FOMO is real: What to do when you feel left out

A woman feels out of place
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Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is all too familiar to many people, particularly in this day and age.

When friends, neighbors, or coworkers organize an event and an invite doesn’t come your way, it’s natural to feel hurt or anxious. Social media often exacerbates the problem, making it easy to see what your peers are up to and who they are (or aren’t) hanging out with.

Just because FOMO is natural, doesn’t mean you have to sit idly by and put up with it. We’re going to dive into the best tips to handle exclusion, including effective ways to work through your concerns with everyone involved.

Don’t jump to conclusions

If you’re feeling left out, take a deep breath. Being excluded is harmful, but taking bold action, blaming your friends, or retaliating in any way will only intensify the situation.

More often than not, your friends or coworkers did not realize they were acting exclusively. Perhaps they met through convenience, accident, or didn’t believe you’d be interested in the activity. Take a few minutes to reflect on the situation and consider all the possible viewpoints. If you still believe you were excluded purposefully or that your friends weren’t being considerate of your feelings, then it’s best to reach out and initiate that conversation.

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Check in with yourself

Whether you were excluded intentionally or unintentionally, your feelings will be hurt. That’s okay. There is no expectation to “get over it” or drop the issue. If it’s important to you, it’s worth taking the time to work through.

During this time, there are a few questions you should ask yourself to get a better handle on the situation. The most important question is, how important, really, is this event? If it’s an activity you never or rarely attend with a group of people you aren’t particularly close to, it makes sense that your friends may proceed without you.

Unfortunately, FOMO often occurs because you weren’t given the opportunity to engage in activities you love to do. In this instance, consider exactly what part is triggering for you. Is it missing out on the activity specifically or rather the chance to interact with people you’d like to get to know better?

Answering these questions will set you up for success when you speak to your friends or coworkers about how the exclusion made you feel. By speaking to the friend(s) and specifying exactly why you feel left out and where your disappointment stems from, they have a better idea of how their actions impacted you and how to prevent this situation in the future.

The last cause for FOMO is when you were invited to an event but, for some reason or another, could not attend. In this situation, jealousy or frustration can arise from simply not being able to have fun with your friends. This case is largely blameless, so stay off of social media, mute your group chats, and try to reduce the number of times you see or hear how the event is going.

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Addressing the issue

If there’s someone in this group you’re comfortable confiding in, approach that person to address the situation and explain your feelings. This is a difficult and possibly embarrassing conversation to have, but you will all be better for it.

To best prepare, keep a mental or physical list of what you want to discuss. Practice using “I” statements to center your feelings instead of blaming others. For all you know, it could have been a simple mishap. If, on the other hand, you learn the exclusion was intentional, you can take the opportunity to think deeply about the status of your friendship and how you can work together to mend it.

Experiencing trouble with an existing friend group is stressful, but it can also motivate you to seek out new connections and experiences. Now might be your chance to branch out and grow as a person.

When to seek help

If FOMO leaves you feeling stressed or anxious and none of these tips help, it may be time to turn to a professional for guidance. A therapist can help you navigate conflict-resolution practices, so you can enter all of your friendships knowing how to address your concerns honestly and effectively. Therapists are available to talk and will encourage you to practice coping mechanisms that manage these negative thoughts.

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