Having Image Issues in a Video Call World

BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.

People with BDD can dislike any part of their body, although they often find fault with their hair, skin, nose, chest, or stomach. In reality, a perceived defect may be only a slight imperfection or nonexistent. But for someone with BDD, the flaw is significant and prominent, often causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning.

– Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA

Lately I’ve been feeling fatigued by all the images of Zoom meetings and online events constantly flashing on my Facebook and Twitter. And thinking of possibly having to organise and host online programmes in the coming months is giving me anxiety earlier than necessary. Video calls and online conferences combine two things that I hate most: phone calls and how I look. While my condition is nowhere severe enough to be diagnosed with BDD (as in my issues with my body image doesn’t affect my daily function), I have been wondering lately if my negative self-view and self-hate will get worse the longer I have to work via VCs.

Let me tell you what my problem is with video calls. In a normal face-to-face situation and even over the phone, I can’t see myself. I don’t obsess as much over my facial appearance, cues, clothes, body size etc.. I become largely invisible to myself. Video calls however forces me to appear on screen, and even if I try as hard as I can to ignore that small square I cannot help but to glance at my image. It makes me conscious of how I look and respond, and having that image of me flashed alongside everyone in the meeting makes me automatically compare myself with everyone else. And I can’t help picking out every single flaw that I see on screen, making me even more conscious of my self-deemed ugliness, increasing my anxiety and destroying my self-confidence further. It makes me quieter. It makes me hate myself more and dread video calls further. And it’s not that easy to stop.

I’m lucky that I don’t actually have BDD and don’t actually have to make video calls that often at this moment. I just need to muster up all my energy and consciously try to ignore myself on screen when need arises. It makes me wonder though how would people with severe image issues deal with living in this kind of digital period.



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