Making tentative plans can feel like a low-stakes way to keep an active social calendar without overwhelming yourself or your schedule. But once plans roll around, it's common to get stuck between the fear of missing out and the desire to duck out. If you're always cancelling plans, it might be time to unpack when you should actually give into the rush of avoiding socialization, and when it's better to get out and about.
It's important to acknowledge the difficulties that stem from the pressure to be social. "FOMO is the modern-day sense of peer pressure that can encourage people to do things they don't truly want to do because fitting in and following the crowd is more desirable," Devoreaux Walton a modern etiquette expert and founder of The Modern Lady, tells Bustle. But even without the fear of missing out pulling you in another direction, your heart might feel confused about what to do, especially with all the buzz around how cancelling plans feels so good (and can be self-care).
So if you find yourself teetering between flaking and following-through, experts have a few tips on how to gauge whether socializing really is the right thing to do.
Here are seven times you should give into your FOMO versus five times you should resist it.
1. Do Go: If You're Looking To Duck Out Less
If bailing last minute has become a habit of yours, you may want to challenge yourself and actually follow through on plans. Even if you're a total introvert, getting out of your comfort zone and indulging in that little spark of FOMO can be good for you.
On the flip side, it's also worth examining why you said yes to these plans in the first place. "If you find yourself ducking out often, you may need to examine your tendency to agree to things you don't really want to do," Steve Taubman, author and mindfulness expert, tells Bustle. "Learn to say no so you don't end up in situations that require you to back out last minute." If you said yes because you really wanted to go at the time, however, it may be worth it to resist the temptation to bail.
2. Do Go: If There Are Consequences To Not Going
If you've fallen into a habit of last-minute cancellations, you may not realize that your actions might be having real affects on your friends and loved ones. "Consider the real consequences of your cancellation," Taubman says. "Are you causing real harm to others? Have you set yourself up to be counted on, and if so, what is the cost of your absence?"
If you are really needed, whether practically or emotionally, you should encourage yourself to go. It's a sign of integrity, and if it's something that will help the other person feel better, it will likely make you feel better, too.
3. Do Go: If You Can Improve Your Career By Going
If the event you're considering whether or not to attend is a career-development or networking event, chances are going is the best bet. In this case, FOMO might actually be your gut telling you that this event could be a big deal.
"Any time that your plans can help you advance your career or boost your income, you shouldn't cancel," consultant and founder of TheAdvisorCoach.com, James Pollard, tells Bustle. "Even if you have to grit your teeth to get through it, you don't want to let opportunity slip through your fingertips." There are certain exceptions, like illness and mental health, that rule this out, but generally career-advancement is a good idea.
4. Do Go: If Going Will Improve Your Wellbeing
Whether it be plans to go to meditate, exercise, take a class, or have a dinner party with close friends, activities that are centered in self-improvement are worth following through on.
"Any time that you have planned to improve yourself, you shouldn't cancel," Pollard says. "This could be as simple as making plans to go to the gym [with friends]. When you go, you're focusing on your health and improving yourself." If there are extenuating circumstances that will make you regret going, you can duck out. But if the most likely outcome is feeling better or learning something, then the FOMO is totally worth giving in to.
5. Do Go: If The Event Won't Happen Again
Certain social events, like brunches or weekly dinners, happen again and again. But some things are much less common, and those are the plans that are way more important to follow through on.
"When it’s something really big and important that doesn’t come up very often, like a family wedding, [go]," Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Even though there might be some unwanted family drama, in these instances it’s often important to show up, if only for a short time." In these occasions, the positive will likely outweigh the negative, and you won't have to worry about it happening again any time soon.
6. Do Go: If You Need To Be Around People
If you have been going through a patch of isolation, whether it's after a breakup, because of being overworked, or just out of habit, you may realize that it's time to push your comfort level and get yourself back into a social situation.
"[It's important to go] when you’re feeling tired and lonely, but you know deep down that you will feel better getting out of the house and socializing," McBain says. "That’s when it can be helpful to talk yourself into getting ready and going out!" Being around people who care about you can be a vital refresh if you haven't been as social recently.
7. Do Go: If You Know Your Friends Aren't Peer-Pressuring You
Beyond your own motivations, it's important to examine the motivations of the people who are inviting you out, too. If they genuinely want you to hang out with them, and will enjoy your presence, and you know it, then it's probably a sign you should go spend time with them.
"At the end of the day, following your heart and listening to your intuition is the best decision-making process, for your social activities and circle of friends,” Walton says. If your FOMO is not peer-pressure based, then, it's likely a good experience for you to indulge in.
8. Don't Go: If You're Feeling Physically Unwell
The most concrete, unavoidable sign you should cancel on plans, or resist FOMO, is if you are physically unwell. Both to protect yourself, and others if you have something contagious, it's best to keep things to a dull roar.
"Even with a slight cold, fatigue or just [feeling] out of sorts — stay home," licensed master social worker (LMSW) Laura MacLeod, founder of Bloody Mary Mess and From The Inside Out Project®, tells Bustle. "You won't fare well in a lively social atmosphere." Don't belittle your symptoms or feelings; prioritize yourself in this situation.
9. Don't Go: If You Don't Have The Energy
Just like injury or illness, exhaustion is a valid reason to bail on plans. Even if you're utterly tempted to go do something social, prioritizing rest is likely going to be better for you.
"[Don't go] if you feel that it will drain your energy," single life expert Sadia S. Sanders, MBA, tells Bustle. "For example, [this could be] after a long day at work or overcommitting to too many other events the same day." No matter the reason, if you need to sleep, your body deserves that.
10. Don't Go: If It Will Hurt Your Mental Health
Don't beat yourself up if you've been struggling with mental health issues and you are not ready to do something social yet. Yes, the social media posts about an event may look tempting, but if you're not feeling strong enough to actually be there, that's quite alright.
"As a mindfulness expert, I talk about 'premature peopling' which means forcing yourself to be social when your mental health demands that you have a period of solitude," Taubman says. "We all need to be with ourselves to heal, to grow, and to understand ourselves better. Let it be OK to do that without judgment." So if you aren't ready to be around people, focus on your mental health a bit, and start going out again when you're feeling resilient.
11. Don't Go: If You're Just Trying To Impress
You should go if your friends are genuinely invested in enjoying your company. On the flip side, you shouldn't go if the people involved don't care as much, but you're still invested in trying to impress them.
“[Don't go if] you are only saying yes out of a sense of obligation or the fear of saying no, [or] you don't want to go, but are worried about what others will think!” associate marriage and family therapist (AMFT) April Snow tells Bustle. If your only motivation is keeping up appearances, then staying home is a safe bet.
12. Don't Go: If Your Gut Says No
Above all else, your gut feeling is likely going to be the best indicator of whether or not you should give into FOMO or whether you should resist it.
You can ask yourself a few questions if you're having trouble accessing your real feelings about the event. "When you picture yourself at the event, what does that feel like?" MacLeod says. "See it all — prepping (what do you wear?), getting there, people and atmosphere — Is this where you want to be tonight?" When you go through this visualization, if your gut either says "don't go" or "I'm not sure," go through the same exercise, visualizing yourself staying at home. Walking through this mental exercise will likely give you answers.
FOMO can be a fun motivator, but usually it's detrimental. In order to remove the cloudiness from a lot of these decisions, it's a good idea to try to find ways around feeling pressure to engage in situations that you aren't immediately excited about. "Let go completely of the fear of missing out," Taubman says. "If you're not in the right frame of mind, the enjoyment available in any situation is minimal." You deserve to know that both the desire to stay out and the desire to stay in are legitimate feelings, and that you are the only one who can make the best decision for you.