December 14, 2018

It’s Friday night.

Your go-to group chat is ablaze with dinner plans that lead to drinks that lead to some bar with a dancefloor. It sounds like the recipe for a fun night for everyone on the thread except...for you.

Before you know it, there’s a voice in your head telling you that you shouldn’t go out tonight, that your friends will have more fun without you. Or, maybe your inner dialogue isn’t even negative—it’s cold outside, and the idea of your couch, movies, and the tea you just brewed sounds way better than spending money to hang out with a big group of people.

We’ve all heard about or experienced FOMO, otherwise known as Fear of Missing Out, but the above experience is a different acronym: FOGO, aka Fear of Going Out.

Severe FOGO is actually social anxiety disorder. It's a fear of being judged or watched by others that's so intense it interferes with everyday tasks. If this sounds like you, it might be time to see an expert—and there are resources available to help.

But for many of us, our FOGO isn’t tied to anxiety at all. Maybe you’re an introverted person who gets your energy from quality time with yourself. This means making time to indulge in things that make you happy, alone—knitting, painting, watching a good movie, reading a book.

Quality time with yourself means making time to indulge in things that make you happy, alone—knitting, painting, watching a good movie, reading a book.

For people prone to FOGO, carving out alone time isn't always easy—especially when social expectations call for getting together, going out, and getting energy from other people.

Here, a few tips to help you balance out your social expectations vs. your needs when all you want is a cozy solo night in.

Know Your Energy Is Unique

Some people refuel their energy by going to dance parties, getting lost in the music, or being surrounded by all the people they love, at once.

For others, perhaps you, that sounds overwhelming and like the opposite of fun.

Recognizing that can help you understand how to best engage with your friends and your social life in a way that feels less like a chore and more like quality time.

As Susan Cain says in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you're supposed to.”

'Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you're supposed to.'
-Susan Cain

Find a Happy Medium

That doesn't mean you should ditch all your friends and family in the name of FOGO—you can find a middle ground. Try to find activities that give you energy and can be shared with someone else in your life.

Some suggestions:

●︎ One-on-one dinner dates, either outside or at someone’s house (if you both happen to be into cooking)

●︎ Morning coffee or breakfast (if you’re a morning person)

●︎ Exercise classes

●︎ Movie dates

●︎ Drawing/collage sessions


Self Advocate

Your friends are yours for a reason—they want to celebrate you just as much as you want to celebrate them. So if you realize that it’s becoming hard for you to see them in certain settings, advocating for your needs might be a good way to encourage conversation.

As clinical psychologist Leonard F. Seltzer says, “Assertiveness is always a good thing. Candidly letting others know what you need and desire—as well as how you feel—demonstrates personal dignity, self-confidence, and respect.”

You can do so gently by perhaps having an easy one-on-one conversation. If one person is responsible for gathering your friends together for nights out on the weekends, for example, maybe try communicating to them first that you love them, and love your friends, but that you find group settings to be overwhelming.

It might feel awkward at first, but advocating for your needs is something that gets easier with practice—and it's a skill worth learning.

We're all prone to nights of FOGO, and what matters most is recognizing the feeling and pointing yourself towards what you need—even if it's not what's expected of you.

Read next: How to Choose Who You Spend Your Time With

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