A quick look at today’s politicians may make you wary about recording yourself when you practise speeches or other dialogue. People who seem to love the attention of the camera aren’t always the most believable, honest or sincere. Even though it may seem like a narcissistic trait to want to video yourself, it will help you see what you are doing right--and wrong!

Because of technology, we are constantly bombarded with communication from people all around the world. This isn’t always a bad thing. Digital technology is shrinking the world, so we can speak to people wherever (even on the space station!) anytime. Collaborating on a global level means we have access to more brains, more life experiences and unique ways of thinking and solving problems.

Recording Yourself Is Hard, For Most Of Us

Even highly-paid actors have a difficult time watching themselves perform. Many people tend to slide out of camera view if home videos are being shot, and sometimes someone may flat out refuse to be recorded or photographed.

Why do we not like to see ourselves?

Many psychologists believe confirmation bias and the familiarity principle affects why we often don’t want to get videotaped while practising.

Confirmation Bias

We all have certain notions of what we look like, how we sound and how we behave in various situations. Our brains tend to seek evidence to support our preconceived notions about ourselves.

Confirmation bias occurs when we interpret or seek out evidence that supports our existing beliefs or idea. Psychologists generally describe confirmation bias as a “one-sided case-building process.”1

When we are looking at a video of ourselves, most of us don’t reinforce any glamour or beauty. Instead, we tend to focus on the negative, and our brain essentially backs this thought or supports us because of confirmation bias. You might hate your hair, or how you say certain words or a million other things. Unless you’re exploding with self-esteem (or a narcissist), there are probably negative aspects of how you look, speak or move that seem glaringly obvious on video.

Familiarity Principle

We tend to like things we have experience with. Taking the same route to work, wearing the same types of clothing or shoes, reading the same websites--all of these behaviours are soothing and familiar.

However, it’s not always good for our brain to keep things the same. While some habits are good (meditating, yoga, eating healthy, sleeping enough), other habits cause our brains to stagnate.

When we watch a recording of ourselves, it’s almost as if our brain has a difficult time recognising us. This is because we normally see ourselves using a mirror. In a video, nothing is swapped, so you see your body and features as they truly are, which may not quite mesh with the idea you have of yourself in your mind.

Related to this principle, the “Mirror Mirror on the Wall” bias means some people believe they are more attractive or handsome or beautiful than they actually are--and a video is a somewhat rude awakening (especially since we tend to zoom in on imperfections).2

All of us show bias when it comes to what information we take in. We typically focus on anything that agrees with the outcome we want.

Noreena Hertz

What Can Videoing Yourself Do For Your Communication Skills?

As a leader, you probably speak to others often. Your habits (how you step around the room or move your hands) are likely ingrained and part of how you communicate. Real communication is more than the words we say, however. Body language and unconscious reactions to people around us can speak volumes. When you watch yourself, you can see exactly how you move and respond to things that happen.

So, why would you want to video yourself, again? If you’re shaking your head at the idea, think of the potential benefits, including:

  1. Practise: Recording yourself allows you to practise what you want to say. If you’re especially nervous about a big talk or speech, line up your pets, your plants or even your pillows and set up your cell phone to record. When you can fully explain a concept to others, you understand it, so giving yourself some practise time can help your brain learn the material.
  2. Learning to be present: When you attend a meeting, is your mind wandering ahead to the rest of the day? Recording yourself can help you learn to be present and stay in the moment. If you notice yourself trailing away or becoming distracted, consider using cue cards or notes to get back on track.
  3. To see yourself as others see you: Do you think you’re very expressive, with lots of vocal tones and facial expressions? Record yourself and find out. If you speak about future goals in a monotone, expressionless voice, people will be less than enthusiastic about collaborating with you, and they likely won’t share any passion for your vision. While it’s important to know your audience, many of us could stand to be a bit more expressive when we speak to others.

Increasing Collaboration To Improve Leadership

As leaders are increasingly expected to manage virtual teams, shifting functional lines and evolving supply chains, we must be able to collaborate in the moment. When we record ourselves, we get a glimpse of what others see. The i4 Neuroleader Model can also provide a complete 360 feedback from people pertaining to all aspects of your life, revealing more than what you can visualise.3

It’s only human for us to exhibit traits such as confirmation bias. And no, it doesn’t automatically make you a narcissist to want to record yourself speaking. By being aware of our potential strengths and weaknesses, we can grow to become better leaders, which the world desperately needs right now.

1. Nickerson RS. Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises. Review of General Psychology. 1998; 2(2), 175-220.
2. Epley N, Whitchurch E. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Enhancement in Self-Recognition. PSPB. 2008; 34(9), 1159-1170.
3. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Model. About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].

Originally posted on: 25 June 2019
Last updated on: 25 May 2024

You May Also Like

These Stories on Collaboration

Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think