The Prettiest Girl in the Room

Written by: Maggie Augustyn, DDS, FAAIP, FICOI


I have grown up in the shadow of the prettiest girl in the room. By the tender age of 17, my sister had graced the world of Ford modeling, capturing the gaze and admiration of onlookers for reasons that diverged sharply from my own experiences. In all photographs, she towers over me, with long flowing blond hair falling to her sides. Her face is perfectly contoured with endless experience using highlighters and bronzers. She always has been, and still is, at the cusp of every fashion trend. She bears a sleek figure, and with her smart sense of dress and the way she carries herself, her physical confidence is immediately noted by everyone in the room.

practice management, prettiest girl in the room

For almost my entire life, I believed that the manner in which people perceived her influenced their perception of me. When we both walked into the room together, she’d immediately be engaged in lively conversation; I, on the other hand, would self-instruct to usher myself into the corner. Somebody did ‘put Baby in the corner,’ and it was me. Thus, we hardly spend any time together in social situations, unless, of course, it involved family. Our social lives have evolved in entirely different directions. Add to that the fact that I am a terrible introvert and homebody; the distinction in our social media presentations is a stark contrast.

Self-prisoned in a belief that pretty girls had it easier in life, had a better life (per photos I compared myself against), and got more attention led me into a certain kind of distaste, a certain kind of separation in the future relationships I’d form. I was eternally intimidated by pretty girls and would never allow myself to stand next to one. I was conscious of every detail of my body despite my small frame. I still am increasingly aware of every contour and shadow on my physique, perhaps revealing traces of body dysmorphia. This heightened self-scrutiny often feels like a whispering echo of my sister’s perceived perfection, casting a long shadow over my own self-image. Tall, fit, beautiful blond women in my proximity have made me feel less than for as long as I can remember. In my unfair projection of the insecurities I’d carried from my childhood, I reeled myself as far away as possible from them.

When I had first learned of Emily (her name to be withheld to preserve anonymity1), it was in a group text thread with the coolest docs I know. I was led to believe that her aura of a distinguished speaker held the power to transform the atmosphere of any room. As an emerging speaker myself, wanting to learn from the best, I googled her name. An image of a free-spirited, kindly smiling young woman came up. She looked to have lived lightly and joyfully. It seemed she also taught others how to do so. I caught myself meticulously examining the details of her speaking packet, quietly contemplating if time might eventually shape my own marketing materials to closely resemble hers.

As ‘luck’ would have it, shortly after my semi-stalking, Emily was hosting a webinar about increasing self-confidence through personal alignment. I watched the webinar on my way to a ketamine infusion with my husband as the designated driver. The lecture played on my phone loud enough for my husband to listen in. “This girl is kind of like you,” he said. “Like me?” I scoffed. I thought: tall, pretty, blond, young, accomplished; that’s far from how I presented to the world.

It was, however, exactly how my sister had. I became enveloped in those same insecurities I held as a young woman. I undermined my own talents and eroded the credibility I had worked to build, convinced that any organizer would inevitably favor Emily for the spotlight should they be presented with the choice between us. This belief led me into a labyrinth of shadows, a path paved with comparisons drawn solely from our differences in appearance. In this cycle of self-doubt, I diminished the hard-earned respect and recognition Emily had garnered. My mind kept circling with no end: she was pretty, and I was not, and to top it off, I was old.

At almost 50 years old, I found myself laying the foundation of my speaking enterprise, a venture young Emily had masterfully commercialized. A cloak of envy, interwoven with threads of unresolved sentiments, draped heavily upon my shoulders. This introspective revelation invited somber contemplation of the intricate barriers I had constructed within myself, barriers that not only obscured my own potential but also shadowed the richness of hers. A moment arrived, a few months later, that I was to truly meet Emily. I purposefully worked hard to broaden both my mind and heart to see her for who she was—a person beyond the allure. I was determined not to allow the burdens of my past to obscure a potential connection.

Our paths met at a workshop late in 2023. Emily approached me, her arms open in an unreserved gesture of kinship. She knew my name, knew who I was, and wanted more. I immediately felt a union with her. Something completely unexpected and truthfully, rather unexplainable, happened. I was taken by a sensation of genuine connection and collaborative spirit with her. It was deeper than the words I use to describe it. She wasn’t ever going to be my competition. We were fighting the same battle, to bring people, to bring women, self-compassion and show them how to live a life filled with joy. This might have been the first time I had sincerely looked at another woman in my space and prayed for her success to be as great, if not greater, than the success I prayed for myself. I felt sisterhood. True, deep, past-lifetime kind of sisterhood. And as I prayed for her success, I was equally overwhelmed by remorse for the labels I had inadvertently placed upon her prior.

Once I had gotten to know Emily, I bravely told her about the gymnastics of my mind: getting past my shameful ‘prettiest girl in the room’ mentality. I think a part of me wanted forgiveness for the dysfunctional and unfair portrayal of her I’d created. I hadn’t realized how much I wanted to know what it would feel like to be ‘the prettiest girl in the room.’ She was genuinely transparent and vulnerable in her answer. She gave me examples of how people mislabel her, not unlike I did; how people assume she’s the assistant or notetaker in a meeting and not the powerhouse driving change. She told me that often men insinuate or bluntly admit their lust for her, even proposition her, assuming she’d follow suit. She shared that some even assume her to have gotten to a place of success as a result of a sexual exchange that might have taken place between her and a man at a higher standing. The prettiest girl in the room didn’t make her gifts sound like endless advantages, many of them seemed like anchors weighing her down.

Emily continued and vulnerably shared her story of being married to an abusive man. She unraveled the details of the day she drove, face and body black and blue, to the house of her future mother-in-law, to be “put back together.” She avoided the hospital, speeding past the oncoming police cars, as to not create drama and another incident report. Her future mother-in-law, attending to her bruises, advised her to ‘suck it up,’ as this was the life of a woman.

Imagine the deep unease of standing on the brink of a commitment, one that promises to trap her in a role filled with undeserved, tangible hardship, rather than the love and joy. And all this without even a hint of opposition or protection from those who should have been her safe haven. For Emily, this was the turning point, this was the breaking point, her rock bottom. This was the moment she decided she was going to leave her husband and free herself from the abuse. That might have been a moment that propelled her to understand that what each of us faces is fraught with challenges; to understand what we need to move forward past them.

That might have been the very moment that made her into the incredibly effective life coach she is today. I had asked Emily about what kept her with a man who disrespected her so. It was in her formative years that she felt invisible, unworthy of anything good, of anyone’s love and that has put her in the line of fire, to be taken advantage of. In those early years, Emily and her family dealt with their own set of unacceptable behaviors as displayed by her father. She had to stay still and quiet, keeping from being noticed, because being noticed meant being hurt. Her father, who would eventually be divorced by her mother, a feat more difficult than words can describe for a battered woman to accomplish.

Toward the end of his life, her father grew with strength and courage to change. He later ended up by her side, as she herself healed from bruises. A man, who up to his passing, was her greatest cheerleader. A man who carried the weight of his demons, one whom she loves deeply and has forgiven.

I have watched Emily speak this year at another program. Yes, she is tall, blond, and pretty. But it’s a shame to simply define her as only that. She is incredibly kind and gentle. She holds the most loving and feminine energy as she speaks, urging us to act with our hearts. Her voice is soothing and understanding, the intonation ideal for the calm with which she communicates. She finishes her talks exuding excitement about the future; her smile communicates the happiness with which she rests in her newly settled life. She is an architect of change. Her successes are even more vast if you consider that she has made it all the way to the decision table in our dental industry, stating that she didn’t even have a bachelor’s degree. Though once people read that part in her biography, they tend not to be able to get over it, and somehow allow that to rob her of the authority she deserves.

I wish I could say that I have finally navigated the darkness of my own doubts to discover the light of understanding and self-acceptance. I wish I could tell you that I’m no longer taken over by fleeting insecurity when standing near my sister. It isn’t quite that simple. My story is still constrained by envy and comparison, like any human, but at least I can see it’s possible for it to evolve into a narrative celebrating personal growth and the essence of true connection. Meeting Emily was a gift, a lesson. It was a gentle reminder that the strongest connections stem not from superficial achievements or appearances but from a deep, mutual recognition of our humanity and shared vulnerabilities.

Our relationship, initially marred by misjudgments and misunderstandings, transformed into a symbol of sisterhood. This shift—from seeing her as a rival to valuing her as a cherished companion in our mutual quest for empowerment—marked the beginning of what I hope to be a profound change in me. It deepened my respect for Emily’s strength and spirit and also prompted a crucial reassessment of how inaccurately we view and judge both others and ourselves. This experience reaffirmed the vital truth that our most meaningful struggles are not against each other, but together, against the common challenges that obscure our collective brilliance.

This story stands not just as the conclusion of a personal journey but as a lasting symbol of hope for unity, mutual support, and our endless capacity for transformation.


Deep breath…

Here is what I have been waiting to tell you…

Your name has come up in multiple conversations and text threads, all great things, of course. When I saw that you had a webinar not too long ago, I signed up to listen to it. In fact, my husband and I listened to it on the way to my getting Ketamine. I couldn’t listen to the whole thing, though, because my appointment started…

I loved all that you were saying, and the dysfunctional human that I am, these thoughts came to my head: “Man, she’s brave. She’s young. She’s pretty. She’s come so far. How can I ever compare? I’m old. Who would pick me to speak at an event if they had the choice to hire Emily?” In those moments, I looked at you as my competition. And I’m ASHAMED of that, but I want to be forthcoming and honest.

And I want to tell you this because the MOMENT I MET YOU, it all changed. I felt even more ASHAMED. Because the moment I met you, we weren’t competitors. WE WERE COLLABORATORS. We were in it together. We were similar. We had a kinship, a connection, a tether that I can’t explain, and energy, a pull, sisterhood. As ASHAMED as I was, I also felt such relief. My guard was down. My energy was up. And I was SO VERY HAPPY for you. For your success. For how young you were, for how brave, for how pretty, for how successful. It really was quite mystical.

I simply adore you. And maybe this is something that we can also talk about… how we think we compete, but in actuality, we are all fighting for the same thing. I know there is an article in there.

Many, many tight hugs.



  1. Details of her story have been slightly changed to preserve anonymity.


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.

prettiest girl in the room

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.