The F.O.

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Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. As far as “holidays” go, it’s fairly low stress and allows you to participate as much or as little as you’d like… sort of the “fun size” vs “full bars” version of a holiday. It doesn’t have the intense vibe focus of Thanksgiving (we must all be grateful for everything!) or the financial pressure of Christmas; you can opt out or opt in and even make a game day decision which way you will go.

While Halloween has a definite focus on fun (and sugar!) it also tends towards scares, chills, and frights. During this time, we tend to move toward, rather than away, from things that scare us as we enjoy the accompanying rush of adrenaline. We watch movies knowing they will unnerve us, actually choose to walk into haunted houses and in general, look for all manner of little moments that get our heart racing. It’s a kind of controlled chaos, fear we enter into and then exit.

But what about the fears that aren’t fun, and we don’t choose? It’s become pretty common for people to give them a clever acronym, but the truth is, these tend to interfere in ways we can’t always articulate and aren’t just a memory come November 1. If they aren’t properly navigated, life feels less like “The Munsters” and a lot more like “The Shining.”

Let’s consider a few…

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out: According to Wikipedia, the Fear of Missing Out is the feeling of apprehension that one is either not in the know or missing out on information, events, experiences, or life decisions that could make one’s life better. FOMO leads us to worry about what others are doing, assume we are being left out or left behind and comparing our everyday moments to someone else’s highlight reel.

FOBO – Fear of Better Offers: Macmillan Dictionary defines this as the inability to choose between different things, all of which are acceptable. When we have FOBO, we put off making decisions or commitments to circumstances that present themselves, certain that something better will show up.

FOOPO – Fear of Other People’s Opinions: (which bills itself as the “ultimate list of phobias and fears”) explains that people with Allodoxaphobia (or FOOPO) live in constant fear and anxiety of hearing people’s opinions about them. This causes us to not do what we want to do, lest others think poorly of us and/or express disapproval.

If we are all being perfectly honest, we have almost certainly felt each of the fears. It’s even likely we might be bothered by one more than the others. The difficulty is, there is actually a bit of truth to them. I mean, you can’t be everywhere all at once, so you are technically “missing out” on things, there may just be “better offers” and people absolutely have lots and lots (AND LOTS) of opinions, which they tend to share, whether or not anyone asks. But each of these fears is fundamentally rooted in a concern about what we don’t have, instead of what we do have.

So, what can be done about them?

In general, work on being in the moment as much as you can. These fears are ultimately about scarcity and comparison, two thieves that will steal your ability to enjoy the present. Put your phone away, breathe deeply and be with the people in your company. If you fell into circumstances and just happen to find yourself somewhere, go ahead and choose it in the moment. Resist the urge to watch the clock or check and see what other people are doing. Take notice of how the food tastes, the softness of the cushion behind your back, how much your smiling (even when it begins as forced) makes you feel better, lighter.

Remember that you made choices based on the best information you had at the time. You can always make a different choice next time and seeing this one through could have an unexpected positive payout.

And finally, other people’s opinions are just that… opinions. They aren’t based in full knowledge and don’t take into account someone else’s lived experience, so they exist as funny little specters, which can’t stand up to the light. We can think of opinions like hands, unless asked for, best kept to ourselves.

As we close, let’s remember how we started… the fun of Halloween is in the choice. You can choose what you want and what works best for you. Whether you go all in, dip your toe in, or just opt out, it’s fine. Let’s remember we also have a choice when it comes to fear. We can acknowledge it, learn from it, and then tell firmly tell it leave.

Because, at the end of the day, “fear of” anything is all tricks and no treats.