Do you think you look weird on video?

It only takes a second or two of scrolling through a social media feed or viewing a website or two to realise how important video is. It is everywhere, and in a world where everyone has a smartphone and can create video content at the push of a button, it is impossible to ignore.

When you see a video or a block of text on your LinkedIn (or Facebook) feed, which grabs you more? Compared to a picture, there’s so much more that can be put into a video. Video is simply more dynamic – it grabs people’s attention.

A video that is well put together, with a good message, can be a compelling way to help you position yourself as an expert in your field.

However, there’s an elephant in the room to deal with first… You’re never going to get me on camera!

For us Unnatural Promoters, it’s one thing to get us to shout about ourselves at all – but on video, where there’s a permanent record of it, and where every flaw is there for everyone to see – no way!

I actually don’t mind the filming. Admittedly, I’ve done a lot of it now, so I’m sure that practice, as in most parts of life, has made it a lot easier. My issue is when I’m about to press send on the post with my video in.

There are a couple of reasons why many people don’t like to be filmed. The first one is that people think that they look strange when they see themselves on video.

The problem is that the way we see our own face differs from how everyone else does. We only ever see ourselves in the mirror, which, by its very nature, shows us a mirror image of what we actually look like. Since our faces aren’t symmetrical, that mirror image is slightly different to the reality – and the version we see when we’re filmed.

Look at these two versions of my profile picture. The one on the left is how the world sees me – the one on the right is how I see myself:

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This phenomenon was studied by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 1970s. Participants were asked to look at real and mirror images of their own faces, and those of their friends and family (without being told that that was what they were looking at).

The results were clear: people preferred their own mirror images but preferred the real versions of others. Participants also couldn’t describe why they picked one image over the other – the differences were too subtle.

It’s these differences that make many people uncomfortable with being on video. They are barely noticeable to your consciousness, but your brain knows the difference, and prefers the mirrored you, because that’s what it is used to.

It’s a similar problem when we hear our own voice. Being recorded on a video will mean that we hear how we speak like everyone else does – i.e. the sound waves will hit our ear drums. However, we hear our own voice inside our head differently. When we speak (and of course, there’s a more scientific way of putting this), the sound goes from our vocal chords, into our skull, and then to our ears. When they travel through the bone of your skull, it is distorted. Our interpretation of our voice is different to what everyone else hears.

So if we’re going to get around these issues and be comfortable posting videos of ourselves, we have to tell ourselves that what we’re seeing and hearing isn’t what everyone else is seeing and hearing: it’s our brains playing tricks with us. I promise you – no one else will think anything other than its 100% you!

The second issue many worry about when being filmed is confirmation bias. This is the tendency people have to pay more attention to things that back up what we believe is true.

This means that if we believe we look strange on camera, or if we think that we’re not a natural (and usually, the people we see on screens are highly paid actors and professionals), then we will watch the footage looking for examples to confirm our beliefs. When we see them – as inevitably we will because we’re not a television professional – we dwell on them.

How often do we focus on one piece of negative feedback because it outweighs in our mind the ten pieces of positivity received? When I’ve done a talk for a group of say, 100, people, there will be 99 excellent or good responses, and one ‘room for improvement’. Which one do you think I dwell on?