You have probably heard of FOMO – fear of missing out and maybe even JOMO – joy of missing out, but I have coined the phrase FODO, fear of disappointing others. As a people pleasing, empath who struggles with perfectionism, disappointment is/can be crippling to me. I have spent my first 35+ years never wanting anyone to be disappointed in me, my actions, my choices, the way I look, the parties I throw, and all the other things.
Do you know who woke up one day disappointed in the life I was leading? Me. In my effort to please everyone else and avoid feeling the discomfort of disappointing someone, I had created a life of polling, approval-seeking and self-sacrifice. I realized I wasn’t who I wanted to be, I was doing things I didn’t really want to do and was well, sick and unhappy. So I began to change. Small steps of letting go of some image I wasn’t going to maintain and as well as all the worrying about someone else’s thoughts and expectations. I started asking myself what do I want? What do I think? Who am I? I started to change and make a life that said yes to me, where I asked myself what I thought first and my friends and family second. I got happier.
I struggled through the hard feelings of disappointing others because as an empath, it felt terrible to feel my emotions and theirs. But as I did my work, I started to own that each person is responsible for their own emotions, reactions, response and life. This is a still a practice for me. (I say practice because I haven’t mastered it yet)
Now when FODO creeps in, I say, my needs are important too. I show up differently for me when I choose a walk without my kids or dogs, when I meet a friend for coffee, when I get a facial, when I go to bed rather than watch TV with my kids because I am tired and when I speak up and say, I would like to… It’s a practice to sit with the discomfort of knowing someone might be disappointed with your choice, but it is so worth it. I enjoy life more, have more energy and less angst.
I thank my mom for helping me learn to sit with the discomfort. While living, she wasn’t a fan of my second career choice to be a healer/medium. She had loved and affirmed my first career in corporate sales. I could feel my mom’s discomfort when my career would come up and it made me so uncomfortable. I remember crying because in my mind, I thought I was disappointing her. However, in a candid conversation I told her I loved that she got to be a teacher and live her passion for teaching and love her job. All I was asking for her to acknowledge that I was now living my passion by being a healer. I talked openly with her about how while I knew she didn’t “love” my job, I knew she loved me. After an honest conversation, we agreed to not discuss my career much and let it be enough that she loved me and I loved her. This boundary brought me peace and the ability to receive her love in a fresh way.
Being a National Account Manager was way easier to say, get approval and brought me more security (financially), but it didn’t fill me up, move my soul or light me up the way this life does. I could have done it until retirement and disappoint myself and please others, but I chose me and I keep choosing me, now more than ever.
I have learned to stand up for myself, choose myself and meet my needs in an even bigger way over the last few years as I watched my mom pass and my marriage end. This shift has helped me be happier, calmer, able to hold more space for my girls to grow and model healthy behavior for them. Remembering that discomfort is temporary, that I am the creator of my life and owning my power to choose what I want has proved to be the mantra I like to live by. I don’t want to live my life for someone else. You have a choice too.
How can you start to show up for yourself more? If you are dealing with FODO induced resentment because you constantly self-sacrifice rather than not feel someone else’s scorn/disappointment/anger, I would encourage you to start to take small steps to honor your needs. Remember that people who are emotionally healthy and love you want you to be healthy and happy too. Look for the compromise, work on releasing your resentment and fear through journaling, energy work, shaking and/or walking. You are so important! There is only one of you and you are amazing! By showing up for you and giving others permission to show up for themselves, you can create a life well lived.
Here are my top 6 steps I use to release FODO.
1. Affirm your needs are important too. Trying journaling your affirmation “My needs are important.”
2. Seek out your answer, your thoughts, what makes you happy on a matter before seeking others opinions and then you can talk it through with someone if you want.
3. Remember that discomfort is temporary, your life is yours so own it.
4. Honor other’s choices the way you want yours honored.
5. Be brave and say no to things you don’t really want to do – resentment is a relationship killer and super unattractive.
6. Let go of perfect – it keeps us limited.
Bonus: Journal prompt: What do I need most today? Who am I afraid of disappointing?
You got this! Bye-Bye FODO!