Having great friends and family is a gift. They offer a trusted social circle that can put a check on our behaviors. When testing a new idea, concept or behavior, they can safely challenge or encourage our thoughts and actions in a manner that propels our character in the direction we want to go. At its best, this group provides a safe space for exploration and creativity.

Just this past weekend I was traveling back from PAC 12’s seated on the plane between two friends and we were having an amazing conversation where we were exploring different philosophies on an issue regarding social media. The issue being if we engage in social media, we no longer control how large our circle of influence is or who’s in it (unless you’re like my husband who only has accepted 6 people as Friends).

Anything we do in public can be (and often is) recorded and/or commented on and then shared with the rest of the world. These periphery connections then begin to infiltrate the conversation with their opinions that can stifle the safe exploration mentioned above. When that happens we have succumbed to FOPO: Fear of Other Peoples’ Opinions.

This is a term coined by Dr. Michael Gervais, who introduced it to me during our conversation on his podcast Finding Mastery. It addresses the pause of fear we get when we consider sharing something on a platform where the entire world can have an opinion, especially if we’re marinating on a new idea or concept.

For myself, there are comments I’d like to make, but don’t—not because I think they’re inappropriate, but because I don’t want to engage in the hailstorm of feedback my comments might get. That’s not to say I won’t make a potentially controversial (or simply unorthodox) comment on something because of the feedback, but it definitely makes me pause…. sometimes too long…

It happened just yesterday coming home from our conference championship. I was scrolling through social media and came upon a thread (don’t remember where it was now) about the discussion of favorite leotards at all the conference meets this weekend. There are two things that I have a totally universal and inclusive thought process about in the world of gymnastics, one is leotards. I have zero allegiance to our team, our conference, or only blue or black. To me, a beautiful leotard is like a beautiful Oscar gown. I wanted to add my opinion to the thread and say, “I think Utah’s leo’s were stunning,” but I didn’t because my second thought was… “people will have a field day voicing their opinion about my ultimate m.o.” …By the time I thought through this and decided I didn’t care what other people thought, I couldn’t figure out where I had seen the thread… my FOPO pause was a bit too long.

The second thing that I feel is absolutely all inclusive at gymnastics meets is the end of the meet Dance party. I know that we at UCLA Gymnastics annoy the crap out of some people with how much and how often we dance (again something I’ve gleaned on social media), but dancing is not exclusive to any one team. Every time I look around an arena when a great Dance song is on, every team is enjoying the moment and spirit of dance. Those moments are so much fun to observe because they are never planned and always 100% spontaneous. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE it when at the end of the meet all of the teams celebrate this amazing sport by coming together in a mosh pit of dance. This spirit is what sport should be all about… a great competitive environment capped off with a celebration of how blessed we all are to be a part of collegiate athletics.

I wanted to write all of that on the social media thread about us dancing so much, but I didn’t feel my sincerity would be adequately conveyed about how much I love an all-inclusive dance party, so I chose to not comment. Again, FOPO.

Since I don’t have the inclination to search for these threads, I decided to write about them here because I was disgusted with myself that I didn’t simply respond in the moment. Both comments are positive and only good should come from posting them, and yet I hesitated because I didn’t want to have to deal with social media scrutiny. Seriously??? Especially on topics as benign as leotards and dancing…why should I care?

How lovely would it be if people who posted mean-spirited comments actually had a bit of FOPO?

Yes, I believe people can be Kind and Fierce. Honest and Respectful. Opinionated and Non-Judgmental. A platform on social media like that would broaden our safe space and open all of us up to more explorative and deeper thoughts and creativity.

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15 Comments on "FOPO"

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Val, Love your view on the celebratory dance. and so glad you shared it. I would agree and I get that same feeling from the dancing throughout the meet. However, at the end of the meet – when your team takes to the floor, it doesn’t feel inclusive of the other teams. Perhaps waving an invite or something that would indicate come join us might dispel some of the negative feedback that pops up. I would think this would be especially true when UCLA wins. Without an “invite” it comes off more of a victory dance exclusive of the other… Read more »

I agree with you. I think the Lady Bruins should go out and mingle, and invite the other teams to dance with them; that would be so much fun. I really enjoy watching them dance and play among themselves. My brother is a UCLA alumni, and I messaged him about the Bruins winning the PAC-12 championship and rubbing it in by dancing on the floor afterwards. I wasn’t being mean, and we both were happy for the ladies, but I did wonder what other people would think. Classic example of FOPO.
Miss Val, First, I can’t dance; never could. But I love watching ur team dance. To me, it’s a dance of joy for their sport and of life. Win or lose they are living in the moment and happy for the opportunity. And I don’t believe they were dancing to rub it in bc we won. You would never let that happen. Second, I agree with u about the leotards. Nancy doesn’t let me stare too long, but I can tell u that I just plain didn’t like Cal’s. IMO terrible. Not flattering at all. When I watch these women… Read more »
Lieve Olivera

Let’s teach this elephant in the room, aka ‘FOPO’ how to DANCE… in a stunning Oscar gown. I bet it’ll put a smile on his face, and a moment of living ‘Life’.
Well written, Miss Val!

Keep doing you Miss Val. It’s your realness and positivity and unparalleled sportsmanship that makes me stay up late all the way from Ukraine to watch your meets. You and your beautiful girls have reached people beyond the borders of North America. You have inspired me to be real to myself. You have made want to come to UCLA for a graduate course or something just so I can see you compete. You are the reason I am currently typing this because am learning that sometimes what I have to say might be exactly what someone else needs. Thank you… Read more »

I am always reluctant to post. I didn’t know I had FOPO. So to overcome my FOPO, I’m going to comment on the comments from folks saying they were annoyed at UCLA dancing at the end of the PAC-12 meet. Frankly, I was annoyed at the comments. It wasn’t a victory dance…the UCLA team always dances – especially when the Cupid Shuffle song is played. I wish the other teams had been compelled to join in the fun dancing together to cap off a day of great gymnastics by all the teams.

Mary wright

We are definitely soul sisters. I’ve let FOPO get the better of me on many occasions but muse hysterically at times. Leotards and Dancing…. I’d take head on. 💙💙💙you

A Renee
Miss Val, how lovely to read this musing. You are absolutely correct. And, how sad is that? We no longer have a singularly tight knit circle of friends who hear our opinions on the topics of the day. We, as a society, have become increasingly more likely to divulge our unedited life stories and opinions on the hot-button (and rather less controversial) topics of the day. In this world where an opinion can spread like wildfire (is that in bad taste given the recent fires in the Bay Area and Southern California? FOPO would ordinarily stop me from saying that)… Read more »
Tracey Hom

You are such a wonderful influence on your girls. You be you. I have not taken off my together we rise bracelet. I wear it to work, to church, it never comes off. Thank you for that moment at the OU meet. Thank you for being you.

Theo Karlous

You do you Coach. You’ve earned the right.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss

Colleen Stark-Haws

We should dance whenever and wherever we can. A disease took my body’s ability to dance away from me, so now I dance proudly with my heart and some fancy head moves! I may look silly but I have too much joy to have FOPO.