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You sit down to work. Turn on the laptop. While it’s booting up, you check your phone.

Oh, your biggest competitor has posted a new image on Instagram! She just announced that she had hit 200,000 followers and her latest class is full. You read her post, watch her story, and look at the cost of her course.

All the while, the laptop goes to sleep due to inactivity.

Your mind is racing. What could you do better? Why do you not have 200K followers yet? You know it’s time to get to work. But, you better check one more person before you start the day.

You quietly whisper in your head, half-jokingly, “What’s wrong with me?”

In today’s busy, ultra-competitive, social media driven society, it feels normal to compare yourself to everyone else out there. This hyper-sensitive feeling has a name: Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO.

Problem is, FOMO could be seriously holding you back in your career.

The Psychology Behind FOMO

FOMO started as a social phenomenon, described by Oxford Dictionary as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” It’s almost exclusively triggered by social media posts, and professionally it can stem from the idea that someone else has their career figured out before you.

Anita Sanz, Clinical Psychologist, explains the psychology behind FOMO as related to tribalism. We are social creatures who need to be part of something bigger than ourselves, she says. We need to have a tribe. In past civilizations, being part of a tribe equated to survival.

As we have progressed to modern day conveniences, we no longer need to know where to find our next meal. Our access to news and social media has advanced to a constant stream of images and information about others; these images trigger psychological responses in our brains.

We are social creatures who need to be part of something bigger than ourselves

The part of our brain known as the amygdala processes emotions. The amygdala is involved in both feelings of fear and reward. If you suffer from FOMO, the amygdala senses that you are being left out.

These feelings that your business or professional self are not part of the “in-crowd” can trigger your fight-or-flight responses. One study found a direct relationship between the time you spend on social media and feelings of FOMO. It also discovered that FOMO is connected to depressive symptoms, mindful attention, and physical symptoms that last well past the time you actually spend on social media.

So how do you know if you suffer from FOMO?

3 Questions to Gauge Your Level of Business FOMO

1) Do you feel jealous when looking at other social media accounts?

Think about that one competitor out there whose Instagram account looks like a glamorous magazine ad. The colors are perfect. The images bring creativity and design, and the text tells a story that even makes you wonder if you should buy her product.

This feeling is entrepreneurial envy, and it could be damaging your business.

2) Do you feel obligated to share all of your good times on social media?

Another part of FOMO is the desire to match your competitors in a reactionary way. If you look at social media and then immediately feel the need to match your competitor’s posts, stories, or pictures in direct response, without intentional strategy, you may have FOMO.

3) Does turning off the alerts make you anxious?

If shutting down the barrage of social media notifications causes you physical stress, you may be suffering from business FOMO. Yes, you need to keep a finger on the pulse of your competitors, but you certainly don’t need to know every move they make as soon as they make it.

How do you overcome FOMO in your career?

1) Slow Down

Being a successful businesswoman is hard. The stress of everyday life and making business decisions can have you running from dawn to dusk. Adding in the extra-sensitivity to what others are doing will burn the candle at both ends even faster.

Choose your top three tasks that must be done each day, and let the rest wait until tomorrow.

Create a schedule that provides time to disconnect. Make a conscious decision to do less. Choose your top three tasks that must be done each day, and let the rest wait until tomorrow. When you are well-rested and grounded in mindful practices, you can better handle the images you see on social media.

2) Remember the grass isn’t always greener

Susie may look amazing in her new business suit at her promotion dinner, but she doesn’t have it all together, either. She has fears, failures, and frustrations. Keep in mind that social media images show a one-dimensional view of someone’s three-dimensional life — it’s a highlight reel, not a behind-the-scenes exclusive.

3) Be present

It’s easy to lose focus of your goals when you compare yourself to others.

Should you disconnect completely? Just like all decisions in your life, there are pros and cons. Being engaged to your tribe may be a necessity to your business or career. You may not be able to shut down entirely.

Here are a few easy ways to be present in the moment:

  • Turn the alerts off while you work.
  • Use an app that blocks distracting social media feeds like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for a certain amount of time.
  • Put the phone in a drawer while you work. Check it a few times each day to make sure all is well at home.
  • Let your financials speak for themselves. If you are happy with the amount of money you make in your career, business, or side hustle — quit comparing yourself to others.

FOMO is real. It can cause you to succumb to feelings of anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms. Spending energy in comparisons can cause you to miss out on opportunities. Believe in yourself. Detach from fear and comparisons. Don’t let FOMO ruin your chances of career success.

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