OPINION: ZOOM makes me overly critical of myself


Audrey Korte

The ZOOM profile pic and ZOOM reality are vastly different.

The last 13 months have been … well, you know. You lived it. Though I am never at a loss for words and still carry many strong opinions about the world we live in, lately, I am so exhausted and stressed out that stringing coherent sentences together isn’t coming so easy. And that’s not the only trouble that round-the-clock stress and sleep deprivation cause me. 

There’s one thing that keeps happening – the more tired I am, the more overwhelmed, the more critical I become about myself. You’d think it would be the opposite – that stress would make me more willing to give myself a break. 

Unfortunately, that’s not how my brain works. One thing I am critical of, especially on the off days, is how I look on Zoom.

It’s not especially important; I don’t lose sleep over it. It doesn’t make my heart race the way other stressors do. However, that thought keeps popping into my head no matter how many positive mantras I repeat or how much I want to think about more important things.

“You’re a mess. You look awful,” the inner dialogue begins. 

Yes, it’s true. I hate how I look on Zoom most days.

At the beginning of the semester, I made extra time to make sure the room looked presentable. I made sure to look professional, and even on the roughest and most rushed days, I looked presentable. 

Then one thing led to another. Soon I was on Zoom with no makeup, no hairspray. One day I was actually sitting on the floor as well. Now at the time, I felt like it didn’t matter. Everyone would live, and I definitely needed to cut myself a break. 

But later that day and that week and even now, what do I think about? 

How horrible I looked. 

I have let the inner critic run free. It’s ruined my confidence and made me irritable.

Now I could rant about social conditioning and how we’re taught as kids to find self-worth from how attractive we look. Our praise is too frequently appearance-based, especially for girls, which affects us as grown women without a doubt.

I definitely carry that with me. It doesn’t get easier as I get older and wider. 

More and more, I see this in the ways my brain tries to sabotage my progress. Too often lately, my mind’s saying: ‘you look awful.’ ‘Why haven’t you lost more weight yet?’ And ‘you should spend more time getting ready and working on your virtual presentation’ or people will find you repulsive. 

Now my response is typically to tell myself to be smarter than that. 

‘Aren’t you supposed to be a feminist or something? Get it together and stop worrying about meaningless crap,’ about sums up the inner dialogue here. 

I get upset with myself for feeling those things instead of showing myself some patience and love. 

But it feels as if I’ve failed twice at that point, first, by looking “terrible” and second, when I catch myself feeling that way and begin to criticize myself more. 

Though I am embarrassed to admit these deficiencies to all of you, here I am, letting you know, it bothers me. Because I know I’m not the only one of us who’s having these inner conversations. I know others are critical of the way they look or sound on camera, and it’s happening in a year when most of us are rolling solo round the clock. We lack guidance and compassion from friends.

So I guess my question for myself is – why is my best not enough? Why do I judge my worth on these surface levels when deep down, I know I’ve done more and gone further and worked harder than many would in the same position? 

And if I looked good, if I saw myself and thought, ‘hey, I look good today!’, would that have been enough to make me feel better and more successful? Because my guess is that’s precisely the case. And it shouldn’t be. Not for me and not for you.

Are you, too, hating yourself because you can’t escape the video version of yourself? Because you don’t like the sound of your own voice or how much you weigh or how your teeth look? Well, I am here to tell you three things. 1. Stop it 2. You’re inspirational 3. You truly aren’t alone. 

I purpose we have a Zoom purge this fall — like burning your bra but less smokey. I think it would be cathartic to just throw out all those reminders of a year of inadequacy.

Because what I want and what I want for all of you is to feel proud and strong and beautiful. Because those feelings really can help you get to the other side of hard times. I look forward to the day when I don’t care how I look on Zoom because I know in my head and heart that I am a star.