Though the fear of missing out (FOMO) dominates our vocabulary and article headlines, the joy of cancelling plans is real, too. After all, we can't be the only ones who occasionally feel better after sending a "Hey, I can't make it anymore" text or learning that a Friday night party has been cancelled at the last minute (meaning you get to chill at home after a long week).
To dig into the phenomenon of why clearing our schedules can provide a sense of solace, we spoke with Dr. Maya Borgueta, a San Francisco-based clinical psychologist who helps busy professionals maintain work-life balance. Turns out there are two possible factors at play...
The "Why" #1:
You weren't that committed to the plan to begin with
"We'll say 'yes' to something because we can't think of a good excuse not to go in the moment, but we're really not interested," explains Borgueta. Ever casually sign up for happy hour drinks because you're caught off guard or feel like you just can't decline? As you walk back to your desk, you beat yourself up for agreeing or secretly hope others forget.
We get it. It can be tough to turn down invitations from people like your boss, an important client, or family. But when you inevitably end up bailing, it immediately feels like a weight is lifted off your shoulders. "Cancelling can feel good because we were never fully committed to or excited about the plans in the first place," says Borgueta.
...Next Time: Do your best to just say 'no'
Of course, no one wants to be seen as flakey or compromise relationships. Practice saying "no" to what doesn't interest you. Borgueta adds that "maybe" or "I'm not sure" are perfectly acceptable answers, too, if you think you may end up wanting to cancel. "Letting someone know you're interested but are unsure if you can commit helps keep expectations realistic, and will prevent you from feeling guilty if a cancellation becomes desired," she says.
The "Why" #2:
You're craving some self-care
"Many of us are exhausted and overscheduled because we want to have it all — careers, families, social lives, hobbies, time to work out, and time for self-care," says Borgueta. "Sometimes, we really wanted to go out when we initially made plans. But when the moment arrives, we're dragging and nothing sounds better than time at home on the couch."
In other words, cancelling can feel amazing when you need a break from life's hustle and bustle. "Cancelling plans can be an act of self-care," echoes Borgueta.
...Next Time: Consider if you're spending time on what matters
When this happens occasionally, it's harmless, valid, and even beneficial to our well-being. But Borgueta suggests checking in with yourself if it becomes a pattern or if you notice feelings of regret. For example, are you cancelling on girls' night for the second time in a row because you're wiped from working long hours? "You'll probably feel regretful when the activities you really care about are getting squeezed out by other obligations," says Borgueta.
It's true: Cancelling can feel pretty darn good, especially when you weren't very committed to the plan or need some "me" time. But ultimately, making sure your words, time, and energy are aligned with your priorities and values feels even better.