See and Hear Yourself


“I’m trying to shut off the video, Aileen, so that I don’t have to look at myself”

We were starting a coaching conversation via skype – you know how you see yourself in the small box on screen as well as the person you are skyping with? My client was trying to close it so she didn’t have to look at herself. Hmm…..I said “Isn’t that the whole idea though. We’re coaching so you can take a look at yourself and at your life?” We both laughed and my client relaxed into our conversation and to seeing herself on screen.

A few weeks ago, another client shared with me that she found it difficult to listen to herself on audio recordings. She wasn’t comfortable hearing her own voice. Interesting then that her work involves speaking in front of groups. “If you’re not comfortable to listen to yourself, how will people listen to you when you put your voice into the world?” I asked her and suggested a homework assignment to record and listen to her own voice until she was comfortable to do so.

I can relate to both these clients. I’ve been there. I didn’t used to like to see myself on screen either – do I really look like that? And I didn’t used to like to hear my voice on the recordings I did when coaching tele-class groups either.  I got over both by making myself look at and listen to my disembodied face and voice as transmitted on screen and in audio. I trained myself to do both from a place of curiosity – almost as if I didn’t know who I was, what I looked like or how I sounded. Hmm…I thought….that’s me!

One of the great gifts of coaching is that your coach becomes that mirror, or that audio playback, so that you CAN hear yourself; so that you CAN look at yourself and shift from being shy, afraid, unconfident about how you show up in the world, to being comfortable, accepting and appreciative that you are who you are. It’s a great practice for letting go of your inner critic and for becoming aware of the self-judgements which might be holding you back from being all that you are.

John O’Donohue, one of my favourite sources of good old celtic inspiration, has a great audio where he says that “no-one ever sees their own face” and the first time I heard this, it really made me think. It’s true. There’s no physical way that we can actually see our own face. We can only ever appreciate how we look through a reflection in a mirror, or a photograph. So take a look at yourself on screen. It’s not even really your true face. It’s a distortion via the technology. Why be so afraid of it? How might you appreciate it as only one version of the multi-faceted and amazing human being you are. Really look into the reflection with curiosity and wonder. Do you recognise this face reflected back at you? What do you see when you really look into her eyes? Pay attention to how you are studying your reflection too. I make myself do this from time to time. Looking for the parts of me I recognise and the parts that perhaps I’ve been ignoring. And more interestingly I look at how the face reflected back at me is changing and is very different sometimes from what I remember.

And I do the same now when listening to my own recorded voice. I wonder who is it who is speaking? What is it this voice is putting into the world? What can I learn from it as I listen?

There’s a kind of magical quality to looking and listening to yourself through the filters of a mirror, a computer screen or audio speakers. Welcome and embrace it. Imagine not knowing the person you are seeing or hearing. What can you learn by doing so? How does your self-awareness and self-perception shift? Can you move from being critical of what you see and hear, to being in love with the beauty and wisdom of your own face and voice.

If YOU don’t trust yourself to see and hear yourself in the world, how will others ever be able to find you? 


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Aileen Gibb
My work has taken me around the globe and to conversations with people from many different nationalities, cultures and organisations. Wherever I've gone, the power of real conversation, founded on intentional listening and enlightened questioning, has been welcomed. It’s a core piece of our humanity to create the space for conversations that matter and to build connection and meaning with members of our family, our business and our communities.