How to get past the cringe factor of seeing yourself on screen

Video calls can give you a warped sense of your appearance – here’s how to look beyond the reflection staring back at you.

With video calls increasing, so too can feelings of dissatisfaction with our appearances as we see our faces and bodies reflected back to us.

“Even for people who aren’t susceptible to feeling body shame or body distortion, it’s still really challenging to be faced with the representation of yourself,” says Rachel Roberts, of Make Space Counselling.

And those thoughts can spiral into something more sinister, says Rachel.

“We might see crow’s feet we hadn’t seen before and then your thoughts can go to ‘I’m ageing’ or ‘I’m not worth anything’,” she says.

“Our self-worth and body image are closely connected.”

Danni Rowlands, of The Butterfly Foundation, says video chats can be tough as we can’t completely control our image.

“For people who typically engage in a high level of grooming, use online filters or take many shots before uploading the ‘perfect’ one, live video may cause them to feel really uncomfortable or unhappy with how they look.”

Face your negative feelings about your on-screen appearance

Of course you can turn off your camera or make your video only visible to the other participants, but that doesn’t get to the root of the problem.

Rachel recommends becoming aware of feelings that arise when you see your reflection on screen.

Perhaps you think everyone is staring at your features, or that your perceived flaws are blatantly obvious.

“Then instead of focusing on what a solution might be, bring your energy towards self-compassion,” she says.

“With everything that’s going on now, we’re under extra stress. While some people might not be thinking about body image, for others it is amplifying body image concerns.”

Know that others can see the real you

If you’re wondering if how you appear on Zoom or FaceTime is accurate, remember it’s unlikely to be – plus an unflattering video or photo doesn’t define you.

“You’ll have people in your life who, when they look at you, they don’t actually see your features, they see you,” says Rachel. “The image of you on screen is two-dimensional and not a true representation.”

Recognise the struggle for others, too

And what if your loved ones are always complaining about their own appearances?

“Let them know it’s who they are rather than how they look that’s important, throw in some positive comments and redirect conversation,” says Danni.

“If it’s happening a lot it may be a sign that they’re struggling. Reach out to them privately if you feel they need some support.”

Written by Samantha Allemann.