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What does your FOMO look like?

Our fear of missing out has distinct psychological roots that can affect us at work.

5 min read



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Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by Nate Regier.

People are more involved and connected than ever before. There’s always something going on, and somebody’s posting about it. Are you in, or are you out?

With all this awareness, fear of missing out, or FOMO, is rampant. It’s easy to get seduced into thinking that just because we can be involved or included, we should be. Or, if we aren’t, something bad might happen. The pressure is unbelievable.

While today’s FOMO might be more intense than in previous generations, the psychology behind it is the same. Fear of missing out comes in two forms: Victim FOMO and Rescuer FOMO.

Drama and fear of missing out

Victim and Rescuer are two of the three roles people play in drama. First identified by Dr. Stephen Karpman, a psychiatrist specializing in interpersonal group dynamics and distress, the Drama Triangle shows constellation of three unhealthy roles humans play in order to feel justified about unhealthy behavior.

Each one needs the other in a dysfunctional way. The Persecutor believes that everyone else is the problem, the Victim believes that they are the problem, and the Rescuer believes they are the solution to everyone else’s problems.  

How does this relate to FOMO? It has to do with how humans assess and evaluate their OK-ness relative to others. When we have a healthy sense of self-worth and ego boundaries, we can rest assured that we are OK and others are OK, even if we aren’t involved or included in everything. Not that we won’t have feelings about it, but simply that we are OK regardless.

It’s when we slip out this existential position and start to question ours or others’ OK-ness that things get dicey.

Victim FOMO

Victims believe that they are only worthy when they are included. When they aren’t included or don’t know what’s going on, they assume it’s because nobody likes them or somebody is mad at them. Comments like these let you know you’re dealing with a Victim FOMO.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me we were leaving at five?” (with a whiny tone)

“They didn’t include me, what did I do to make them mad?”

Victim FOMOs cope with their fear of rejection by becoming needy for affirmation or smothering people with offers to help. They push themselves on others in a way that inadvertently invites rejection. At Next Element, we’ve named it victim-helping. When victims receive comments like, “Stop worrying, it’s fine,” they interpret the tone as a sign of rejection.

If you are a Victim FOMO, here are some tips to regain your balance.

  • It’s OK to be angry or sad or worried. It’s what you do next that makes all the difference.
  • Check your assumptions by asking curious questions before jumping to conclusions about what people say or do.
  • It’s OK to ask for what you want.
  • Use your great skill of empathy to help others feel included.

Rescuer FOMO

Rescuers need to feel smart and competent to boost their ego. So they look for victims to save by giving unsolicited advice and swooping in with solutions. They fear missing out on an opportunity to be the hero by saving saving the day. Rescuer FOMOs say things like;

“Why don’t you call her and tell her you don’t like it.”

“You don’t need to feel worried, just do what I do.”

With these types of condescending comments, Rescuers invite others to feel grateful on the outside, resentful and dependent on the inside.

If you are a Rescuer FOMO, here are some tips to help you back off and let others be the hero too.

  • You are smart and capable. You can be most helpful when others ask you first.
  • You are a great problem-solver and will be most appreciated when you help others find their own solutions or learn a new skill.
  • You are observant and resourceful. What problem of your own can you solve today instead?
  • There will always be more opportunities to help.

Fear of missing out can be a negative influence if you allow yourself to question your own or someone else’s OK-ness. Accept that you are OK and so are others, regardless of what’s going on and who’s included, and you can break free of Victim and Rescuer FOMO.


Nate Regier is the co-founding owner and CEO of Next Element, a global advisory firm specializing in building cultures of compassionate accountability. A former practicing psychologist, Regier is now a certified Leading Out of Drama and Process Communication Model certifying master trainer. He published two books: “Beyond Drama” and “Conflict Without Casualties.”

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