You’ve probably heard of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), but has FOFO (Fear of Finding Out) landed in your life yet? I bet it has, although maybe not as an acronym.
This is, from my own experience, one of the two biggest one that VAs struggle with in their businesses (the second being FOBO combined with FODA….which I’ve written about here).
FOFO, as it turns out, is pretty darn common. It’s a psychological phenomenon that affects people of all ages and backgrounds and refers to the anxiety and discomfort that people experience when they are faced with the prospect of learning information that they fear will be unpleasant or difficult to handle.
FOFO can manifest in many different ways, depending on each of us and the situations in which we find ourselves. I think we first experience this in our personal lives, and then it infiltrates our business lives.
From personal life, for example, someone may avoid going to the dentist because she’s afraid of receiving unwelcome news about her teeth. Or, she’s afraid something the dentist will do will hurt physically. Or, she’s afraid of being shamed for not coming in sooner.
I’ve been that person, btw.
The root of FOFO lies in the fear of the unknown. People often fear what they do not understand or cannot control, and this fear can lead to avoidance behavior that only makes everything worse.
And, once FOFO lands in your life, it’s easy for it to land in your business.
In business, for example, someone may avoid raising her rates in order to be profitable, because she’s afraid of the response from her clients—either afraid of what they’ll say, or afraid they don’t think she’s that valuable, and that they’ll end the work relationship.
The one I hear about most often, though, is being afraid to have a difficult conversation with a client. It can be really scary to do that, even when it really needs to be done, because you simply cannot know what’s going to happen once you say what you need to say.
No matter the specifics, though, the fear is of hearing something you don’t want to hear, and it can be crippling.
Fortunately, there are several strategies that can be used to combat FOFO:
Identify the source of the fear
The first step in combating FOFO is to identify the source of the fear. This requires introspection and honest self-reflection. Ask yourself why you are afraid of finding out certain info, and, most importantly, what the consequence of avoiding the information might be for you.
Challenge the thoughts to decide if the fear is valid
FOFO is always fueled by negative thoughts and assumptions. And, although the worst-case scenario can occur, the question is whether there’s evidence to support that it will happen now. Isn’t it also just as true, for instance, that it’s possible that nothing bad at all will happen? It is important to challenge these negative thoughts and reframe them in a more positive light.
Reframe the situation more positively.
The reframes that helped me get over my FOFO around the dentist were these…said by the dentist himself:
- There’s never a better day than today to fix your mouth.
- Don’t think about what we might do TO you, think about what we’ll be doing FOR you.
Those two things alone fixed me right up. They might not fix your particular FOFO, but you get the idea of the kinds of reframe that can be really powerful.
Applied to our business example about raising fees, maybe this reframe will help:
If the client does anything but celebrate your fee increase, you immediately get the opportunity to find a new—and far more ideal—client.
And my favorite reframe, is to tell myself that although I’m nervous about the response, I really do want to do the thing…because I really always DO want to do the thing. I want to get my mouth fixed. I want to be profitable. I want to have the conversation with my client about the thing that’s bothering me.
Keeping my eyes trained on the thing I want, vs the thing I’m afraid could happen, helps me a lot.
Even small steps help
Overcoming FOFO can be a gradual process, and it is important to make it ok to take small steps along the way. For example, if you’re afraid to check your bank account balance, maybe check it once a month to start, and as you see that it’s not painful, gradually do it more often.
Taking small steps can help to build confidence and reduce anxiety, it can also help you see your fears are not as valid as you thought they were, and it’s easier to go on and do the thing you were worried about than to not do it.
Ask for support
Overcoming FOFO can be a bit of a rocky journey, and like with most journeys, it’s better to take this one with people who care about you. Enlist a friend, a family member, your coach, or therapist to support you as you stand up more often to the fear. Discussing your concerns and having someone hold a safe space for you to try scary things can help you reduce the fear and give you a better perspective on things.
In my coaching practice, I’ve often sat with someone on the phone or at a Zoom meeting while she does the scary thing. A friend or family member might be able to do something similar for you.
Do it fat
I love TikTok. I’m not a creator there; I think of myself as a cheerleader for all the immensely-talented, vulnerable, and funny humans who do create there. And one of my favorite things to emerge in the time I’ve been engaged there has come from the body positivity crowd. It’s the concept of “do it fat.”
The idea is to not let a bigger body stop you from being alive. If there’s something you want to do that you’re afraid to do because you think others will judge you or shame you for your body being too big, just “do it fat.” Anything that you could do skinny you can do fat. Take up as much space as you need. Live your best dang life. Wear the cute two-piece. Do it fat.
Bringing it back to FOFO, don’t let your fear of what you might find out keep you from being alive. Just “do it fearful.” Anything that you could do with more confidence you can do fearful of what you might find out. Do it fearful.
The outcome will be ok. It always is.
PS. If you’re a TikTok creator, I would love to follow you. Reach out and say hi!