Pageantry: An Unconventional Education for Aspiring Psychiatrists

Dr. Patricia Celan
4 min readMar 18, 2024

Now published on KevinMD.com, on MedPageToday, and referenced in ReckonNews.

With the elegant gowns, stylized hair, carefully applied makeup, and moment in the spotlight, beauty pageants have attracted longstanding criticism for being allegedly superficial competitions that foster narcissism. But beneath the surface lies a wealth of opportunities for personal growth and skill development. Most modern pageants have moved away from being modeling competitions that assess superficial beauty. Instead, they have been reframed as personality competitions, evaluating qualities such as communication skills, leadership and social advocacy, and the ability to be a strong role model worthy of the job of representing a pageant company. For aspiring psychiatrists, participating in pageantry can be a transformative experience that contributes to the acquisition of valuable insights along with transferable skills and competencies that are integral to the practice of psychiatry.

Building Confidence and Resilience

One of the most notable benefits of competing in beauty pageants is the opportunity to build confidence, resilience, and the capacity to step outside one’s comfort zone in order to achieve goals. Patients can sometimes challenge a psychiatrist’s confidence, some patients may take much longer to treat effectively, and sometimes psychiatrists find that they need to abandon preconceived notions and try different approaches to truly heal their patients. The rigorous long-term preparation and public scrutiny involved in succeeding in pageantry demand a strong sense of self-assurance, perseverance, and ability to constructively integrate feedback, qualities that are equally essential for success in the field of psychiatry. Aspiring psychiatrists who have experienced the challenges of navigating the competitive landscape of pageantry are better equipped to handle the pressures and uncertainties inherent in clinical practice.

Enhancing Professionalism

Representing one’s home city, province, state, or country in a pageant essentially elevates the average person into a public figure with varying degrees of prominence. While most people would not consider psychiatrists to be public figures, many licensing bodies have strict professionalism expectations that sometimes even require a psychiatrist to behave professionally during personal time, when not actively practicing one’s profession. Although controversial, aspiring psychiatrists can prepare for such expectations by stepping into the role of a public figure. Many pageant queens are role models for younger women who look up to them. Embracing the goal of being a positive role model can help psychiatrists to be professional at all times.

Developing Empathy and Cultural Competence

Pageants also provide a platform for contestants to interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures, fostering the development of empathy and cultural competence. Through engaging with fellow contestants, judges, and community members during pageant activities, aspiring psychiatrists gain valuable insights into the complexities of human behavior and the importance of understanding diverse perspectives. This heightened sensitivity to cultural nuances and individual differences enhances their ability to connect with patients from various backgrounds, a crucial aspect of providing culturally sensitive and effective psychiatric care.

Enhancing Communication and Public Speaking Skills

Effective communication is a cornerstone of psychiatry, and competing in pageants offers invaluable opportunities to hone this skill. Contestants are required to articulate their thoughts and opinions eloquently during private interviews, on-stage presentations, and interpersonal interactions, thereby sharpening their ability to communicate with concise clarity and confidence. Most contestants seek a pageant coach in order to enhance their communication and interviewing skills. The ability to engage with others and convey complex ideas effectively is indispensable for building rapport with patients, facilitating therapeutic alliance and conveying empathy and understanding in clinical settings.

Improving Collegiality

Gone are the days of catty women undermining each other for the sake of winning a prize. Pageantry has now become known for a source of friendship and sisterhood, providing a sense of community for delegates. The ability to be pleasant and friendly with one’s competition is a transferable skill in enhancing the collegiality of psychiatrists working within a team setting, even if there may sometimes be disagreement in patient care. Working professionally with colleagues is important for optimizing patient outcomes.

Fostering Leadership and Advocacy

Pageants often involve engagement in community service initiatives and advocacy efforts, providing contestants with a platform to address social issues and promote positive change. Aspiring psychiatrists who participate in pageantry develop leadership skills and a sense of social responsibility, as they advocate for causes that align with their values and contribute to the well-being of their communities. This capacity for leadership and advocacy translates seamlessly into the realm of psychiatry, where clinicians play a vital role in advocating for the rights and needs of their patients and advocating for social justice within the mental health system.

Cultivating Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Competing in pageants requires contestants to engage in introspection and self-reflection, cultivating self-awareness and emotional intelligence in the process. By navigating the highs and lows of the pageant experience, contestants gain insights into their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth, fostering personal development and resilience. This heightened self-awareness equips aspiring psychiatrists with the capacity to recognize and manage their own emotions effectively, a critical skill for navigating the complex dynamics of therapeutic relationships and providing empathic and attuned care to patients.

The Transformative Power of Pageants

In conclusion, competing in pageants offers aspiring psychiatrists a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth, equipping them with a diverse array of skills and insights that are invaluable in the practice of psychiatry. From building confidence and resilience to enhancing communication and cultural competence, the benefits of pageantry extend far beyond the realm of physical appearance, shaping individuals into empathetic, skilled, and socially conscious practitioners. By embracing the transformative power of pageants, aspiring psychiatrists can cultivate the qualities and competencies needed to excel in their careers and make meaningful contributions to the field of mental health.

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