I often feel like I’m the only one who is not seizing every opportunity to get the most out of life, and I feel bad about myself for that. YOLO (you only live once) is not how I live.
My husband will say “it’s a gorgeous day,” and then change around his work schedule so he can spend time outside.
When I hear him say that, I look out the window and think, “that’s nice” – and then go back to what I was doing. The weather being nice does not alter whatever I was planning to do that day.
Or maybe there is a band in town that a bunch of friends like so they all get tickets and plan a whole evening of dinner, drinks and the show. If I don’t like the band and am not interested in staying out all night, I decline.
What happened to the girl my husband married, before we had kids, who used to do that stuff? Where’s the girl who didn’t get anxious about sleeping issues from eating late, or going to bed hours past my bedtime and the tiredness that will ensue? Why did I change, and everyone else seemingly stayed the same?
Why it’s okay NOT to YOLO
I feel like something is wrong with me. It seems like everyone wants to be social, party, meet new people, start traditions, make memories; and often I’m content to be home in my own house doing my own thing.
“We are unique in our drives and desires, and that’s okay. While some people may want to travel to all the places and eat at all the things and try all the experiences, other people may be completely content taking a pass,” says Gina Handley Schmitt, MA, CMHS, LMHC.
“And most importantly, there is no shame… either way. We are allowed to hop on the YOLO train or to let it pass on by. We get to be who we are, and we can let others be who they are.”
I recently figured out that I’m an introvert. That doesn’t mean I’m shy. It means in social situations with a large number of people, after a certain period, I need to shut down and be alone to recharge. The thought of a large social gathering with new people makes me anxious. Also, introverts feel safe when prepared, so they often plan. Good or bad, that is me. That is another reason why YOLO doesn’t work for me.
Elisa Robyn, Ph.D., says, “While many of my clients are focused on living every day as if it is their last, many are filled with contentment and value that quiet world they have created. Neither is the right way to live life, but the more extroverted style has become highly valued.”
“YOLO has become the battle cry of a culture that values extroverts over introverts, winning over playing, speed over grace, and excitement over silence. It’s as if happiness is found only when we live on the edge.”
Not into YOLO? Maybe you’ll feel JOMO
There is another acronym that applies here, the opposite of YOLO, which is JOMO, the “joy of missing out.” It’s the pleasure of taking a break from social activity to enjoy personal time. That’s me! Maybe I’m not the only person who feels this way after all. Validation as a non-YOLO-er!
Len Sone, Self-Empowerment Teacher and Creatrix of Movie-Based Counseling, presents two ways of YOLO-ing in ways we don’t normally think of it.
“For some, they may not feel YOLO because their body needs a downtime/rest period: After a period of a lot of work or creativity, it’s normal to want some downtime. This is a period when you veg out, relax, savor, or sleep.”
“Second is Spiritual YOLO-ing: This is when you focus inward. It may seem to people that they’re not ‘YOLO-ing’ when in fact they are! It’s just that their external focus turns into inward contemplation. This is different than downtime because in downtime you don’t want to be introspective or contemplative, but in Spiritual YOLO-ing, you do. There is a search; there is a questioning.”
This is super validating for some of us non-YOLO-ers who feel pressured or misunderstood when they choose not to socialize. Also, there is a certain anxiety in feeling like you have to squeeze the joy or fun out of every moment.
“YOLO is a mindset, a mental construct that is a motivator of many people, and a risk factor for burnout. YOLO is a close cousin to FOMO (fear of missing out), and the mindset of YOLO has the potential to create anxiety and the need always to be achieving,” says Charlene Rymsha, LMSW, and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. “On the converse side of things, some people do not maintain a YOLO mindset. They feel fulfilled by life as is, and arguably live a less anxious existence.”
“For my clients, I encourage them to pursue what feels right to them, and to choose a way of living that feels meaningful AND does not create unnecessary stress, anxiety, and burnout.”
So how can YOLO-ers and JOMO-ers co-exist happily?
Hadley explains, “In my book, Friending, I talk about the importance of both authenticity and assertiveness in healthy relationships. Using those principles, I think it is important that we give ourselves (and the people in our lives) permission to embrace our authentic selves and to utilize healthy boundaries when necessary. If your friends and family all subscribe to a YOLO mentality, then you allow them that prerogative. BUT, you also allow yourself to say “no” when you need and/or want to.”
But, what if your friends or family think you are anti-social, or just plain weird?
“As for being the ‘dull’ one, or the misfit or black sheep, take it with humor,” suggests Robyn. “Perhaps you are off having something you consider a wonderful adventure, like going to a museum or walking the dog along a creek or learning something new. Just because you do not embrace YOLO, it does not mean you are sitting on the couch all day.”
How to bow out of plans gracefully if you just can’t YOLO
“You don’t owe anyone a justification, but being honest and direct with others is the best policy. Keep it simple. It’s not that hard to tell your family/friends how you feel and what you are interested in and what drains you,” Sone says.
“If you feel safe enough with someone, invite them to your inward journey,” she continues. “When it comes to Spiritual YOLO-ing, you may be surprised by how many of your friends and family are thirsty for that too. Create new activities for you to do together. You can all have deep conversations, be reflective, share books or workshops you love with each other, tell each other about your hopes and dreams, watch inspiring movies and discuss them afterward, or meditate together.”
Turns out that being alone or happy with my own company is perfectly normal. I feel reassured that my choices to not always go with the crowd are healthy for me. Since I’m not forcing my preferences on my friends or family, I feel less guilty for not always joining in.
Do I still feel like a Debbie Downer in some respect? Yes. But with some time to myself, I will process what these experts said and get over myself.