Does My Ass Look Too Big In This Cave Painting?

Centuries before zoom and other online video platforms turned us into the worst kind of insecure self critics, human beings have been holding themselves to an impossible standard. Generally when we are out in the world we feel pretty secure but we can be thrown for a loop by walking past a highly reflective surface or standing in a mirrored elevator and wondering, what is my hair doing? Has my nose always been that big? Does this beard make my face look like a different part of the body?

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about body dysmorphia due to Zoom and the amount of time we spend on camera. But it’s not our on-camera time that is the problem, it’s the watching ourselves on camera that is the problem. The simple solution is to minimize or turn off your own view of yourself and focus on the other people but let’s face it that’s almost impossible to do because we want to be monitoring how we appear to others and so we obsess about what we see which is problematic on a number of fronts. First of all, while we are obsessing about our haircut, skin colour, or bags under our eyes, we’ve stopped listening to what everyone else is saying and so we are losing out on the content and potentially import of the meeting. The other thing to know is that the relative proximity Zoom and its colleagues provide goes far beyond the line of intimacy that we are normally experiencing at work. Imagine sitting around a boardroom table with your team. Now picture across the table from you: not only are you seeing the room in a broader context but the people at the table are four, five maybe feet away and so you are seeing them probably from the waist up and at a distance. Now look at your zoom screen. You are seeing those people at a distance that in real life would be more like 18 inches. When was the last time you had a business encounter that was that close up? I guess it depends on your profession.

This wild level of self judgment has resulted in an uptick in cosmetic surgery and other visual enhancements. You could save yourself a lot of money, pain, and recovery time, by investing in a more versatile webcam, decent lighting, a green screen, and some basic on-camera make up.

In the many years that I have been training people for interviews speeches meetings and presentations one of the main responses I hear when I flash their videos up on the big screen is Oh my goodness my hair/face/weight/posture. We notice and obsess about things that most other people do not even see. That’s because they are busy obsessing about themselves. Human nature.

And then there’s those who err on the other extreme. Let’s not forget the story of Narcissus who couldn’t get enough of gazing at himself in the reflecting pond. Eventually he realized that he could not possess the object of his desire and killed himself. OK people, a little moderation at each end of the spectrum please.

Joanna Piros