Stiff, Tongue-tied, and Self-conscious
A Client shares…
Presenting to a camera can feel like an artificial, self-conscious experience. You are delivering a message to an inanimate object which feels unnatural at first.
With human interactions, we can get a good read on a person, their energy levels, and their emotional state. If we are in rapport, we can eventually match or lead the person with their breathing patterns, vocal tone, and body language. At the time of writing it is believed that mirror neurons located in the brain are responsible for helping us to empathize and unconsciously synch ourselves in accordance with the other person.
Unfortunately, this does not happen when you engage the lens of your filming device.
“Hey, Something’s Not Right here?”
The camera does not give the sensory feedback we have become accustomed to over countless generations of human evolution. The camera doesn’t blink, smile, speak, gesture, or give you any encouraging signals. It’s just a device observing and capturing every little nuance of you, accompanied by a level of unnatural intensity that we don’t experience in our day-to-day dealings with human beings.
Social norms and cultural conditioning tend to make us want to break off from making sustained eye contact when there is no sensory feedback from the other person.
Presenting to a video camera can feel like being stared at by an unblinking, expressionless, mute stranger, locked in an elevator 30-storeys up. It’s not a normal or natural experience.
Freeze, Fight, Flight
Our body unconsciously adopts the “freeze » fight» flight” stress response, which causes cortisol (stress hormones) to rise. The release of these hormones can wreak havoc on your nervous system and mindset.
In stressful states, old negative thinking patterns or thoughts may surface, which can decrease your self-esteem and your motivation. Studies (MRI imaging) found that negative thinking stimulates parts of the brain that generates depression and anxiety1, 2, 3.
Our feelings have a significant impact on our physiology. How we use our brain to think has a big impact on how we feel, and how we feel drives a lot of our conscious or unconscious behavior.
Anyone can put themselves on Video. But NOT everyone is watchable
Throughout my 20+years working in TV and Film (in front of and behind the camera). I’ve collaborated, coached, directed, and contributed to TV, film, and casting initiatives. Auditioning 1000s of people from all walks of life; from acting professionals, models, and presenters through to thought-leaders, business owners, and newcomers to the screen.
As a result of this here are some of the most common on-camera pitfalls that I’ve seen negatively impact an on-camera performance or screen delivery.
Affects the head, eyes, face, neck, shoulders, mindset, body chemistry, mannerism, body language, and gestures;
- Tension can negatively impact your on-camera charisma, warmth, and likability factor
- Your screen presence and confidence take a dive
- It can affect the ability to influence in a persuasive way on video
- It drains energy
- Your expressive features become impaired e.g. speech, tripping over the tongue, being tongue-tied, having a dry mouth
- Your eye-contact with the lens becomes ineffective (e.g. eyeballing, bulging whites, darting excessive blinking).
Anxiety triggers negative thinking, insecurity, low self-confidence, self-image doubts, and fears increase;
- Impacts the ability to focus on the task at hand, affects present moment-awareness and connection with the lens
- Self-consciousnesses, internal self-monitoring, negative self-talk, guarding, shutting down
- Flip/flopping energy – overcompensating or underwhelming, neither is ideal onscreen
- More on-camera mistakes, mind blanking, speech flubs, forgetting movement (blocking), and missing marks.
Turn the Tables in Your Favor!
Tangled Tongues and Blinking Rate
Our thinking processes move a lot faster than our speaking rate. This might explain the occurrence of being tongue-tied. When you are feeling stressed or anxious it will likely become a self-perpetuating cycle. The more you try the worse it gets.
The rate at which you blink your eyes can increase during times of mental processing. This can be highly distracting and highly noticeable onscreen. Not only that the increased blink rate breaks the connection with the viewer. It forms a distancing, psychological barrier. The result is a suspicious, nervous kind of energic vibe that imbues your frame. It undermines your screen presence.
Are you Self-preoccupied?
When we are too preoccupied with our thoughts (trying to “get it right”, recalling information, etc) we lose the connection with our body. Our breathing patterns can become irregular, which drives up stress levels and impacts our vocal delivery.
Other presenters struggle with sporadic, repetitive movements, and gestures. Fidgeting, head bobbing, and swaying are the common ones I see.
For a deeper dive into on-screen charisma, plus access to additional mindset strategies that can help you with an excessive blink rate, mind blanking, or how to observe yourself in the most empowering, constructive way contact me here).
The following STEBIAN Command-the-Screen FCT Technique may help you in the next section, but before you perform the exercise it’s important that you understand the Homunculus that resides in your brain.
Feel into discomfort – Ride the 90sec wave
Feel into Your Discomfort. This is your way to Emotional Freedom
Behaviors that tend to keep you stuck are often felt as resistance and avoidance. They are the Ego’s protective mechanisms that keep you hiding or cocooning in the cave. It’s a form of escaping into a false safe space (psst there is no safe space, you cannot outrun your mind) because it’s afraid of the feelings that discomfort will stir up.
Unmanaged thinking patterns create unproductive emotional states. Your reactions to those patterns of thought (if you are conscious of them) are fueled by the stories you tell yourself. Many of those thoughts, or what I call story dramas (or soap operas) aren’t true or based on indisputable facts. Rather they are based on a judgment, assumption, opinion, or a belief about yourself. These are not facts.
Lean into the Charge – Ride the 90second wave
When you lean into the charge of your emotion (triggered by an attachment to your thoughts) by neither resisting, reacting, attaching, or getting caught up in the stream of them, you begin to build up your inner strength reservoirs to handle the seasons, the ebb and flow of life. You can face the good, the bad, and the ugly of life head-on. Join me for coaching strategies to deal with this.
To paraphrase Neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, we get to control our thoughts and negative emotions. Limbic responses like anger or fear that can be triggered automatically leave an emotional charge for about 90 seconds as they surge and discharge through the body. Once the 90 seconds have passed, we are indeed choosing to stay in the negative emotion, by fuelling the charge of that emotion with storytelling. We essentially become hooked (like a drug) to the storyline.
Enter Your Homunculus – The Meaning Maker Behind Your Soap Opera Stories
There is a part of the human brain, the Homunculus, that processes information and makes meaningful patterns of the world. It constructs mental pictures or maps of perceived reality. It helps to bring coherence, order, and (a false sense) of control to an otherwise constant, changing state of flux known as life.
The catch is the Homunculus cannot stand uncertainty, randomness, chaos, disorder, and the fear of the unknown. It’s driven to make meaning, to tell stories. If it cannot make sense of or find a meaningful pattern in something, it will impose its own pattern or story to explain what is going on.
The Homunculus will actually construct lies just to fill in the blanks of uncertainty. The crazy thing is we believe these distorted thinking patterns i.e.
Do you see how easily the brain fires up to generate some kind of meaning even though it’s not based on reality? This typically happens below our level of awareness. If we aren’t tuned into our self-talk or inner narration it can be difficult to catch.
The trouble is we believe these “fill in the blank” thought soap operas and most of the time they go unchallenged.
We buy into them, thinking that’s the way things are. Unless you have a daily meditation or a self-reflection writing practice to examine these made-up stories, you are at the mercy of them. (Side note: In my own personal practice I perform a daily 4 am self-reflection. During this time I write my own self-improvement RX’s for the day via a series of reality examining questions around my thoughts and feelings. Followed by an active challenging arm meditation to burn it all out. Over the years it has been a highly beneficial self-awareness/focusing tool and practice).
Are you Believing in a Homunculus thought?
A good indicator that you might be is to tune into your emotional state and how your body feels. (if you want coaching around your Mind/Body with techniques to help you process these energy sinkholes you can always book a time with me).
The great news is that your own internal dialogue (self-talk, chatter) can be a pathway into yourself i.e. by allowing, processing, and then changing your unresourceful state to something more resourceful, productive, and supportive. And no superficial, fluffy, dream big dream, positive affirmations won’t work. You need to go deeper.
Question Your Thoughts
When you step back and challenge these thinking patterns you gain awareness around how you use your brain to think, and whether or not you are using your brain as a tool to drive your desired outcomes. Ask yourself, “Do these judgments, assumptions, opinions, or beliefs serve me, and are they giving me the results I want?”
Only you can give a belief its power or assign meaning to the story, and only you can change it. You get to decide what to think, how to feel, and what to believe and then actually apply and consistently live those thoughts via new habits.
It’s not Personal. Thoughts Think – it’s What They Do
None of this is personal. Get curious and examine these thoughts. Imagine yourself being a conscientious, scientist performing thoughtful, experiments. This way there is no need to resist, react, attach, or get caught up in the Soap opera drama of the thought or feeling. Leaning into negative emotions can be an opportunity for growth. It’s a way into self-reflection, it’s a way into radical growth, a way to uncover blocks.
These feelings are here to show you what you need to investigate at a deeper level so you’ll be able to redirect your thoughts to be more empowering and based on fact. This will enable you to be more effective when you are presenting on camera.
Judgments, beliefs, and opinions (yours or others) are not facts
This is liberating. You are the boss of your brain and only you get to decide what to think about yourself or the situation. You get to re-write your story and script a new, empowered version for yourself. You don’t have to keep running a script that does not support you.
Your Homunculus will continue to look for meaning. Just make sure you question the stories you tell yourself and that those stories are exactly what you want.
Your audience will be making up their own stories about you and what they see on screen. You have no control over this. All they see is their own storytelling, their own mental constructs, distortions, or filters of you, so their opinions (or criticisms) in a realistic sense don’t hold any serious weight.
Full Confession Technique (FCT)
2. Go Hands-on. Connect with the Lens
Hold your filming device in your hands and use the forward-facing camera function.
To test your level of openness, record yourself performing the following activities. The ones that you feel the most uncomfortable are exactly the ones you need to overcome.
Record this session and watch the playback.
- Press record and lock eyes with the lens, not yourself
- Walk around, keeping your eyes on the lens.
- To get you out of your head, free-associate as you speak, the less sense you make the better
- Talk to the lens. Teach it as if you were educating a child, a friend, a client
- Share your ideas, dreams, or goals
- Confess to the camera your biggest fears and insecurities
- Allow the camera lens to see your vulnerabilities and feelings.
- Be completely open with it, yell, get mad, cry, dance in front of it, pull faces, let yourself go.
When you allow the camera to capture your uncensored emotions and expressions several things may happen:
Firstly, Your “critical voice” may kick in and bring all of your inhibitions, insecurities, and hangups to the surface, which is exactly what you want;
- The idea here is to shine a light on them with your awareness without resisting or reacting to them. Just allow and be present with the feelings and thoughts that spring up.
- Make a note of them and then examine the reality of them
- Are they facts (i.e. gravity, physics) or are they your opinions? Remember your opinions are judgments, they are not facts. If it’s not a fact then it’s not based in reality, it’s pure storytelling. A construct made up in the mind.
- Often thoughts tell lies and you don’t have to believe your thoughts Your belief gives them power and that can throw you off your game (for coaching strategies to overcome negative thoughts out my coaching service here).
Secondly, you’ll actually form a more “intimate” connection with the camera lens, because you’ve now freely done things in front of it that you would probably never have done in front of another person without the fear of being laughed at or quietly judged.
By making the video camera become an extension of your body, a part of your experience, you’ve formed a bond. It’s like sharing little secrets that only you and the lens will ever know, it keeps you in present moment awareness.
In the future, you’ll feel more comfortable and less self-conscious in front of the camera.
“It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be bargained with…it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear…and it absolutely will not stop. — The Terminator
Your Camera, the Best Listener Ever
Your camera won’t;
- Interrupt you or attempt to make you wrong
- Criticize or judge you
- Get distracted, or check its cell phone
- Break its connection with you, and start scanning the room
- Get bored or restless
- Zone out while you speak
Like a machine, it will not stop. It will never quit on you (well maybe its battery life will quit after a while … but you get the point)!
That mindset is what you want to adopt when you are filming your video presentations. Turn things around psychologically.
The camera is there to capture the essence of you, your expressiveness, your thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Unconditionally.
Cheering you with your video creations!
Established in 2006 Bianca Te Rito, founder of STEBIAN.com provides an exclusive, consulting service helping business thought leaders, speakers, award-winning authors & VIPs productize their thought leadership and present themselves, their products, services, or brand message to their target audience in the most effective way possible on video. Get the tailored expertise from a real-world operator with over 20 years of TV/Film industry experience working in front of and behind the camera. Learn more about our custom offers here.