A Buddhability Guide to Overcoming FOMO

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It’s the concert all of our friends have tickets to, except us. Or the amazing party raging down the hall, while we scroll through Netflix. Never mind the photos we see on Instagram of our friend’s tropical vacation, which seem to casually imply, “FYI, I’m having the time of my life.” Ugh.

In the age of social media, we are cursed with having an endless window into our friends’ lives. This has only amplified FOMO to the point where even Merriam-Webster officially recognized the term.

Can Buddhism be of any help when we feel that old familiar mix of desperation and terror that comes from the fear of missing out?

Finding happiness wherever we are

Yes, in our moments of loneliness, it’s easy to think, “Their life is great and mine, not so much.” But we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others based on the highly curated moments of life they choose to show us on social media. The truth is that, in-between those perfectly framed moments, they might be suffering or feeling lonely themselves.

Instead of obsessing over others, we can zoom out and think about what happiness really looks like? According to the teachings of Buddhism, it’s not something that comes from a brilliant night out or a magnificent vacay (though those both sound amazing). Rather, happiness comes from within.

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The 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren writes,

You must never think that any of the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime or any of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three existences are outside yourself. … If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, then your performing even ten thousand practices and ten thousand good deeds will be in vain. It is like the case of a poor man who spends night and day counting his neighbor’s wealth but gains not even half a coin.

“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 3

Yes, this last part pretty much sums up the truth about FOMO.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the most amazing tool for self-care and for building happiness from within. Why? Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is another name for our inherent wisdom, courage and compassion, or Buddhability. When we chant, we are calling forth those qualities from within our life. As we channel these attributes, we think less of what others are doing and more about what do we want to do.

This shift in perspective can help us feel happy regardless of the situation we are in. Did your friends go to Coachella while you had to stay back to study for your mid-terms? Or did they go to an incredible restaurant the night you had to pull an all-nighter at work? Just remember, while it’s totally fine they are having a great time, you are working toward your dreams. That’s pretty special too and will lead to a satisfying life.

Be your own person

Yes, maybe someone you know is drinking champagne in a hot air balloon right now, but the real question isn’t what they’re doing, it’s what do you want to do with your irreplaceable life?

Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Be your own person.” We are the screenwriters of our lives. What’s more satisfying than having a dream and working toward it? What’s the trip we want to go on? What’s the most meaningful way for us to spend our weekend?

Be your own person.

- Daisaku Ikeda

Instead of “counting our neighbor’s coins” and feeling jealous, we can be our own person and create the kind of life that we’d be most satisfied with. FOMO is fleeting, but deep happiness that comes from carving out our own path lasts a lifetime.

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