Here’s a quiz:
1. Do you automatically say, “Yes” to an invitation even though you are exhausted and are dying to go home and sleep?
2. Do you get uneasy when you stay at home and do nothing but read and hang out with your cat?
3. If you are out at a business meeting/conference/trade show (or some equivalent) do you keep going and going just because the “group” keeps going and going?
4. Are you nagged by thoughts of not belonging, or not being included, or wishing you were in some elusive in-crowd?
If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, most likely you suffer from a disease I call FMS: Fear of Missing Something.
FMS is not deadly, but it can be pervasive and challenging to heal. It usually strikes those who have a perpetual fear of not being enough. Women are more susceptible to it than men. The patient seems to think if she goes along with just one more thing, or if she is included enough times, that the gaping black hole inside of her will magically fill up. She then finds herself addicted to the word “Yes” because the black hole never fills.
To date, FMS is not curable by doctors. There are no prescription drugs that spammers can push or that the pharmaceutical companies can create annoying commercials about.
Only the willing patient can cure FMS. This takes commitment and determination.
When you find you are under a sudden attack of FMS, the procedure is simple but difficult. There are three steps…
1. Sit down.
2. Sit still.
3. Shut up.
Once this procedure is followed, the chance of recovery increases a hundred-fold.
Next, breathe deeply, and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do I really want to do _____________? (Name the activity.)
2. In an ideal world, what would I really like to do right now?
3. Do I even LIKE these people I’m telling myself to hang out with?
4. What am I hoping to get out of this?
5. What am I afraid will happen if I say NO?
Question #5 points to one of the core issues of the patient with FMS. The inability to say the word NO. Before an attack of FMS strikes and the symptoms become acute, the patient may benefit from standing in front of a mirror and mouthing the word “NO” over and over again until it becomes an easier response than, “Well that’d be LOVELY! Bless your heart for including me! I’ve always loved NASCAR!”
Say it with me now…
“No, thank you.”
“Not so much on the NASCAR. But I’d love to rent When Harry Met Sally and make popcorn!”
I was diagnosed with FMS by me. My symptoms surfaced only in certain situations. For instance, in the acoustic music world, there’s an annual conference called “Folk Alliance.” Many people call it “Folk Annoyance,” and they complain bitterly before they get onto a plane and go every year. This activity alone indicates a mild strain of FMS, though it’s understandable because everyone in the “biz” is there, and all the artists feel compelled to go. I can tell you from experience that I’ve never heard an artist say anything like, “Woohoo! Folk Alliance! Can’t WAIT!”
The problem is not so much the attending of the conference, but in what everyone does to themselves once they are there. Many of the musicians perform in dozens and dozens of guerilla showcases til 4am in tiny cramped hotel rooms, hoping that someone will see them and book them. Getting bookings, getting anything — just getting — seems to be the motivating factor. The exhibit hall is filled with artists running around handing people their CDs and bios hoping to network and get more gigs, get more stuff, get more recognition fill that big black hole. (I have joked about what I call the “Folk Alliance Hello” which mostly occurs in the hotel elevators — a glance at you, a glance at your name tag, and then when it registers that you can’t offer a gig, a record deal or anything else worth getting, a glance away.)
My first Folk Alliance made me aware of my predisposition for FMS. I was virtually unknown. I took one look at the exhibit hall, and felt my whole being sucked in by the desperation-mojo, which was a miasma that filled every ounce of atmosphere. I wanted to run around throwing my CD’s at everyone yelling, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” So, I breathed. And I silently made the decision to be still, and to allow people to come to me, to be totally and completely present to each person, and to be as open and friendly as I could be, but not to push. I also only performed in five showcases (a ridiculously small amount compared to most) and I was selective about which ones I performed. Whenever I got overwhelmed or felt that I was pushing myself to belong, or to get something, I got still, and I went up to my hotel room and read my Carl Hiassen book.
Here’s what happened from being in a state of allowing at that one conference: I had two amazing meals with old friends and we laughed a lot, I was offered maybe three or four performance dates, and when I was standing in that exhibit hall being open and present, I met a representative from an independent distribution company. She had heard of me, and liked my CD. We eventually signed a contract, which ultimately landed me on the national Border’s Books & Music Listening Posts on my last two CDs, and has made my company tens of thousands of dollars. Not huge. But what I love about it was that it came about organically. And easily. I didn’t have to push myself to be in uncomfortable situations. Several years later, I was chosen to do one of the coveted Main Stage showcases at Folk Alliance, which opened up even more doors.
I’m not saying that any of this was easy. My FMS voices shouted at me during that entire three-day conference and at many other conferences after that. They thought I was nuts.
Since that time, I’d say I’m 90% cured of FMS. I use Life Coach Cheryl Richardson’s guideline that I mentioned in my blog on Creating Order — If it’s not an Absolute Yes, then it’s a No. (Yep, that’s scary sometimes.) I also check in with myself to see if I’m doing something out of fear. What is the motivating force here? That’s always the question. If it’s EVER out of a feeling of not being enough or a fear of someone “not liking me,” then the answer is “No.” “Nooooooo.”
It can feel almost impossible to take the first steps to healing FMS at first. These patterns can be hard to shift. Once you do though, there are side effects — none of which have to be whispered in a deep shady pharmaceutical commercial voices… “Sudden dizziness, inability to control your bowels, loss of memory, homicidal tendencies, and spontaneous vomiting.”
These side effects are much better: A sense of calmness and assuredness. Attracting more and more things that fill your heart. More opportunities which are better suited to your value system. Being able to say no without over-explaining or getting emotional. Clarity. And a deep knowing that you are always in the right place at the right time.
Give it time though. It took years to develop a full-blown case of FMS. It may take time to heal. Allow yourself a few more bad NASCAR nights. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it!