While evaluating the fears that have dominated my life, I’ve come to realize that there is one fear that doesn’t look as scary as the others but has perhaps caused more damage. It’s the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). It goes much deeper than a funny social media tag. This fear has been a constant since my childhood―in various seasons of my life, FOMO has manifested itself in many ways.
I grew up in a household where junk food was seldom allowed. Unless we were hosting a party, we never had soda in the house. There were no Oreos, no Doritos, and no Twinkies. So, when my sister and I were over at the neighbor’s house, we went crazy, eating our fill of any junk food we could get our hands on. It seemed that we were cheated out of fun foods at our house. We had to ingest what we could, whenever we could.
Fast-forward to high school, when a strict curfew meant that I had to be home before the end of the football games. Being resourceful, I joined the marching band so that I had an excuse to be part of the fun from beginning to end. I simply couldn’t miss the football games. I won my newfound freedom by wearing a polyester suit and carrying a 20-pound bass drum. But hey, I even got to go out of town on a few away games and band competitions!
Always the “good girl,” I was very mindful of what it meant for me to be a teenage Christian: no drinking, no drugs, and no sex. Perhaps to compensate for the natural FOMO that occurs in this developmental stage of life, I made it a badge of honor to be the last holdout in all three categories. I stayed pure in body but developed a judgmental, unhealthy mentality that would carry over into adulthood.
At church youth events, food was the siren song that got teens involved. “Reach them through their stomachs” was, and is, a prevailing philosophy. How do you get a room full of teens with surging hormones to stay on the straight and narrow? Stuff them full of pizza and donuts.
I’m going to take a brief aside to mention something that gripped my heart today. A research study by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that young adults who frequently participate in religious activities are 50% more likely to become obese by middle age than young adults who do not participate. “We don’t know why frequent religious participation is associated with development of obesity, but the upshot is these findings highlight a group that could benefit from targeted efforts at obesity prevention,” says lead investigator Matthew Feinstein.
I’m no scientist, and I certainly haven’t done any research on this topic, but have you been to a church function? I can tell you why the Church is gaining so much weight. We compensate for our FOMO on the worldly “fun stuff” by overindulging at potlucks!
If struggling through low income has also been part of your story, the likelihood that you have additional FOMO issues surrounding food is increased. The free food provided at events usually has high caloric counts and very low nutritional value.
My husband and I had a very modest income for the first several years of our marriage. While we never lacked food at home, we were very budget-conscious; and there was somehow this innate sense of needing to take what was offered whenever it was offered. If food was presented at a gathering, I didn’t want to miss out, so I had some. Even if I wasn’t hungry, at least I could have dessert!
Media and advertising haven’t done us any favors when it comes to freedom from FOMO. We’re continuously bombarded with images of eating and drinking as the highlight of life. It’s always part of the good times. It’s a comfort in the sad times. It’s part of vacations, celebrations, and victories. Whether our vice is food in general, sweets, or alcohol, we’ve been conditioned with FOMO so that we’ll continue consuming. My best guess is that FOMO has led many a Christian to addiction.
Sweets are my dragon. I’ve been seriously evaluating the stronghold that they have over me. Thinking about eliminating sugar instantly makes me sad as I imagine having no candy at the movies or being the only holdout at a birthday party. In my mind, I have married sugar with fun times.
The notion that no sugar equals no fun is a lie. It’s a very real association that I need to break. I’m not saying that I’m never going to have dessert again, but the stronghold it has over my life has got to go. Any substance that has become essential to having a good time has become an addiction and taken a place of authority it should have never been granted.
Has there been a teaching or philosophy that has led you to latch onto something as a consolation for FOMO? It may be time to look into your past to see where these unhealthy connections started to form. The freedom we are granted through faith in Christ isn’t for only certain aspects of our life. It’s for the total package. Pursue any bondage or idol that has taken dominion and turn it over to the dragon slayer, Jesus!