authentic to who we are. As I practice relaxing into uncertainty, I realize as the world opens back up, I don’t have to stop pursuing a simpler more spontaneous lifestyle. This will be an ongoing practice, but I notice that as I surrender and stop trying to control, social and work experiences that resonate with my whole self are falling into my lap…effortlessly.
Next time you are feeling anxious, out of control, or like your social and essential selves are not aligned, try this relaxation strategy to help you access your calm:
- Stop what you are doing.
- Write down what feels out of your control.
- Sit down, close your eyes, be sure your feet are on the ground.
- Take 4 deep, deep breaths, in and out.
- Open your eyes.
- Write down one thing that will allow you to feel more grounded.
When we access this calm and relaxed state, we become conscious of the present moment and the joy that living simply and just being brings. From this place, we give ourselves the necessary space to find fresh ways of being and thinking. A spacious mind welcomes innovation, creativity, and boundless possibility. I encourage you to give yourself the time and permission to find this space.
- As you re-enter “normal” life, what do you want your lifestyle to be like and how do you want to show up?
- What do you feel most anxious about as we re-enter a more “normal” life?
- What or who do you find yourself trying to control?
- Who is your essential self and who is your social self? How balanced are these two parts of you?
- Remember a moment where you felt completely at peace and filled with joy. Where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing?
- What kind of practice will help you experience a spacious mind more regularly?
Kristine Steinberg is the CEO of Kismet. She believes that your life should be deeply fulfilling — not tolerated. Partner with Kismet to dismantle fear, define your path, and lead with courage. Start your transformation today: www.thisiskismet.com.