There was this girl I knew in high school. She was great- bright, bubbly, friendly, and a leader on dance team. We weren’t close, but after we graduated I enjoyed seeing her posts on Facebook every once in a while; I knew that she had been pursuing a career as a dancer and a model, and I loved her photos because they made me proud to know someone who was actually going for what she wanted even though it was scary.
One day recently as I scrolled through my feed, I stopped at one of her photos, expecting an interesting update. But what I read was unsettling caption: “I never posted this on Facebook [almost a year ago] because I thought I wasn’t skinny enough.”
I was shocked. I had always admired this girl for seemingly feeling so at home in her body as she followed her dreams post-graduation. The thought had never dawned on me that she might feel like she wasn’t good enough.
And then I got to thinking… what do I look like to people who can’t see my insecurities?
It never occurred to me that perhaps some people couldn’t. I suppose things look good for me in the Facebook world: all of my pictures since high school have been of fun, adventure, friends, family. All of my blog posts- even the ones about really tough things- have been full of hope, causing people to leave remarks that confuse me: “you’re so strong,” “you’re so wise.” I didn’t realize that people think these things because what I present to the outer world is so different than the anxiety and insecurity often going on within.
Here’s the truth.
All any of us wants is to be happy. Everything in our lives is geared, some way or another, toward making us happy in the short run or the long run. But there is one thing that, if we want to be happy, we simply cannot live without: self-confidence. Actually liking yourself, what you can do, what you look like, who you are.
Often, so many of us think it would be easier to be someone else. Facebook is great for helping us to keep in touch, but it also leads to FOMO- fear of missing out. You see somebody with the job you wanted but never went for on Facebook, and they seem to be having a great time at it. FOMO. You see an old friend who got engaged to the perfect guy, and you’re still single. FOMO. You see that one person who always posts pictures at the gym while you’re chilling in bed. FOMO. And we’re not just afraid of missing out here. We’re afraid that we’re not good enough (too shy, too lazy, too whatever) to have these experiences of our own.
But look at my high school friend. Look at me. Those pictures are not those whole people. For every gorgeous shot you see there are plenty of less glamorous moments behind it, moments of feelings like anxiety, indecision, inadequacy. I say this not because I know all of your friends or because I want to be a downer, but because we all have these feelings. They’re part of the human experience, and that’s okay. But FOMO is allowing us only to see the bright sides of other people, making it feel wrong to have any dark moments ourselves. Looking at all of these pictures and feeling like you’re missing out is a really great way to start feeling bad about yourself for a totally understandable but super unnecessary reason.
So how can we feel good and happy and bypass the FOMO? We have to get at whatever it is that bothers us and face it head on. Instead of FOMO, GOMO: go out more often. For all the FOMO you have when you see people’s awesome jobs, GOMO and learn about new talents that you have. For every FOMO of an adorable relationship, GOMO and meet people who make you realize that you are capable and deserving of companionship of your own. And for all of that FOMO about the gym, GOMO and do something fun with your body- hike, swim, dance, roller disco? If you’re a fan of lists, you could even start your own 101 Goals.
I’ll be the first to admit how easy it is to just hang out at home and watch movies or TV. I love it not just because it’s entertaining, but because it’s safe. I can watch my shows and write down my thoughts and then send them out into cyberspace with my eyes glued to the screen in order to gauge how many likes I can get before I’m allowed to feel good about my work. I can be comfortable with that. But you know what it’s so hard for me to do? Talk to strangers. Go out alone. Try new hobbies. But honestly, I’m a lot more likely to feel good about myself after I do those things than I am after a day as a character-analyzing vegetable.
So here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s be real, and realize that every person is a whole person experiencing both good and bad all the time; let’s not forget that if they only want to show us the happy parts. Let’s stop allowing FOMO- this illusion that everyone else has the secret to life and you’re missing out on it- to keep us from feeling good about ourselves. Instead, let’s GOMO. Let’s get out there to some event, or even create our own. Let’s get scared. Let’s get our hands dirty. Let’s feel really uncomfortable. And, along the way, maybe we’ll actually start to be happy.