Forgoing Healing at the Expense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Written by: Maggie Augustyn, DDS, FAAIP, FICOI




We are now acknowledging, in our era and within the realm of dentistry, that comparison is among the most destructive forces we succumb to. This force, ingrained in our human evolution and genetic programming, clings to us and holds us hostage. In evolutionary terms, comparison may have played a role in our worldly advancement, not entirely about superiority but more focused on gathering information for making educated choices on living locations, cultivating food, and determining what is safe to eat.

In prehistoric times, it was about motivation and self-progress, observing and learning from others’ practices. However, today, as Theodore Roosevelt aptly noted, comparison has become the ‘thief of joy.’ It has transformed into an inescapable trap, exacerbated by the pervasive influence of social media. The misrepresented and unrealistic displays of happiness and success on platforms like Instagram create a false narrative, making us believe that others’ lives are a continuous stream of perfect moments. In reality, life is not always positive; it isn’t a constant stream of rainbows and butterflies. Unfortunately, the accessibility of handheld electronic devices leads us to scroll through Facebook, filling our final minutes of the day with the illusion of others’ seemingly flawless lives.


Last night, I had a conversation with Amber 2, an incredible young woman. She is a new-ish dentist who is coming to terms with the fallout of her anxiety. A young woman who has spent the last many months of her career comparing herself to the associate doctors in the practice, some of whom are many years her senior.

Amber is a young woman who developed anxiety due to the difficulty this profession brings on, with little warning. Anxiety about Invisalign cases not progressing perfectly. Anxiety about temporary veneers falling off. Anxiety about encroaching the pulp chamber or patients developing irreversible pulpits following a class 1 restoration. Anxiety that often shows up unannounced. Anxiety that, it feels like, affects only us, while all the rest are succeeding, moving ahead, and creating a professional and personal legacy.

This young dentist had her confidence stripped away, as though the knowledge she had accumulated throughout her academic career and the expertise gained from countless chair-side hours were not substantial. What saddens me the most is that Amber’s challenges are far from unique. Despite mustering the courage to acknowledge these issues among ourselves, we have not made sufficient progress to bring about tangible change.


During all my periods of healing and taking time off, those instances when I had to step back from growing my practice or learning a new skill, I recall feeling like I was falling behind. It seemed as though everyone around me was moving forward while I wasn’t just standing still but regressing. When I discussed this with Amber, she instantly connected.

She, too, during her five weeks of healing, moving slowly day by day, patient to patient, felt the fear of her colleagues speeding ahead while she lagged behind. Like many of us, she feared missing out on crucial webinars if she didn’t follow every dental Facebook group and Instagram account. She worried about neglecting to build critical skills for patient care and disappointing her growth mindset enough not to recover from it. Reflecting on Amber’s experience and revisiting my own challenges, I began to wonder: Can we genuinely create time to heal, to disconnect, to ‘peace out’ if our minds are preoccupied with what others are doing? Have we allowed self-comparison to infiltrate the restorative time of our rest? Is it possible that we cut short the much-needed break prematurely because our FOMO (fear of missing out) is gaining ground? And are we pushing ourselves back toward anxiety by acting on our FOMO?


As I prepared for my future calls with Amber, I delved deeper into the implications of the very issue we were discussing. While we both understood and connected to the desire to step out of the sanctuary of peace, we were aware of the dangers in doing so. Succumbing to FOMO could have tangible consequences. Similar to any unhealed condition, reverting to old and unhealthy habits might lead us back into depression or anxiety.

Let me be clear: there is a genuine danger in returning to the rat race prematurely. Now, the question arises: how do we combat FOMO? How do we prevent it from taking hold? I believe the answer starts with the explanations we provide our minds to believe one thing over another. The information we feed our minds must genuinely make sense. It goes like this: Life is unforgiving at times. It’s difficult and can be unfair, even cruel. Life does not discriminate in its rollercoaster capacity.

Women’s lives are no more difficult than men’s, and vice versa. An assistant’s life is no less challenging than a doctor’s, and vice versa. All humans, at selected points in their lives, have to step back and deal with the gritty, the tangled, and the difficult. Some choose to face it head-on, while others may choose to ignore it. We all react differently because our unique stories and circumstances have allotted us a different set of tools for their exercise. But we all have to take time to heal following hardship, pain, depression, and anxiety.

None of us are spared. Some of us hide it better than others, but none of us are exempt. And so, in the end, the finish line might be spaced evenly after all. Just because you don’t see someone struggle doesn’t mean they don’t do it privately. Until this point, dentistry as a culture has been isolating in that only the positive aspects were shared. Behind an infinitely tall and thick wall were failing marriages, credit card debt, addiction, and abuse. The pain and hardship existed, regardless of it not being mentioned.

It still does.

It always will.


I am pleased to share that Amber, with the assistance of talk therapy and medication, along with some distractions and support from her family, is doing better. Her anxiety is manageable, and she continues to stay away from social media to minimize the risk of negative self-comparison. I still have to remind her and myself that in the game of life, we really are all on equal footing.

We simply experience our hardships at different times, with varying gravity, different support systems, and an individualized set of tools to combat them. The acceptance of this idea, a true understanding and belief in that statement, is the difference between being able to embrace healing or vacillating in and out of that sanctuary in a confused attempt to move ahead or catch up.


  1. Gupta M, Sharma A. Fear of missing out: A brief overview of origin, theoretical underpinnings and relationship with mental health. World J Clin Cases. 2021 Jul 6;9(19):4881-4889.
  2. Not her real name.


Dr. Maggie Augustyn is a practicing general dentist, the owner of Happy Tooth, a faculty member at Productive Dentist Academy, an author, and an inspirational speaker. She obtained her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Augustyn is passionate about reading, researching, writing, and speaking on topics that encompass the human experience, including our struggles, pain, and moments of vitality.


Maggie Augustyn, DDS, FAAIP, FICOI

Her personal mission is to inspire individuals to embark on a journey toward a more authentic self-actualization. She has a notable presence in the media and is a frequent contributor to Dental Entrepreneur Woman. Dr. Augustyn takes great pride in her role as a contributing author to Dentistry Today, where she publishes a column titled “Mindful Moments.”

She has also been featured on various podcasts and is a sought-after national speaker, emphasizing the significance of authenticity and self-discovery.