Hate the Way You Look in Videos? You’re Not Alone. (2023)

If you don’t like watching yourself on video, you are definitely not alone.

But you shouldn’t let this prevent you from making an awesome video for your business. With a better understanding of your brain, you can start getting in front of the camera and actually enjoying it.

How your brain makes sense of a complex world

The human brain is a marvel of natural engineering. It can understand images in milliseconds, and make decisions on that information in under a second.

As you watch a video, say our 2016 rap-up, billions of neurons are firing in different areas of your brain, trying to quickly process all of those images and sounds, allowing you to come to a decision immediately.

For the brain, quick is definitely better than perfect. This makes evolutionary sense. If you’re an early human out among the Smilodon on the savanna, you’d rather be quick and wrong, than slow and eaten.

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But this speed comes with a significant trade-off. To speed things up, our brain is built around shortcuts known as heuristics. These rules help your brain make sense of the massive amount of information that it is taking in each second. Otherwise it would become overloaded.

They use our previous experience, memory, and expectation to build mental models of the world around us (Saber-toothed tiger ate my father). Our behavior then follows these models (I run from saber-toothed tiger), unless there is a wild swing in external information (Saber-toothed tiger does a little dance).

But as our brains try to fit all the information into these pre-existing mental models, it means that we actively seek out and weight information that already fits with this worldview. The effect of all these heuristics are hundreds of small cognitive biases that disrupt rational thinking.

“We actively seek out and weight information that already fits with this worldview.”

These biases affect the way we make decisions and our behavior. They aren’t irrational when they prevent us from being eaten by a tiger, but over time they have become less linked to life-or-death situations. But one bias in particular can completely screw our perception of the real world — one that means some people can only ever see their faults on camera: confirmation bias.

The bias that makes you hate you

Confirmation bias is our tendency to search and find information that backs up our previously held beliefs. We want to be right, so we look for all the information out there that is going to corroborate our thoughts. Because we believe we know best, any information that does confirm previous beliefs takes precedence over information against what we hold dear.

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This means that we are constantly following a fallacy.

If you think that you’re awkward on camera, you’ll be looking for evidence of that when you review the footage. You will want to confirm your belief. No matter how smoothly you presented your pitch, how funny you were, or how natural your performance was, any slight hint of clumsiness will confirm you are a real-life Mr. Bean.

“If you think that you’re awkward on camera, you’ll be looking for evidence of that when you review the footage.”

And because your brain really wants to make you suffer, nothing anyone else can say will change your thoughts. Your memory for feedback is also dependent on confirmation bias. A 1998 study by George Washington University psychologist Amber Story showed that our ability to remember feedback depends on whether that feedback is congruent with our own self-esteem.

If one person says you’re awkward, you’ll remember that. If ten people say you’re great, you’ll forget about them. Some people will go even further, only seeking out feedback from people who will back up their negative perceptions of their own self.

The evil side of the familiarity principle

But confirmation bias doesn’t do its nefarious deeds alone. It is backed up by an odd quirk of the familiarity principle. The familiarity principle states that we prefer people, objects, products, and so forth that we are more familiar with. This is probably why you want to appear on camera in the first place — to show your customers who you are, get them familiar with you, and let that build preference and trust.

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But the underlying psychology of the familiarity principle, the mere-exposure effect, doesn’t work for the face you’d think you would be most familiar with — your own.

Considering you’ve been exposed to your own face in a mirror pretty much your entire life, it would seem reasonable that familiarity would breed self-love. But the face you see in the mirror isn’t your true face. It is a mirror image. And your face isn’t symmetrical. Therefore your reflection isn’t the same as your true face that the rest of the world sees, and that you see when it’s recorded.

This phenomenon was studied at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee back in the 1970s. Researchers Theodore Mita, Marshall Dermer, and Jeffrey Knight asked participants in their study which of two images of themselves did they prefer. One was their actual face, the other a mirror image.

The researchers also showed them real and mirror images of friends and family. The researchers found that:

“In two studies, Person was found reliably to prefer her mirror image over her true image, whereas the reverse tendency characterized preferences of Person’s Friend or Lover.”

Side note: There has been an unfortunate decrease in the word “lover” in academic journals since the seventies.

All this means that you aren’t actually that familiar with your own face. You have always seen a reversal of it. When you see it in a photo or on video you can still recognize it as you, but it doesn’t look right. In the Milwaukee study, the participants could never quite describe why they liked their mirror face to their true image. The difference is barely perceptible to your consciousness, but your brain does know the difference and prefers the mirrored you.

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“All this means that you aren’t actually that familiar with your own face.”

4 ways to overcome your video fears

Confirmation bias and the peculiarities of the mere-exposure effect come together to make sure that seeing yourself on screen is anxiety-inducing.

But you are literally the only person in the world that thinks this! No one else has the same biases about you, and no one else sees the mirrored you. You are the only one for whom looking at you on screen is odd.

Once you are conscious of your biases you can start to fight back against them. If you are still a little afraid of getting in front of the camera, here are a few things to think about to help calm your fears.

1. Remember, your brain is lying to you. The first thing to think every time you see yourself on film is “Quiet, brain!” If you take away anything from this post, it should be an understanding of the psychological components underlying your fears of being on camera. Your fear is just your brain trying to use a shortcut to understand the world — and getting it wrong.

2. Refocus your attention. If your fears are getting in the way of a good performance while making your video, think about ways to refocus your attention away from the camera. This is why actors can do their jobs. They aren’t focused on the camera. Instead, they’re focused on their craft. Concentrate even more on making sure you’re delivering value to your audience.

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3. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help. If you’re feeling nervous about jumping in front of the camera, ask for what you need. Breaks, water, a readily accessible script — you name it! The more comfortable you feel, the better the shoot will go. Advocating for yourself can make a big difference.

4. Realize that people don’t care. The mere exposure effect, the confirmation bias, the negative self-image. All of these are only in your mind. Other people don’t care. So get out there, and give it your best shot!


Why do I hate the way I look in videos? ›

The reason you hate the way you look on video: the combo effect of mere-exposure and confirmation bias. Formulated in 1968 by psychologist, Robert Zajonc, the mere-exposure effect asserts that people react more favorably to things they see more often.

Why do I look so weird in videos? ›

When we see our faces on video, we tend to dislike it because we aren't used to the non-mirrored image. And when we hear our voices on video, we cringe because recorded voices sound different than what we hear when we speak. Turns out, our posture and gestures on video look weird to us for a similar reason.

Why do I hate the way I look in photos? ›

There are several reasons you might dislike looking at photographs of yourself. For starters, we perceive ourselves from one perspective and everyone else from another. Another reason that's more common than you might think is the mere exposure effect, a psychological phenomenon in which familiarity breeds attraction.

Why do I look good in the mirror but bad on camera? ›

This is because the reflection you see every day in the mirror is the one you perceive to be original and hence a better-looking version of yourself. So, when you look at a photo of yourself, your face seems to be the wrong way as it is reversed than how you are used to seeing it.

Why do we cringe when we see ourselves on video? ›

Because of the acoustics in our head, people tend to hear their voices at a deeper, fuller pitch than what other people hear when they listen to us. So not only does the person on video look unfamiliar, they sound unfamiliar too.

How do I stop hating the way I look? ›

Remind yourself of that next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else.
  1. Choose what you look at. ...
  2. Start loving your body exactly as it is, however hard it feels. ...
  3. Be YOU. ...
  4. Celebrate your body as an instrument not an ornament. ...
  5. Indulge your body. ...
  6. Stop your inner critic in its tracks.
May 17, 2019

How can I see my true image? ›

Hold two hand mirrors in front of you with their edges touching and a right angle between them like the two covers of a book when you're reading. With a little adjustment you can get a complete reflection of your face as others see it. Wink with your right eye. The person in the mirror winks his or her right eye.

Why do I look so weird in videos and photos? ›

The camera lens is not the human eye

That results in all sorts of weird idiosyncrasies. It's called lens distortion and it can render your nose, eyes, hips, head, chest, thighs and all the rest of it marginally bigger, smaller, wider or narrower than they really are.

Why am I pretty but not photogenic? ›

However getting to the question, it is technically very possible for a person to have an attractive face but not be photogenic. The problem is that the camera captures the face in 2D as opposed to our 3D vision. As the face appears to be flat, details like chin and nose are flattened on the face.

Why do I look bad in pictures but good in real life? ›

Because of how close your face is to the camera's lens, certain of your features may appear exaggerated. Photos can only capture a two-dimensional image of our true self. If your face is naturally round and soft, the flattening effect of photographs may confuse people about who you really are.

Why do I not like the way I look? ›

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder? This is a common chronic mental condition, wherein a person gets excessively concerned about their body image. So much so, that they think about their real or perceived flaws for hours every day and fret over them.

Do others see you more attractive than you see yourself? ›

A new study shows that 20% of people see you as more attractive than you do. When you look in the mirror, all you see is your appearance. When others look at you they see something different such as personality, kindness, intelligence, and sense of humor. All these factors make up a part of a person's overall beauty.

Do we look better in real life than in photos? ›

If you think you look better in person than in photographs, you're probably right. According to new research by psychologists at the Universities of California and Harvard, most of us succumb to the “frozen face effect” in still photos — and it's not very flattering.

Do people look better in real life than pictures? ›

Because of the proximity of your face to the camera, the lens can distort certain features, making them look larger than they are in real life. Pictures also only provide a 2-D version of ourselves.

Why do I look uglier in video? ›

It has to do with the focal length of the camera lense. The lense distorts our 3D reality onto a flat surface. Some lenses more than others. You can see the difference in this series of portraits.

How do I stop my inner cringe? ›

Forcing yourself not to think about the cringey moment. Doing something else to get your mind off the memory. Telling yourself what happened wasn't so bad, or that no one else cares, so you have no reason to wince at it. Generally trying to adopt an attitude of going easier on yourself.

Why do pictures of myself look weird? ›

Selfies sometimes look strange to their subjects because of how we see ourselves in the mirror, how we perceive our own attractiveness, and the technical details of how we take them on camera phones. Whether or not a selfie is reversed after being shot is a major factor.

What do you call someone who hates the way they look? ›

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others. People of any age can have BDD, but it's most common in teenagers and young adults.

What to say to people who hate the way they look? ›

How To Help a Friend Struggling With Body Image
  • Compliment them on something not related to their body. ...
  • Ask them about other things going on in their life. ...
  • Reframe and challenge negative thoughts. ...
  • Follow encouraging and positive social media. ...
  • Practice self care together. ...
  • Listen non-judgementally. ...
  • Know your resources.
Mar 26, 2020

How many people hate the way they look? ›

It is difficult to estimate how many people don't like how they look. Rates of poor body image fluctuate between 10 to 69% (6). However, younger people are particularly prone to feeling insecure about their appearance (7). Some people will develop serious psychological difficulties around (distorted) body image.

Should I trust the mirror or the camera? ›

It goes through many different stages, from the camera to the screen. Some people, however, like the processed light. Sometimes it makes them look better, but the mirror is always more accurate. Unless you're using your phone screen as a reflective surface, in which case you can trust it.

Is a mirror how others see you? ›

When you look in a mirror, what you're actually seeing is a reversed image of yourself. As you're hanging out with friends or walking down the street, people see your image un-flipped. So that mole that you're used to seeing on your right cheek is actually on your left to the person facing you.

Is the mirror what I look like? ›

In short, what you see in the mirror is nothing but a reflection and that may just not be how people see you in real life. In real life, the picture may be completely different. All you have to do is stare at a selfie camera, flip and capture your photo. That's what you really look like.

Why some people are not photogenic? ›

Many people complain that they do not photograph well. In the present study, we hypothesised that the self-face is memorized more beautifully than reality, which may result in reports of being not photogenic.

Does the back camera show the real you? ›

Back camera is how you look from other people, and typically shot from distance people normally see you, so perspective will be also likely going to be close.

Why does my face look so weird? ›

There are several conditions that can cause a face to appear uneven, including bone disorders, degenerative conditions, stroke, and Bell's palsy. Our teeth also play a large role in how even our face appears to others.

Why don t I look good in videos? ›

Because the mirror is a mirror image — it's how you are used to seeing your face in every reflection you've ever seen since the day you were old enough to recognise yourself. A photo or video usually isn't a mirror image. It's how other people see you from the outside, but not how you are used to seeing yourself.

Do people look better in video? ›

If you've always felt that you look more attractive in videos than you do in photographs, you're not alone. A recent study done by researchers at UC Davis and Harvard has found that subjects generally find video footage of people more attractive than stills showing the same face.

Why do some people look better on video? ›

Camera lenses distort images, and that can make some people look worse in photos than others. When you take a selfie, you're usually pretty close to the lens, so you're going to see some distortion in your face. Pictures taken from farther away will be truer to how you really look.

How do I accept that I am not beautiful? ›

Having One of Those 'I'm So Ugly' Days? Read This
  1. Recognize the burden.
  2. Dig deeper.
  3. Reach out.
  4. Check your perspective.
  5. Practice self-compassion.
  6. Embrace body neutrality.
  7. Give yourself a boost.
Jul 22, 2021

Why are round faces not photogenic? ›

For instance, if you take a photo and think your face looks too round, it might just be because you are used to looking at yourself straight on in a mirror with harsh light coming from above (like in a bathroom). Did you know that this means you have a warped perspective of your own face?

Does photogenic just mean attractive? ›

What does it mean, exactly, to be photogenic? Most simply it means to look attractive in photographs, but the term is imbued with subtle shade.

Do you look worse in photos than in real life? ›

“According to the mere-exposure effect, when your slight facial asymmetries are left unflipped by the camera, you see an unappealing, alien version of yourself,” Wired explained. In other words, the camera version is like an unfamiliar portrait of ourselves that we neither recognize nor care to.

Why do I look uglier in pictures than in the mirror? ›

This is because the camera captures an image of your eyes from a different angle than you see in the mirror. The camera lens is located above your eyes so it takes a picture of the top part of your eyes, while you see the bottom part of your eyes when you look in the mirror.

Why do I look fat in pictures but not in the mirror? ›

Almost everyone feels they appear larger in pictures than in real life, but thankfully, there's a science behind it. Factors such as camera lens width, angles, and focal length can easily make even the slimmest of people appear wider by distorting their features or expanding the width of their faces and bodies.

Why does how I look matter so much to me? ›

Plus, visual neurons do more than just see, they make decisions and think and use information from all other senses. The broad explanation for why looks matter so much is that certain appearances benefited us through evolution, like certain body types, fruit colors, looking sick/healthy or aggressive/approachable, etc.

Why can't I tell what my face looks like? ›

Check if you have prosopagnosia (face blindness)

The main symptom of prosopagnosia is having difficulty recognising faces. You'll still see the parts of a face normally, but all faces may look the same to you. It affects people differently.

Why do I care so much about how I look? ›

It's deeply ingrained from cultural socialisation, interpersonal relationships, our personality tendencies, our physical characteristics combined with the influence of digital trends to shape the thoughts, feelings and beliefs we have on our appearance.

Are you prettier or uglier than you see yourself? ›

In a series of studies, Epley and Whitchurch showed that we see ourselves as better looking than we actually are. The researchers took pictures of study participants and, using a computerized procedure, produced more attractive and less attractive versions of those pictures.

How to know if you're attractive? ›

Wondering If You're Attractive Or Pretty? 19 Signs You've Got It Going On
  • Strangers Stare at You.
  • People Behave Like Superheros Around You.
  • Eyebrows Raise Upon Meeting You.
  • People Are Always Doing You Favors You Don't Request.
  • Babies React Positively to You.
  • People Let You Be Rude Without Consequence.
Feb 15, 2023

Do people see me uglier than I see myself? ›

There has been scientific evidence that attractive people underestimate their attractiveness and see themselves as average or even lower. But it's the opposite for unattractive people, they see themselves as more pretty than they actually are.

Do we look like we do in the camera? ›

Our brains interpret it as a real image of our appearance. However, when we see a photo, we look at a 2D representation of ourselves, which is not reversed and can look different from what we see in the mirror and we are not used to the reversed face in the photo.

Why are some people prettier in person than in pictures? ›

When cameras take photos, they separate the foreground, middle ground, and background very differently than two human eyes do. This exaggerates the depth difference between parts of your face, making them look disproportionate.

Do people look prettier in the mirror than in real life? ›

This is because the reflection you see every day in the mirror is the one you perceive to be original and hence a better-looking version of yourself. So, when you look at a photo of yourself, your face seems to be the wrong way as it is reversed than how you are used to seeing it.

How to be more photogenic? ›

The best tips for making photogenic faces
  1. Choose the right angle. Let's talk a little bit about symmetry. ...
  2. Smile with your eyes. I'm sure you know about the famous TV host Tyra Banks. ...
  3. Use natural light. ...
  4. Get the perfect makeup. ...
  5. Show your sincere emotions. ...
  6. Try to give freedom to your hands. ...
  7. Lean your shoulders back. ...
  8. Use props.
Jan 31, 2023

What does it mean when you hate the way you look? ›

Body dysmorphic disorder causes people to feel worried that parts of their body are flawed in some way. It's related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with this mental health condition spend hours concerned that something is wrong with their looks.

What is the phobia of video cameras? ›

Scopophobia, or camera phobia, is the excessive fear of being watched. But even if you aren't excessively afraid of the camera, according to Harvard Business Review, humans are hardwired to kick into fight-or-flight mode when they're being watched.

Is it normal not to like the way you look? ›

People can be unhappy with their overall appearance, or a specific feature (e.g. nose). It is difficult to estimate how many people don't like how they look. Rates of poor body image fluctuate between 10 to 69% (6). However, younger people are particularly prone to feeling insecure about their appearance (7).

How do I accept my looks? ›

Learning To Love Your Physical Appearance
  1. Surround Yourself With Supportive People. ...
  2. Focus on the Aspects of Your Appearance You Do Like. ...
  3. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others. ...
  4. Take Care of Yourself Physically. ...
  5. Consider What Kind of Clothes You're Wearing. ...
  6. Seek Help if You Need It.
Jul 19, 2022

What makes a photogenic face? ›

Sharp cheekbones, a square jaw, and other angular facial features make for attractive subjects in photography because they better capture the available light. Whereas, light reflected from rounder faces scatters in all directions.

How do you see what you really look like to others? ›

Hold two hand mirrors in front of you with their edges touching and a right angle between them like the two covers of a book when you're reading. With a little adjustment you can get a complete reflection of your face as others see it. Wink with your right eye. The person in the mirror winks his or her right eye.

What is scopophobia? ›

What is scopophobia? Share on Pinterest Eugenio Marongiu/Getty Images. Scopophobia is a persistent fear of being watched or stared at. While many people may feel some level of anxiety when they are the center of attention, these feelings are exaggerated and out of proportion to the situation for people with scopophobia ...

What is scopophobia caused by? ›

Most of the time, scopophobia is linked to a fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected by other people. This is a key symptom of social anxiety disorder, but can also be caused by any fear or insecurity a person has about how they look, talk, or present to other people.

What does scopophobia look like? ›

Scopophobia is an exaggerated fear of being looked at or watched. People with scopophobia typically feel highly self-conscious and often avoid social situations. Some don't even like to make eye contact with other people.

What is it called when you don't look like yourself? ›

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition that causes you to view your own physical appearance unfairly.

What to do if I don't look good? ›

Change something that will draw the attention to a feature you do like. If you have great lips, put on some bright red lipstick. Get a new haircut or style. One of the easiest changes you can make which can have a big impact on how you feel about your appearance, is to change your hair.


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