How to overcome webcam insecurity
Article originally posted on the Vosaic blog
Workplaces in nearly every industry have adopted the use of video in one way or another during COVID-19, and it’s no different in K-12 education. By recording yourself and sharing those videos with your leaders, colleagues, students, and families, you can continue the education cycle easily from home. Sounds great, right?
If you just read that paragraph and cringed at the thought of recording yourself, you’re not alone. Insecurity on camera is relatively universal across practices and professions, but it’s not necessarily uniform in every context.
If you use social media, you might not think twice about sending a selfie to a friend via Snapchat, posting a video on your Instagram story, or recording yourself trying the latest TikTok dance challenge.
However, the pressure becomes far more significant when you’re recording a video with important content for student learning.
In some cases, this comes with a greater level of importance and heavier consequences for mistakes. While it’s crucial to adjust your tone and approach for different contexts, it’s possible to record high-stakes video without a high level of anxiety and discomfort. The best way to start is by understanding what makes us feel so uneasy on camera.
Why is it so hard to get started?
Simply pressing the “record” button can lead to a rush of anxiety that causes you to forget everything you’d planned to say and do on camera. The fear and anxiety you experience when recording yourself might seem irrational and a bit silly at times, but there’s an actual, scientific explanation for how you feel on camera.
For some, the act of being recorded is enough to trigger their fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s natural reaction to danger. This response is activated whenever you experience stress, which is determined by the brain’s sensory input and processing center. Though you may not be in any real danger, not knowing who will watch the video or what they will think of you is enough to stimulate the response.
Once you enter fight-or-flight mode, your body reacts in many ways: your neck and back tense up, legs and hands begin to shake, blood pressure spikes, and your pupils dilate. Your brain becomes so occupied by the jump in cortisol that it becomes hard to remember words, which explains why so many people freeze up during presentations and recordings.
However, there’s a bright side to all of this. Just as you can trick your brain into thinking that you’re in danger when you record yourself, you can also trick it into thinking everything is fine. One tip is to press record, then give yourself some time before starting your presentation, as you can always trim down or edit videos. By taking this brief pause, you have an opportunity to gather your thoughts and get comfortable with the recording.
To ease your body’s fight-or-flight response, try taking some deep breaths before starting your presentation. Though this method might sound simple, studies show that breathing techniques can extinguish stress and anxiety.
What if I mess up?
Getting over the fear of pressing “record” is half the battle in becoming comfortable on camera. The next step is becoming comfortable watching yourself on camera.
Many people find the process of recording themselves giving a speech or presentation to be incredibly time-consuming. There’s an obsession with recording and re-recording until everything is just right. No matter the content, it’s easy to spend 30 minutes capturing a minute-long recording. This time-consuming obsession is partially due to the ability to re-record after making a mistake, a luxury that’s not available when presenting in person.
The heightened attention to flaws is also partially due to something called confirmation bias. Confirmation biases draw our attention to evidence that proves something we already believe to be true. If you walk out of a presentation or performance convinced that you stuttered, forgot your words, or came across as awkward, that’s probably all you’ll see when you watch the video.
This subconscious attention to flaws drives an obsession with perfection and an aversion to presentations altogether. It can be detrimental if you’re watching a video for self-reflection and improvement, as your focus won’t be on relevant details.
Wait, I look like that?
Confirmation bias also comes into play when observing our physical appearance on camera. Have you ever seen a photo of yourself that you didn’t like, even though your friends or family insisted that it looked fine? If you had insecurities about your physical appearance, you may have subconsciously scoured the photo for flaws that others likely wouldn’t notice.
There’s also a psychological factor at play, called the mere exposure effect. Essentially, individuals become more familiar with and prefer things that they are exposed to more often.
When looking at ourselves in the mirror or a front-facing camera, what we see and become familiar with is flipped. When we see the resulting, unflipped photo or video, it seems to be contrary to our normal self-image. Because of the mere exposure effect, we may find unflipped images of ourselves to appear unappealing compared to what we’re used to seeing.
Wait, I sound like that?
It’s common for people to cringe when they hear a recording of their voice because it doesn’t match their perception of how they sound. Just as others see you differently than you see yourself in the mirror, they also hear your voice differently than how you hear it in your head. This effect is because the anatomy of the ear, the way sound enters the ear, and how the human brain processes it.
There are three little bones in the middle of your ear called ossicles that help process sound waves and affect how the vibrations are transmitted to your cochlea, which sends noise into the brain to be processed. These ossicles vibrate more when you talk because the sound is closer to your ear. The more the ossicles vibrate, the lower the sound seems in your head. You get used to this lower pitch, which is why your voice sounds higher when you hear it in videos and recordings. The reality is that the voice you hear in videos and recordings is what your voice actually sounds like to others.
But why does the way we truly sound tend to bother us so much? Again, it’s the mere exposure effect. We’ve grown familiar with the pitch of our voice when we talk, so it’s uncomfortable to hear a voice that’s contrary to our existing expectation.
Dr. Silke Paulmann, a psychologist at the University of Essex, says, “I would speculate that the fact that we sound more high-pitched than what we think leads us to cringe as it doesn’t meet our internal expectations; our voice plays a massive role in forming our identity and I guess no one likes to realise that you’re not really who you think you are.”
Gain confidence by using video
There are many sources for discomfort on video, but the issue often boils down to a negative mindset and a lack of confidence. Though these might feel like pretty significant hurdles, there are still a few approaches you can take towards feeling more comfortable recording videos of yourself.
To boost confidence, it’s beneficial to build a deep understanding of what you’re presenting. If you feel you have a solid grasp of the content, you’ll feel more confident overall, even if you don’t feel one hundred percent comfortable on camera. Whether you’re a teacher recording a lesson or an administrator leading a Zoom call, you’ll come across much more confidently if you’ve done your research and feel comfortable with the topic at hand.
Once you’ve prepared the content that you’ll be sharing on camera, it’s essential to practice. Read that again: it’s essential to practice. You don’t need to have an entire script memorized – a misconception that some have when recording videos. You just need to practice your key talking points. Practicing will ensure that you’re coherently communicating the information at hand without leaving out important details or sounding redundant.
Besides practicing the delivery of what you’ll be sharing, it can also be beneficial to practice the simple act of being on camera. It may feel silly, but try recording a few videos of yourself performing everyday tasks. You don’t have to share these videos with anyone; the purpose of this exercise is to become more familiar with how you look and sound on camera. As mentioned before, with familiarity comes comfort and preference.
Finally, it helps to make a conscious effort to acknowledge and forego whatever insecurities may linger. Take comfort in the fact that most people feel these insecurities; it’s natural and universal to feel self-conscious of how you look, sound, and act on camera. Remind yourself that you are your biggest critic and as long as you put up a confident front and present quality content, your audience is much less likely to notice the things that make you feel insecure.
Using a video platform like Vosaic can be so useful for growing confidence on camera. Vosaic allows individuals to record and delete videos at their discretion, share videos for encouragement from peers, and live code for self-reflection of performance. It’s the platform FACTS Education Solutions uses to evaluate teachers and deliver teacher coaching. These features, paired with a privacy screen and dual device control, can help you feel more confident and comfortable in front of the camera.