Hands up who cringes when they hear their own voce

I can help with that, but it comes with good news and bad news.

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When we put ourselves in front of the camera or the mic, and speak directly to viewers and listeners, we transmit a bit of our personality and our presence. You’d be forgiven for thinking about – or being distracted by – how you come across.

Here are some questions to ask of that version of yourself you hear back:

  • Do you like the version of yourself that you’re presenting?
  • Would you hang out with that version of yourself?
  • Does that person reflect who you truly are or who you want to be?

If you answered “no” to any of these, I’ve got you.

This came up while I was recording my morning show. I tried video for a day but it changed the tone of what I was doing, and added an element of distraction. Instead of sitting casually in front of the mic, closing my eyes and thinking deeply, I found myself distracted by whether the lighting was right or how unruly my hair was.

To do work that reflects the best version of ourselves, we need to be genuine. That means coming from a place of safety and security, free of self-consciousness and the constant worry about how we look or sound. But it also takes self-awareness, so there’s a crucial balance to be struck between the two: self-awareness and self-consciousness.

The good news is you can find this balance over time. The bad news is it involves watching or listening to yourself repeatedly. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, I absolutely sympathise, but one reason it might make you cringe is because you’re presenting a version of yourself you don’t fully identify with.

Homer Simpson speaking into a tape recorder

Over time, and with practice, the gap between our on-mic/off-mic personas shrinks, until the version of yourself you present to the world is closer to the one you live with… just turned up a little.

Not everyone is going to like you. What a relief.

While some say “it’s OK that not everyone likes you”, I say it’s essential. Think about how many people in the world have a viewpoint you vehemently disagree with. Do you want them to like you? Or more to the point: do you care if they don’t?

Part of the self-awareness/self-consciousness balance is knowing – and embracing – the fact that you’re not for everyone. Start by being for yourself before being for others.

The word “for” is doing some heavy lifting here. You don’t have to fully be yourself, but a version of your best self that’s dialled up a notch. Maybe Date Night version of you rather than the watching-Netflix-on-the-sofa version. And you only need to sustain it for as long as the mic’s live.

The advice to “be yourself” is bogus, and is only going to slide you into self-consciousness. So just show up in the way that makes you the most relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the more you’ll drop your guard, and the more we’ll see the wonderful, genuine, unique person we love.

And now the tricky part

I listen back to my morning show every day to keep an ear on the quality – not to berate myself for going off-piste or repeating myself, but to gently remind myself what I like, and thus what I should lean into, or what’s missing that needs to be sprinkled in.

So my invitation to you is to look back at your most recent piece of on-mic or on-camera work. Ask yourself those key questions up top:

  • Do you like this version of myself?
  • Would I hang out with them?
  • Do they reflect the best parts of myself?

I promise you, the more you practice, the more relaxed you’ll get, and the more you’ll meet that person, and the less you’ll cringe at the mere sight of them.

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