This week’s question: “My friends and I like to go out often, but sometimes I know I lack the energy to join them, so I opt to stay in. However, when I see them having fun, I get severe FOMO because I don’t want them to start leaving me out. How do I win in this lose-lose situation?”
Let me tell you a story: I am in my best friend’s dorm on a Saturday night. The room is abuzz with excitement and adrenaline as my closest friends prepare for a night out. Our favorite songs are on full blast, our spirits are high and our makeup looks great. Suddenly, my friend is notified that it is now time for our posse to hit the town. The attention is promptly directed toward my choice of outfit, which consists of a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and Crocs.
“Are you coming?” they ask. I shake my head no. I went out last night, and my friends instantly name every reason as to why I should change my mind and join them. I cannot help but blush; this is a great feeling. I can vividly remember a time when I hoped to have a group of friends as amazing as the one I have surrounding me, one who wants me to be there with them during the memorable nights. Although I had previously decided to stay in, my mind begins to wander. I do not have an early morning the next day, and I did get an adequate amount of rest today.
But most of all, I recognized one thought: I love my friends very much, so I do not want to let them down. And within that thought lies an old nemesis of mine: my Need-to-be-Liked. Once I realize she is fueling my hesitation, I hug each of my friends and wish them a fun-filled, safe night before returning to my dorm and indulging in an episode of “Gilmore Girls.”
A resolution I have made for this semester is to reject the Need-to-be-Liked’s voice. She is not looking out for me, and she will often push me so far that I will either attempt to be someone I am not or get myself hurt — or both. I am lucky enough to say that I have found friends who accept me for who I am, and they are people I can trust. However, sometimes I can lose sight of this fact and feel a need to please them, because Need-to-be-Liked tells me I will lose them otherwise.
But I have learned that she is a liar. I know the things she whispers to me to be untrue because the friends who are truly there for me will support me no matter what. Friends who see me as a real person rather than just a plus-one in their group. If I believe that I am surrounded by people who amplify Need-to-be-Liked’s suggestions, I know that I am in the presence of the wrong people. Inch by inch, I am in the process of recognizing the damage she has caused and revoking the power from her words.
The truth is, you can save the time it takes writing out a pros and cons list (though I find that very helpful) once you learn to perfect the skill of listening to your gut. I have learned that 99% of the time, my gut is right. To listen to my gut, I perform a mental autopsy in my mind, dissecting what I should trust and separating it from a meaningless worry that is only a byproduct of anxiety. Sometimes I do decide to go out and have a great time, but that decision is based upon what I want, rather than what I think is expected of me.
Once your decision is made, never look back. Stand firmly in what you have decided and become so rooted in your decision that you leave no room for FOMO. For example, if you know you are tired, listen to your body and let yourself rest. Do not allow yourself to be swindled into hypotheticals and imagine all the fun your friends are having without you (which may not even be true).
Those kinds of thoughts are fueled by anxiety, which we do not trust. When you let yourself create those thoughts, you become your own worst enemy. Focus on what you know is real: your body is tired, and the solution to fatigue is rest. And as far as your friends, if they do decide to start leaving you out of their outings because you chose to do what was best for you, let them. It is not fair to you if they decide to cut you off because you decided to take a night to recharge. Even if your only reason not to go out is because you simply do not want to, that is completely valid as well. While it is a difficult thing to do, if they cannot understand that you need to take time for yourself, they are not worth having around.
Need-to-be-Liked has a voice within all of us, but we must remember that we have full autonomy in choosing whether or not to listen to it.
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