Feeling judged by others is an experience with which most of us are familiar. Your body type, politics, and sexuality are only some of the reasons that people might pass judgment. Even well-intentioned family and friends may look down upon us if we are not living our lives in accordance with their beliefs. I have faced skepticism and judgment many times in my life. I am an openly gay man who earns his living as a professional psychic and life coach. I am pretty sure Mitt Romney would have given me an aggressive haircut in a headlock if we'd gone to high school together.
Whether I am explaining how I see auras, giving psychic readings to clients, or introducing my husband David to others, I realize that my life may seem a little unusual. Because I am intuitive, I acutely feel people's judgment, but I do my best to rise above it. Recently, I was honored to be a guest on Dr. Phil. The focus of the show was psychic phenomena, and of course not all audience members would believe in our work.
"Is that a banana muffin?" David asks hopefully as we enter the dressing room. My husband is scoping the room like it's a suite at the Four Seasons. As I pace back and forth, anxious thoughts ricochet through my brain: You'd better call a name out of thin air; you have to prove yourself, Mister!
"They brought bagels! And a free mug! We have a private bathroom! Fun!"
"Can we focus for just a second here?" I snap at David. I get a little tense before appearing on television.
"Sorry, you're going to be great," he sweetly replies, taking a bite of muffin.
Dr. Phil's team of producers is pretty amazing. They glide in and out of rooms prepping for the show. Everyone has a cheerful demeanor and is quite dedicated to making the show's guests feel welcome. Their professionalism is reassuring, but I can still feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins.
Just before a daytime talk show starts, there is a strange ritual. All the featured guests are lined up in a hallway. We are asked to stand in a certain order, the same order that we will sit onstage. People with clipboards do a brief outline of the entire hour, and in my case we are specifically given little to no information. As the breakdown of the show is explained, our makeup and hair is touched up; it all feels very surreal.
"Dougall, several people in the audience will stand during Segment 2. You will then give them readings and try to connect with their life issues." As the producer reads through the outline, she only gives us vague content, so as to ensure that we know nothing about the other guests. I stop listening to her after she finishes giving me notes. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. In that moment I focus on my mantra: Just be yourself.
We are guided from our dressing rooms to the stage, and I shake hands with Dr. Phil before taking my seat. There are hundreds of people in the audience, and I can feel the energy coming from them. Video begins to play on the screens behind us, explaining to the audience what each of us does as professionals. Dr. Phil's team was fairly representing both believers and nonbelievers. The rational part of my brain understands that this made perfect sense. The insecure, inner child in my brain kept screaming, "We can still leave! Take the free Dr. Phil mug and go home!"
Onstage I sat with three colleagues whom I highly respect: numerologist Glynis McCants, intuitive coach and life strategist Colette Baron-Reid, and medium Rebecca Rosen. Sitting in the audience was another invited guest, James Underdown. Jim is a well-known skeptic. In my opinion, nothing we said could have changed Jim's mind. He was steadfast in his opinion that psychics are all fakes.
I think skepticism is quite healthy. It protects us from getting taken advantage of and can spark meaningful conversations about what we believe. I was hoping to have this kind of conversation with Jim, but what ensued felt like a verbal tennis match of opinions. Throughout the show Jim would roll his eyes judgmentally. At one point he mouthed the words "that's pathetic" while we were giving readings. I could feel his disapproval, and I chafed at the idea that he thinks I take advantage of people. Then a thought popped into my mind: Why do you care what he thinks? This may be a televised, public forum, but at the end of the show your loving husband will be waiting for you in the dressing room (probably looking for more mugs).
There will always be another judgmental "Jim" around the corner, but what he thinks of me is not important. I will continue to follow my destiny by helping people realize their own destinies. I will teach the power of meditation, prayer, and intuition. The best that I can do is to just be my most authentic self.
After the show we were all brought backstage to have our mics removed. I was obsessed with meeting Jim. I wanted to shake his hand. I wanted to make eye contact with him.
"Jim! C'mon, let's have a moment," I said as I reached out my hand.
He laughed and took my hand in return. "You're not bad people," he said.
He looked different back stage. He seemed more human. More real. Less aggressive.
I think we are all faced with skeptics and people who are quick to judge, some more than others. Many people don't approve of what I do for a living or whom I choose to marry. You may be faced with defending your life, your beliefs, your politics, or who you are. It's easy in those moments to engage in an argument. Our voices can become so loud that neither side is heard. But there is another option: Stand tall, be in your grace, and most importantly, be your most authentic self.
©Article courtesy of Dougall Fraser and originally ran on The Huffington Post. Dougall Fraser appeared on The Dr. Phil Show on May 25, 2012 on the episode titled "Inside the Other Side." Photo courtesy of CBS Television Distribution/Peteski Productions. All rights reserved.