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FOMO & GUILT: The great robbers of the moment – especially for women?!

By Susan MacKenty Brady
January 17, 2021
two women walking in an office

In early 2020 I was nominated and then invited into an exclusive group of brilliant and accomplished people. Members include sitting CEOs and executive coaches and best-selling authors and former professional athletes and a real-life Broadway star. The common denominator among us is that we are all in the business of helping others be great and or have the life they want. It is an inspiring bunch to say the least.

The annual Conference for the group typically takes place in January and this year – 2021 – it was held online. The program agenda included pretty much all day zooming on Saturday and Sunday but those who hosted were sure to offer “NO GUILT!” as a mantra should any of us not be able to attend any part of the various agenda.

I’ll admit the agenda concerned me. Not only was I coming off of a week of virtual meetings but I’d be heading into the same thing next week too. The invitation to this highly esteemed group and now invitation-only weekend event only fatigued me and made me sad. I didn’t want to stare at my screen one more hour this week and I also love the impromptu moments of togetherness when my teenage girls and husband and I can just be with one another over weekend days. Be that running errands or cooking or going for a hike or reading next to my 11-year-old dog who can’t make it up to my office, my “pandemic weekends” are reserved for my family loves.

And so it was with some hesitation that I reserved two hours on Saturday to join this online conference. It wasn’t hard to engage – I immediately was inspired by how special and welcoming and alive this community of experts are. I promised my gang I would be off at noon. “NO GUILT”, I thought to myself. Hmmm. I like that. I have taught how to navigate feelings of guilt – especially difficult for women – for many years. I have mastered the art (I thought) of allowing myself to BE WHERE I AM. But it wasn’t guilt I felt at noon, it was fear of missing out of the rest of the weekend of inspiration, or as my teens have taught me: FOMO.

FOMO is yet another suite of feelings that simply rob us from our present. Just like guilt, fear of missing out is simply being in your mind somewhere you are physically not. For me, and since I haven’t had a conscious experience of FOMO since I can recall, I recognize this as yet another opportunity for self-mastery. I was called to return my thoughts to the present moment. My 15 year old wanted to go to Staples with me! (Any parent of a teen daughter especially will understand the deep level of happiness that comes when the teen wants to spend time with you. Let’s set aside that it often is when said parent is a vehicle for purchasing…) We were giggling behind our masks as we selected pretty file folders when I caught myself thinking about who might I not be connecting with at the annual meeting of this special group. Whose work could I support but hadn’t yet met? Who could I be learning from this very moment?

The beautiful realization for me was that I caught my thoughts taking me from – in this case, my girl and our moment – and simply chose to return to being fully present. Even if it was in the file aisle at Staples. This practice is no different than what I have taught about overcoming guilt. Guilt is a “should” or “shouldn’t” – it’s a critical narrative disguised as worrying about someone or something else. Guilt robs us from fully engaging in our present moment. I see guilt often arise for female caregivers especially when our heart feels divided between two places we need to be or want to be. Last I checked, we can’t be two place at once physically – so why do we allow ourselves to be in our mind? What I had to say to my FOMO yesterday was the same thing I have said to my feelings of guilt when they rear their head: “Oh no you don’t!! Susan, Be. Here. Now.”

Whatever you are doing and whoever you are with loses part of you every time you allow guilt to consume your thoughts. The same goes for FOMO. And if that someone is just you? If you are all alone and thinking these thoughts? I implore you to push pause. Then what, do you ask? Do what a favorite wise elder and teacher, Richard Leider, has taught to millions: give (of yourself) or grow (learn something). Reengage in your NOW. Give all of yourself to something. Call a friend, read a book, listen to an inspiring podcast. Journal about what the “tug of war” in your thoughts is all about. Is there wanting in there? Once you get clear – decide to make a change about how you are spending your time or return to being in your present as is and lovingly allow yourself to be there fully.

Today, I will join this esteemed conference of amazing people for two more hours. The rest of the day I plan to go for a hike with my husband and dogs and then cook a new recipe for dinner. And be present while I do all of it. FOMO and GUILT, no robbing me today!