If there's one question/statement that I don’t like being asked much since moving to Copenhagen it's: 'you must be having such a great time'. I don't like it because it makes me feel like a fraud. Why am I not feeling what people expect me to?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing positives about packing up and moving abroad. And yes, some of the experiences I've had so far I could never have dreamed of. But for some reason, there is something inside me that isn't allowing me to relax, succumb and fully embrace the situation I find myself in.
It wasn’t until I read an article in a magazine that explained exactly what I was feeling and why. The article was called 'FOMO – Fear of Missing Out'. We all have it, we always have and we always will, but sometimes we feel it more strongly. FOMO refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up when we hear or read about what others are doing.
With the rise of social media we are slowly becoming known as the FOMO generation. Unlike our parents' generation, we don't just have to "keep up with the Jones" but also the Smith’s, Hansen’s, Webber’s and Carter’s, and the 400+ other friends we have on Facebook and Twitter. We are a generation who now constantly feel like underachievers and it is leading to unhappiness.
I can remember vividly when I first felt the full effect of FOMO since moving to Copenhagen – it was my birthday. I received a very unexpected and beautiful gift from two friends, who were also former colleagues. As I read the card I was hit with strong feelings of envy, anxiety and sadness. Why? The principle reason was because one of my friends got a promotion. I should have been really happy for her but I couldn’t help thinking 'that should be me'. To make matters worse, I was just sitting at home alone (while J was at work), on the other side of the world, jobless without even a glimmer of employment on the horizon. And it was because of this, that I had a ridiculous reaction to my friend's news that was absolutely worth celebrating.
FOMO makes us afraid that we have made the wrong decision about how to spend our time. And for me, my FOMO is firmly anchored to my job. Without a job I feel rudderless. Every time I hear about someone else's work, whether it be back home or here in Denmark, my FOMO anxiety grows.
I retaliate and deal with my FOMO in a very typical but also very juvenile manner – I publish photos, messages and blog posts about the 'amazing' exploits I'm having. It makes me feel better. Subconsciously, in dealing with my FOMO I am creating FOMO in others - so the cycle continues.
It does make me wonder: when will we realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side? I don’t think the answer is to simply settle for what we have (there's always room for improvement), but I do think it is about taking the time to appreciate what we have and not worry so much about what others have or what they are doing.
So now I am trying to 'live in the moment' - learning to enjoy my free time, experiencing new things and not worrying about what I cannot control. I think it is working!