To my initial dismay and subsequent education, I had to videotape myself a while back for a job interview. Like many people, I was horrified at seeing myself on video. Everything, from my mannerisms, to my posture, to the sound of my voice were excruciating. I resembled someone with severe sciatic nerve pain delivering a eulogy to murdered baby seals. Occasionally I threw in a weak smile, as if to say: “We have to stay strong for Mother Seal.” What made it worse was the knowledge that those who know me would probably have said: “What on earth do you mean? That’s how you always look.” Gasp.
On that videotape I seem insecure, a bit silly, inconsequential and without anything important to say. (Well, I might be exaggerating slightly, but you know what I mean). I know that most everyone’s shocked when they see themselves on video, but this wasn’t just that. Watching that recording made me realize that this could be why I’ve been struggling for all my life with people who see me as insecure, silly, inconsequential and without anything important to say. Maybe that’s the message I send out.
This realization is massive. I know I’m not like that, but how are the others to know if that’s the image that my body language conveys? I’ve always known that I should speak louder and stand up, just like all those teachers instructed, but I hadn’t realized it was so bad. If even I cringe when I watch myself, how can I expect others to see through the facade and realize that there’s more to me than meets the eye?
I’ve always thought that I am not so shallow as to judge a book by its cover, and I’m certainly less that way than some people I know, but I’m not exempt from it. I don’t pick my friends by their looks, but I’m certainly influenced by other people’s body language.
Slumped shoulders convey a message, just as a bright smile or a cheerful voice do. These are the only cues we have for making judgments when we first meet someone. Maybe we’ve had to develop such methods for sorting out the bad characters from the nice ones before they strike us with a log. We make immediate, instinctual judgements about a person’s social status, sex appeal, and intellect. Some of the subconscious cues are even based on smell. We put others in a labeled box within a few seconds of having said hello, and rarely, if ever, let them out again.
Sorry, mirror. I know I’ve been telling you that it doesn’t matter what you look like. It really doesn’t, not deep down inside. But since the whole world is hell-bent on first impressions, maybe it’s better to play their game. If you can’t beat them, join them. So goodbye slumped shoulders. Hail carefree smile. Let the baby seals go.
Have you ever felt horrible watching yourself on video? Do you think videos could be used as a valid form of feedback to develop better performance/social skills? Let me know in the comments!