How Can I Reduce My "Fear Of Missing Out" And Relax A Little?
June 1, 2014 12:44 PM   Subscribe

How can I slow down and take time to myself and enjoy it when there is always a constant stream of social invites? How can I stop worrying about missing out on something, and specifically missing out on meeting new romantic chances?

I guess this is a good problem to have! But it's a problem for me nonetheless.

I'm a very social person and I have a LOT of friends in different circles. It's fun. But I'm becoming exhausted and stretched too thin. I'm very much a "yes" person when people invite me to do stuff because I honestly DO want to hang out and spend time with them. But sometimes I overbook myself and get stressed out because I'm always going from one thing to the next.

A few things that are exacerbating this:

1.) I feel this fear that if I decline too many invites I will drop down in friendship rank with people and lose the friendship. Or they won't invite me next time.

2.) I always have this anxiety that I will miss out on something.

3.) The anxiety of missing out on something is made worse because as a gay person who really wants to find a significant other; I always fear that I'm going to miss out on that rare chance that a potential partner could be out and about. And if I take my eye off the ball and slack off I will miss that opportunity. For gay people it just always seems so much harder to meet potential interests. For example, today I'm very tired because I've been hanging out with my friends constantly for several days. They are going to a swanky hotel pool today - I wouldn't mind not going, but I have this sense of worry of "What if girl of my dreams is there today, and by not going I will miss my chance of meeting her?"

4.) This anxiety is getting in the way of my life - for instance, I really want to get a dog. I love dogs and I think it would make me really happy (and take my mind off dating for a bit and make it less of a THING in my mind). But my hesitation in getting one is solely caused by my worry that I may have to miss out on some social things here and there because of the added responsibility. And it's less about missing some time with friends and more because I'm worried I will miss out on meeting new people to date. It sounds crazy when I write it, but it's becoming a complex. I will admit that a horrible string of bad luck and rejection in my romantic life has a LOT to do with this.

I will say I've been making an effort to take dating off the table for a bit to heal from recent rejections and just reduce my overall anxiety. But it is HARD. I can't effectively trick myself into thinking that way when my deepest desire right now is a relationship.

I'm not a total extrovert - I need some alone time to recharge after extensive "hanging out" time. I kind of miss the days when I just had a small group of close friends and that was it. I also wasn't that worried about finding someone to date. But now that I have many friends I can't willingly just fall of the face of the earth. I don't want to lose them although I realize that I can't keep all these friendship balls in the air all the time. I do have a hard time saying no sometimes, but I've gotten a lot better at that recently so that's less of a problem. I think the problem lies more in my own anxiety about missing out.

So I guess my questions are:

How can I relax a little bit from constantly stressing I'm going to miss a romantic "chance" if I take a social break from time to time?

How can I learn to decline a social invite and enjoy some alone time without constantly thinking people are off having fun without me?

Should I pare down my friendships a bit and focus on a few? And how can I even do this? It seems hard to willingly slack off on friendships.
posted by christiehawk to Human Relations (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am very introverted and prefer to have a small group of friends rather than a large one, so I'm not sure how helpful my insights will be. But I wanted to take a stab nonetheless.

How can I learn to decline a social invite and enjoy some alone time without constantly thinking people are off having fun without me?

Sometimes your friends will have fun without you - you can't be at each others' sides all the time, especially if you're looking to take a bit more time to yourself. But, that doesn't mean they don't like you and want to have fun with you in the future. When you do decline their invites, be sure to say how bummed you are to miss Fun Social Thing, and that you'd love to join next time.

As for enjoying alone time, could you try thinking about it differently? For me reading a book in the park or binging on Netflix is just as fun as a party, and I think about it in those terms. Instead of focusing on Fun Social Thing you chose not to do, revel in how much you're enjoying Fun Independent Thing.

How can I relax a little bit from constantly stressing I'm going to miss a romantic "chance" if I take a social break from time to time?

My only advice, which may be of little use to you, is to remember that life is absolutely chock full of chances to make new friends and meet potential romantic partners. Staying in every once in a while will indeed reduce the number of absolute chances for you to do this, but in such a negligible way that it's not worth fretting over.

Should I pare down my friendships a bit and focus on a few? And how can I even do this? It seems hard to willingly slack off on friendships.

I'd read the answers to this question, asked in December. In particular, this comment. Might be some food for thought as you consider how to proceed with your friendships. In my opinion it's preferable to have a small number of extremely close friends, but different strokes and all that: you may prefer a larger number of less-close friends, and that is also a-okay.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:08 PM on June 1, 2014

One small tip is that if you turn down an invitation from someone to hang out, then you should be the one to contact them and make plans next time. If you don't do that and decline repeated invitations, then people would just assume that you no longer wants to hangout with them.

So if you don't want to turn down an invitation just say something like "sorry, not today. How about we meet for lunch next sunday?"
posted by WizKid at 1:08 PM on June 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

This advice is extremely strange and you may not like the connotations. The connotations may be distasteful, but there's no harm in listening to the advice and considering it, at least.

First, note that the fear of missing out will be a temporary thing, and it is not the entirety of your life. Observe some 90-year-olds and how much they fear it.

My philosophy towards the phenomenological aspects of friendship is much related towards Flaubert's towards writing:

Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.

So to be violent and original in your friendships...

One thing I had that was very useful for this (I quit facebook and experienced a distinct improvement in my friendships) is to systematically contact your friends, don't use social media or just have them contact you. By systematic, I mean that I have an automated reminder to remind me to call up 443 people I need to contact periodically in my contact list, amortized per day so I do 6 a day and cycle every 70 days: it feels weird to do it systematically, but you get better results.

You may want to make another system, but to have a system for contacting people and sticking to it will lead to less lost friendships but allow you to mediate and moderate your contact.

There is also a systematic route towards interpersonal closeness. Here is the paper. Summary: self-disclosure and relationship-building tasks build interpersonal closeness.
posted by curuinor at 1:11 PM on June 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Hmm. About the titration of the 70 number: because I have a larger social circle than what I can physically fit in my mind alone (Dunbar's number: 150 people you care about, really), I contact once every 70 days and contact my closer friends more often. Dunbar's own numbers go something like 5 close friends (3 if you have a SO, not counting the SO), 20 good friends, and 125 friends.

His measure of the average rates of contact, I recall, is a mean of every 4 days for close friends, 15 days for good friends, 40 days for friends. This is for schoolchildren in Britain, however, so I don't know about generalization. This is my recollection of the paper: I need to go find it now...
posted by curuinor at 2:14 PM on June 1, 2014

Maybe the woman of your dreams already has a dog and has been waiting for you to meet her at the dog park.
posted by lyssabee at 3:50 PM on June 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've had a bit of this in the past. For me, I just eventually got burned out on always being around people. I also realized that by flitting from social group to social group, I was making it harder for myself to develop closer friendships.

So I would suggest really honing in on which friendships you want to maintain - who pretty much always makes you feel great when you hang out? Who do you usually have fun with? Who is the kind of friend who will help you move? It's ok to prioritize those friendships.

Also think about the kinds of things you like to do. You may realize there are certain things you don't really enjoy doing that you do on a regular basis anyway because you're invited. So give yourself permission to just stop doing those things.

Once I started doing those things - prioritizing certain friendships/friend groups, and saying "no" to things I genuinely didn't enjoy - my social life got less intense but also a lot more rewarding. I surprised myself that, after a couple of decades of thinking of myself as a total extrovert, I was actually a lot happier when I got to spend some time alone to balance out the social time. Also, I tend to think you're more likely to meet someone compatible doing things you enjoy, with people you genuinely relate to, when you're feeling relaxed and balanced.

Oh, and: I got a dog last year and it has been AWESOME in so many ways. Having a dog has done more to bring balance to my life than anything else ever has, because a dog forces you to have a routine, and because their joy and living-in-the-moment is infectious. But it's definitely a trade-off socially. There have been times that I haven't gone out because I would have to go home and walk and feed the dog first and it just wasn't worth it. Having a dog has made me more of a homebody, and I'm ok with that, but it's definitely something to consider before getting one. Though I will say, dogs can also be a great way to meet people!
posted by lunasol at 4:00 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could try online dating for a while?
posted by zscore at 4:25 PM on June 1, 2014

Less is more, OP.

With regard to your vast array of friends, you have a proverbial closet full of clothes but nothing to wear. What you need then are a few select pieces that fit you beautifully, need absolutely no tailoring, that reflect your authentic self, and make you feel awesome.

And you're in such a fortunate position. You have mad friend skills, apparently. So you can afford to be a LOT more discriminating. You can afford to be a lot more mindful and protective of your own good time. You can afford to be your authentic self, and I know people will still flock to you. So why not do that, then? Keep it real a bit more!

You can stop being such a social chameleon - decide what YOU are really all about. Get a dog if you can. Follow your own drummer. Let the chips fall where they may. You sound overly loss-averse - good people slowly lose casual friends all the time as they get older, OP - but you're not considering that there is also a loss when you are all over the place and aren't going really deep with any of your friendships. There is also a loss when you aren't bringing your real, true, non-people-pleasy self to your relationships. There is an ebb and flow to friendships, and if you have so many in your mental load that it is exhausting you, then you know that's your gut saying you need to stop and think and choose a bit more.

Who are the best people you know? Aim to spend 80% of your free time with them. Let the rest slide. No need to, say, actively friend-dump any of them - just stop trying.
posted by hush at 6:35 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check your MeMail.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 8:58 PM on June 1, 2014

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