We love to joke about FOMO–but, in all honesty, the fear of missing out can be a crippling phobia. It affects our decision making, eats away at our creative confidence, and can cause us to make some truly regrettable decisions if we let it lure us off our path.
Today, I’m going to share a few ways that fear of missing out shows up and affects our creativity, in hopes that a little insight can help you avoid the pitfalls, excessive doubt, and what-ifs that keep you from doing what you do best.
Fear of Missing Your Chance
There are a lot of steps between coming up with a stellar concept and seeing the final product come alive. It seems that wanting, and working, and wishing hard on a shooting star is all you can do to make that dream a reality. So, what happens if you miss out on your one and only opportunity?
FOMO Says: You never know when your big chance will arrive or where it will meet you, so you have to do everything to boost your chances. Everything. Saying ‘no’ to one tiny thing might inadvertently be a ‘no’ to your entire career. Leave nothing to chance and do it all!
Reality Is: Life is full of opportunities, but not all of them lead the direction you want to go. Saying ‘yes’ just because you’re afraid of saying ‘no’ could get you stuck in a confusion of crossroads instead of progressing along to that dream-destination. There is a difference between an opportunity and YOUR opportunity, and it’s okay to let something go if it’s not a good fit.
My Advice: Knowing precisely what you want can help you make confident decisions. Give some careful thought to your Must-Haves, journal out your dreams, create a vision board, or ask someone you trust to hash out a gameplan and remind you where you’re headed. When you know what you’re shooting for, it’s easier to stay on track and ignore that pestering FOMO feeling.
Fear of Missing the Mark
It’s not unusual to dream up an idea so amazing and full of potential that we can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Maybe you’ve already tried to begin, but lost steam. Maybe that idea became too vast, too complex, or too emotionally-intense for you to wrangle into art.
FOMO Says: You need to slow your roll and pick something WAY less ambitious. Trying to create something this important in your current state would be a recipe for disaster, so either water it down so it’s more manageable, or pick something more suited to your level until you’re ready. Otherwise, that idea will be completely wasted.
Reality Is: There’s no such thing as flawless art. While I know we’d all like to reach a place where our vision and the final product are a closer match, you will always be able to find flaws and mistakes in your work. No matter how technically skilled you become. While taking a break on demanding projects or stepping back when we’re burning out is helpful, telling yourself you’re not ENOUGH to take on a project you’re really excited about is only allowing your fear of failure to handcuff your creativity.
My Advice: Taking on challenges and risks is an essential (and often exhilarating) part of creativity. You can be not-quite-sure it’ll work out and still totally convinced the journey is going to take you somewhere wonderful. Creativity is full of happy accidents, on-the-fly adjustments, and trusting your gut—regardless of whether you planned and prepared or not. Instead of working to have a just-so final product, create toward those discoveries and be gutsy enough to surprise yourself despite the initial trepidation.
Fear of Missing Your Audience
I’m sure you’ve found yourself wondering if there’s someone out there who will be as excited about what you’re planning, and learning, and crafting, and working toward. There are so many other artists, writers, musicians, designers, inventors, and makers in the world, after all. What are the chances that you’ll be the one-in-a-million to stand out and have a success story?
FOMO Says: To ensure your venture becomes profitable, notable, and ultimately worthwhile, you need numbers. Sales! Views! Retweets! Mentions! All of those things have got to add up to something, right? Exposure is the key to having success in the modern world, so you’ve got a lot of signing up, direct messaging, giveaway throwing, name dropping, and event going to do if you want to see real results.
Reality Is: Focusing on outreach, stats, and promotion certainly sounds like a solid way to take control of your destiny. But it’s important to remember that, even with these tools, you don’t have any control over who sees you, shares about it, hires you, or invests your work. Don’t be so enamored of website hits and Instagram followers that it becomes the only reason you create.
My Advice: Do yourself a favor and set goals you can control. Aim to have discussions with peers, attend workshops, take on personal challenges, start a new passion project, or play with a different style or technique. Successes like improvement in your craft, finding healthy friendships, and curating a better portfolio are things you can be tracking and celebrating. Find worth in your work and value in your time, and let the stats and sales be a separate issue.
Fear of Missing Your Calling
Creative careers are often tough and highly competitive. You may spend a lot of time in the trenches working hard and trying to drum up some attention before the world takes notice. That’s usually where we get caught second-guessing everything. Because we feel invisible, and rejected, and lacking that something special which separates the successes from the nobodies.
FOMO Says: When creating is demanding, and painful, and we’re struggling to keep going, are we really meant to be making this our life’s great ambition? Maybe we should be looking for something we can do with more ease. If this was our One True Path, wouldn’t we have seen some results by now? Wouldn’t people have recognized and validated our talents? Obviously, we’ve made a horrible mistake and it’s time to find a different career.
Reality Is: If you’re used to art being a personal and joyous experience, it may surprise you when the professional applications are less about fun concepts and creative freedom and happy little trees. Yes, it’s an adjustment to think about creativity as an honest-to-goodness Real Job™, but that’s not necessarily a sign that you’re not suited for the work. Give yourself time to adjust, learn from your peers, and reframe your expectations before you hit the panic button and ditch your dream to do what you love for a living.
My Advice: If you feel like the type of work you’re trying to get into isn’t a perfect fit, do some research. Maybe you’re more suited to being a colorist than a cartoonist. Or maybe you’d rather be writing mysteries than journalistic essays. Finding the right niche might be all you need to find your brand of success. Willingness to try something slightly different instead of giving up entirely when you hit a snag is key.
Fear of Missing the Wave
Finding what you really want to do with your creativity is an exciting and important moment. But what if your eye is caught by an on-the-outs trend? They say trend chasing is never a good idea—look ahead to what’s next and maybe you’ll be the lucky one to reign supreme over that Next Big Thing.
FOMO Says: You must be the originator of an idea or the head influencer of a trend in order to succeed. If too many people have already mastered and made a name for themselves with the current hot trend, there’s no hope you’ll stand out or be able to benefit from it. You may as well give up on the idea now and try to invent something fresh and new. It’s the only way to get a moment in the spotlight.
Reality Is: Emulating your top influences, educating your artistry, and finding uniquely-you ways to incorporate those elements into your creations are all part of growing your craft. If a current trend has brought something exciting and fresh into the fore, there’s no shame in giving it a try. You may hit on something worth investing more time and mastery into. Or not. Experimentation is the only way to know for sure.
My Advice: Trends come, and go, and cycle back into vogue. Every era has its signature. In time, so will your own body of work. Instead of trying to define yourself by one utterly unique thing or aiming to remain streamlined, allow your creativity to evolve and expand into trends, and themes, and eras of its own. As nice as it sounds to have everything figured out, every good idea reaches its point of exhaustion. Don’t get so precious about one idea that you lose the freedom to discover something else you enjoy, grow your creativity in another direction, or add new layers to that original concept.
How does FOMO show up in your creativity? What reminders have helped you fight it off?
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2 thoughts on “Fighting Off Creative FOMO”
Oh yeah, I’m definitely guilty of having fear of missing the wave and the audience. It’s almost as if I’m perpetually chasing something that isn’t there. Anyway, thanks for this post!
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The fears are so insidious sometimes! It’s usually way easier for me to realize what was going on in retrospect…
So glad you found it helpful 💛