I have FOFO.
No, I’m not admitting to an embarrassing gynaecological condition. FOFO stands for Fear Of Finding Out and HELLO, self diagnosed sufferer right here.
Now I ought to admit, I’m quick to jump on a fear related anagram. As an anxiety sufferer, the list of things that send a butterfly farms worth of fluttery insects into my stomach is extensive. Anxiety is can be incredibly isolating and often ignites a flare for the emotionally dramatic; it’s therefore easy to feel alone when it comes to not-often-dsicussed emotions.
So to then hear that something has an anagram attached to it, well that fills me with palpable relief.
An anagram means that it’s not an exclusively-em thing. An anagram means that I am not the only one to experience it.
When I saw the four little letters, FOFO, for the first time earlier this week, you can only imagine my excitement.
I had previously thought, or worried at least, that the fear that swelled up inside me when I was confronted with even the easiest of tasks, like logging onto my HSBC app, for example, was irrational. Surely no one else feels panicked at the prospect of confirming how much money they have????
To find out that I was wrong about that. That other people DO get panicked by these things? That they were normal? Or at least not unusual at any rate? A gift.
The first ‘fear of’ expression I came across was the now infamous FOMO (fear of missing out, come on, everyone knows that!) and it changed my life. FOMO was something I had always contend with but was something I had never really thought too much about.
What I mean by that is this: I was cripplingly panicked at the idea of missing out, but I never really acknowledged the fact that I was pushing myself to exhaustion so as to ALWAYS know what was going with all of my friends all of the damn time. I had an overwhelming fear of missing out. But I didn’t know it was a fear. I just thought that it was life.
I’m almost entirely sure that a FOMO sufferer came up with this particular anagram after years of beating themselves up for enjoying a night on the sofa.
For someone anxious, awkward and panicked at the idea of missing a party, the thought of sacking it in for a night on the sofa… well, that’s unthinkable. But when we give it a name? When we label it? Well hey presto we can get on board with that!!! FOMO. It has a nice ring to it don’t you think?
When something has a name, it becomes legitimate.
This was always been my argument for self care. Or against self care. Oh I don’t know! It’s always been an observation I’ve made about self care.
At a time when we have to be busy and selfless and entirely on top of stuff ALL THE TIME, the idea of just ‘taking a bath’ is ridiculous. But if we label it? If we NEED to do it? Fine. It’s all fine. We all love self care. The self care brigade! We are on it! (You can read more on my theory on this).
FOMO sort of excuses our laziness. Self care sort of excuses our selfishness.
So, what of FOFO???
Before I heard that ‘fear of finding out’ was a thing, I never thought too much about it.
The fact that I never wanted to check my online banking app was just ‘one of those things’. Nothing good can come from this anyway, I’d think. I either have money, or I don’t, and knowing won’t change that. What it will change though is my happiness levels. Let’s be honest, I will have less money than I thought I did and that won’t make me feel anything other than bad when I confirm my theory. Best not to check, right?
I was fearful too, of post.
In a post-Whatsapp world, I know that any envelopes landing with a thud on the mat are not going to be love letters, rather, more likely, passive-aggressive-reminders of the bills I’ve forgotten to pay or can’t afford to pay or don’t want to deal with.
I was, I am, terrified of voicemails.
Symbolic of seriousness I suppose, if it was important enough to warrant a phone call rather than a text, it must be important (/bad) right? With that in mind, I will do almost anything to avoid dialling 121. Although it will probably be nothing more than a rambling message from my mum’s handsfree as she kills time on the motorway, I’m disinclined to take that risk.
What if it’s… actually… well, I don’t know what what it might be, but here we are. Too scared to find out.
There are other things I don’t want to find out about too. Sometimes they’re a bit pathetic (things like how many Instagram likes I got, for example), but for the most part they are just mundane, normal things, that, for whatever reason, I’m inclined to ignore. Or hide from.
FOFO was a term coined by the bank, Barclays Bank to be specific. They did a whole heap of research into why so many of us risk breaking our fingers to punch the NO button when the ATM asks us if we want to see our bank balance.
They say a third of us (millennials) are constantly frightened of discovering what’s going on with our bank balances.
Let us thank Barclays for labelling the feeling that we all know so well.
The “if I can’t see it, it isn’t happening” feeling.
The “there may well be a problem but fuck off am I dealing with it” feeling.
You know the feeling.
If we have to acknowledge it, then we are going to have to deal with it and that is not the one.
I would love to tell you that I have a cure for your FOFO, that you haven’t just wasted the last five minutes of your life reading about something that you ABSOLUTELY have but now don’t know how to fix, but I’m not sure I can do that.
Because, of course, the reason I have FOFO in the first place is because I am scared of the fact that I don’t have full, or even partial control over my life.
If I knew that when I checked my bank balance it would have more money than I thought it would, I wouldn’t be remotely fearful.
If I knew that when the post arrived I definitely hadn’t forgotten something critical and financial and red-letter-provocking but was simply the recipient of a guilt inducing begging letter from my local MP then I’d be fine with the postman’s arrival.
If I knew my bedroom at home was tidy I probably wouldn’t shit myself every time my voicemail rang (you’re never too old to be bollocked by your mum, by the way).
Alas, I don’t know these things for sure, because I am not a great grownup and I don’t have full control of my life.
And these things serve as a constant reminder of that.
The thing that I am really fearful of, of course, is the fact that I might not be as good at life as I thought I was. Or would like to be, at any rate.
That’s basically a complicate way of saying: I’m scared of myself.
Not in a “write a tragic novel about my dark and twisty mind” sort of way, just in a “god I’m a hopeless sack of shit sometimes” sort of way.
I’m scared of the fact that I am not yet well enough equipped to deal with the things that life has thrown at me.
These things, the bank balances and the letters and the voicemails? They’re the marks to the test I didn’t realise I was taking. Because, as it turns out, we are constantly being graded on our attempts at adulting. Who knew?
Your credit score is basically the grownup, financial equivalent to your A-Level results… and I hated getting my A-Level results.
With that in mind, you can be damn sure I don’t know what my credit score is.
I suppose all there is to do is to hope that I grow out of it…
And if not… well, here’s to blindly punching our PIN numbers into a card machine on top of some sticky bar in the wee hours of the morning as we hope against hope that there is enough money left in our account to buy everyone the jaegerbombs that we so generously and drunkenly promised.
No, don’t even get me started on the courage it would take to view those receipts in the morning..