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FOMO and the All-Judging Eye

Let me tell you about Loki and Odin. My Precious Pups!

Loki is a Welsh Cardigan Corgi (2 years old).

He is calm, intelligent, sweet and loves a good snuggle. In times of stress, he will come to me, put his little head in my lap and snuggle up against me, waiting for me to pet his downy fur. So, when Loki turned one year old, I thought that with all the happiness I get from one Corgi, the joy would double with two.

So I got Odin (a Welsh Pembroke Corgi).

Now Odin, while also sweet natured towards me, is a much different animal from his big brother. Maybe it was my fault for naming him Odin (mythological leader of the Norse gods). But I tell you, this little thing (now only 1 year old) has had a superiority complex since the day he entered my life. He is constantly displaying alpha behavior over his brother especially when it comes to my attention. And when he is called on his behavior, he turns those huge brown eyes up to me innocently, as to say, "What? I just love you so much I don't want to share,"

Thankfully, the two "little boys" are very bonded: sleep cuddled together, play very well together outside and even groom each other. But when it comes to vying for my attention, Odin makes it very clear by his behavior, that he comes first. And patiently, Loki defers to him every time. Therefore, I try to give Loki equal attention while making sure that Odin doesn't feel left out. Typically, I give them both cuddles one at the time every day. When it is Lok's turn, he is so elated to have some one-on- one time with me. If he could talk, I imagine he would say, "Really mom? We had it so good before this little delinquent came into our lives." I just stroke him until he falls asleep.

Meanwhile, Odin sits apart and gives us the evil eye. He just glares at both of us with a look of summary judgement. I couldn't understand why he got so "out of sorts" when I loved on his big brother. When I call for Loki, Odin runs faster to get to me first. If I have a treat, Odin wants his and his brother's biscuit. Odin wants to be the first to get everything, otherwise he becomes judgy, pouty and just plain mad.

That is, until I pay attention to him again, and all is right with the world.

I finally decided that Odin has doggy FOMO.

FOMO

I learned about FOMO, not from a textbook, but from working with teens.

You see, one of the benefits of providing therapy to teens is that I get the opportunity to demonstrate how out of touch I truly am with new fads, terminologies and fashions. Just another little sadistic whim of Life: throwing darts at my self-belief that I am pretty cool.

Cuz apparently I am not.

I used to be cool.

What happened?

Well, I guess that is a whine for another day.

On the plus side, if I want to challenge those cognitive distortions that tell me I am washed up, I can attest to the fact that I am constantly learning new words and phrases that capture very real feelings and issues.

FOMO is one of them.

What the heck is FOMO? The initials stand for: Fear of Missing Out. And, turns out, it is a very real thing.

FOMO refers to the perception that other people are living better, more enjoyable or more fulfilling lives than you are. FOMO involves a deep sense of envy, which can seriously affect self-esteem.

While the concept of FOMO is not new, it is on the rise, especially among teens and due in large part to their reliance on social media. With the advent of social media: Facebook, Tik-Tok, Twitter, Instagram and every other new form that evolves. we view posts from "people "influencers" we may know in person or perhaps only peripherally or actually not at all. And do THEY post themselves doing laundry or taking out the trash? No. Their posts are not about routine chores or the daily grind of life. Often, they are posts of highlights from events, parties, trips, and accomplishments created to give the impression that the lives of these "posters "influencers" are more exciting and fulfilling than our own. The bar for "normal life" becomes higher than most of us can reach. And those who compare their own normal to the adventures of the "influencers" the feelings can be overwhelmingly negative.

I can hear their cognitive distortions now:

"My life will never be like that because I'm not _____________enough. (insert : pretty, popular, thin, rich, liked, nice, funny).

When allowed to fester without challenge, these negative thoughts can slowly create within a person's being such things as self-doubt, a feeling of worthlessness or even shame. Without challenge, a person with FOMO can start to make poor choices towards risky behavior or even self-harm. So, despite the cute acronym, FOMO is real and not at all cute.

If you are dealing with a teen or even an adult who has been exhibiting symptoms of low self-worth, self-doubt or even withdrawn behavior, listen to them. Let them share their feelings without fear of judgement. Help them find someone who can help them challenge their cognitive distortions and increase their own feelings of positive self-worth.

Some really helpful interventions include:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

  2. Mindfrulness and Self-Calming strategies

  3. Acceptance and Co9mmitment therapy

  4. Positive Affirmations

Just to name a few.

When it really comes down to it, Odin is just an attention seeking hound. I can continue to train him to wait his turn. But a teenager who is focused on the lives of others without feeling validation or appreciation for their own life, the answer is not so simple. By really listening and seeking out the right help, you could make a real difference.

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