A sudden shift in perspective
The fundamental reason we cringe when we see ourselves on video is a sudden shift in perspective. Seeing ourselves from the outside in creates a jolt to the system, sometimes even mild anxiety.
Why does this happen? Three factors are at play here:
Factor 1. Do I really look like that?
When we see ourselves, it’s generally when we look in the mirror.
The issue with mirrors is that they flip the image of your face horizontally 180 degrees.
So when you see yourself in the mirror, you’re not looking at an image of your face as others see it, but you get used to the ‘mirror image’. When you see yourself on camera, everything is actually the right way round but it looks wrong to you. The reason for this is that our faces aren’t symmetric.
It’s still you, but both images look very different.
Our brain reacts to this lack of recognition and familiarity with a jolt of mild anxiety that psychologists call cognitive dissonance; the cringe factor we experience.
Check out the video:
Factor 2. Boy do I sound weird!
The bones and tissues in our head conduct the sound of our voice to our ears, so we hear our voice for about 15% through our skull.
This means that we hear our own voice very different form others: typically we sound deeper/warmer to ourselves. Because our brain adjusts to how we sound from our perspective, hearing ourselves on a recording feels strange: squeaky and thin.
Factor 3. Self talk
The final reason for our cringing it self talk.
Anyone who sets high standards for her/himself is going to find something that needs to be improved. It’s great to strive for high quality, but perfectionism can actually keep you from getting started!
Relax. We all cringe.
Some discomfort is part of authentic communication. Even experienced actors and presenters cringe.
You could even argue that some level of discomfort is a good sign; it shows that we stretched ourselves a bit. Like any discomfort it’s temporarily and it can be managed by having the right mindset and perspective, which is where friends come in handy.
You can’t be objective about yourself
The best way to get around your own perspective is to use someone else’s judgement.
Assuming your friend will give you an honest account of how you’re doing (otherwise you may want to have a look at who’s in your ‘friend zone’), friends can help you push the ‘send’ button so do don’t get in your own way.