These days, ware all spending way more time on Zoom and other virtual meeting services than we ever thought was possible. For many, it wasn't an accident that they never made it into video meetings. Now that it can't be avoided, wouldn't it be nice if you didn't cringe at the idea of seeing yourself on screen?

Here are some brain biases that make you hate seeing yourself on camera, and a few tips to help you move past them.

Why you hate your own image

Think about how you see every person you interact with. More often than not, you are looking at them face-to-face. You see them as they are. This is how other people see you as well. 

Now, think about how you see your own face. In general, the only way you see yourself is when looking into a mirror. Your brain gets used to your mirror image and that is what it expects to see when looking at itself: it develops a familiarity bias toward your mirror image. Consequently, every other view (including seeing yourself "head on" -- how others see you and how you look on most cameras) just looks "off." If we all had perfectly symmetrical faces, it wouldn't make a difference, but that isn't the world we live in.

Why you're sure everyone is staring at your awkward quirks

There are two more biases that combine to make seeing yourself in a video conference way more painful than it needs to be. First is confirmation bias. Essentially, your brain is constantly looking for signs that support what it already believes to be true. Studies have found this aligns with your self esteem. So, if you are self-conscious about yourself on video and think you look awkward, that is all you will see. 

The final bias is the focusing illusion. When you are thinking about something, your brain is wired to blow it way out of proportion. This compounds with the confirmation bias, so that if you are uncomfortable with yourself on camera, you will focus on the things about your appearance you don't like. This confirms your negative opinion and creates a vicious cycle. 

Why this actually makes it easy to change your mindset

Now that you know the biases at play, you can use them to your advantage with a few small tweaks. First is the mirror-image problem. Some systems like Zoom have a setting to use your mirror image instead of the "head on" approach. A simple click of a button can help you see yourself in a way your brain finds more comfortable. 

If you are limited to systems that don't have this function, not to worry. The only reason familiarity bias has power over you is because you aren't used to seeing yourself outside of a mirror. The more you see yourself on camera in the way everyone else sees you, the more familiar your brain can get with it, and it will get easier. 

To smooth that process along, it's important to accept is that this is how people are used to seeing you. The only thing that has changed is that now you can see yourself that way as well. 

The trick is to tell yourself you look normal (no need to oversell it -- you aren't trying to become an Instagram model; you just need to be confident in meetings). Now, use the focusing illusion and confirmation bias to look for things that support that belief. For example:

  • No one is pointing and laughing at me.
  • Conversation is as easy as it is in person.
  • My mind wanders when other people are talking, so I bet others don't focus on me as much as I thought they did.

Instead of focusing on your perceived flaws or sensitive points, try to take in the entire meeting as a whole. Try to: 

  • Look at one of your features you really like. If you think your nose is crooked, look at your eyes.
  • Look into the camera and let your image blend into the background. (This is actually a better experience for those you are engaging with, since it simulates eye contact.)
  • Look at the person you are talking to and ignore your own image. See if your system offers an option where your image is a small box in the corner and the other person's face is large.

You have the power to change your opinion. Believe you look good on camera, and you will.