Show Up and Shine: Episode 5 – The Dorothy May Podcast is now LIVE!
The Podcast all about finding your authentic voice, overcoming your fears of public speaking, and exclusive tips and tricks on how to become a fantastic public speaker
Joining me on today’s episode is Dorothy May. She is a multi-talented musician who got her Bachelor’s degree through the prestigious Victorian College of the Arts, a vocal teacher, stand-up comedy facilitators and an activist working to raise awareness around misplaced people in detention centres and survivors of sexual assault.
She’s a vocalist, ukulelist, guitarist and pianist, who can add colour to the atmosphere with folk-pop, bring romance with soulful ballads and create a revolution with the classics. She takes us to the core of what music is all about, human connection.
In this episode with Dotty, you’ll hear:
- Her desire to live a life where she expresses herself freely and encourages others to do the same drives her in her everyday life
- How she uses the principles of stand up comedy to support people in learning to build confidence on stage
- How she helps her vocal students strip back the layers of ‘pretence’ and ‘deflective humour’ to nurture and encourage their serious creative and artistic identities
Now, let’s welcome our guest, Dorothy May.
Read the show notes below:
Bec: Hey Dotty, it’s great to have you on here.
Dotty: So nice to be here. Thank you so much.
Bec: We met online maybe about a year ago. You reached out and you were connecting with like-minded people who’ve got similar energy and, and I thought it was awesome because when I looked at your stuff, I was like “Oh yeah, she’s so shiny, awesome and big-hearted”. And I could see why we would gel and now we’re finally chatting.
I’m excited that people are going to hear your beautiful story and learn about your beautiful heart for people. However, before we dive in, let’s start with a celebration. What has been your highlight of the day?
Dotty: That’s a great question. The highlight of my day has been taking things slowly. It has been so nice to go at my body’s natural rhythm and not push myself too much today and just wind down for the holiday break.
Bec: It’s so important to focus on your body’s rhythm because we live in a world that is so busy. Especially when you’re trying to get your things out online, create content and change people’s perspectives. There’s always a hundred million things that you want to be doing, but to take the time to listen to yourself is the best thing. Yeah. I agree.
I grew up in a small town in Victoria called, Nagambie which is a wine region. It’s a little town, with lots of wineries around there.
Bec: And where does this drive to help people connect with their unique power and express themselves fully come from?
Dotty: I think I found myself in the kind of work that I do by following my own healing path. Probably a lot of people would relate to the fact that we find ourselves doing work that influences us as well as others. As it offering me something in my own growth at the same time as I’m extending to help others.
Bec: So following your healing path and, and learning those things that you have to learn personally, and then helps you show up to help other people. Were you always an expressive child growing up in Nagambie.
Dotty: Yeah, actually. And it’s funny you say that because I was having a chat with a friend today about the fact that I was such a chatty kid. I would just talk everyone’s ear off. If we went down to the shop or something, I’d be best friends with the cashier. I’d make friends with everybody and wouldn’t shut up essentially. And I think that’s great because I’ve stayed true to that part of my personality.
Bec: And was that something that your family was big at allowing? Did they encourage you to express yourself and to have a chat?
Dotty: The story of my growing up is quite a multifaceted one as, as is everybody’s I think. I’m quite open about talking about the complexities of it and the paradox of my upbringing because there were many beautiful elements to it.
There was also a lot of childhood trauma interlaced in that.
One of the lovely qualities that my mother had was that she was a very big, vivacious, colourful personality in large groups of people. She would always push me to be expressive and colourful and creative. Even down to the clothes that I would wear, she would make clothes to me. And if I wanted to wear sequins and feathers and fluff, then she would make me clothes that were that’s so nice.
We’d also have family friends over and I’d perform in the living room and they allowed that. Maybe not everyone’s parents allow their children to do that.
Bec: There’s people who are listening in my audience who don’t come from an artistic or performing arts background, like you and I do. A lot of them have shared that they were shushed or they had to been told “don’t stand out” or “be quiet”. And that really affects the amount of trust they have in their voice and the power that they feel in how they are allowed to show up and express themselves.
So as adults, it’s been harder for them to overcome some of the blocks that have been there. Even though they know that finding out what they believe, sharing their truth and their message as business owners is really going to help them be visible.
Dotty: I can definitely understand that. While I had a very encouraging space in some aspects, in other ways I was actually silenced. I experienced childhood sexual abuse by my father growing up and was silenced in that experience.
So on one hand I was this very expressive outward personality. And then in my inner world, I was very trapped and very isolated in that experience. I think that it’s that polarity that allows me to understand what it is to be silenced while also knowing what it is to be free. And it’s these two extremes that I try to marry and find a nice balance and healing space in the middle.
Bec: That’s so incredible. Thank you so much for sharing that powerful experience of your life. And you said it so beautifully about understanding the two worlds; the inner world of being silenced then the outer experience of being promoted to be expressive. I can see how that really would feed into your work now as an EFT practitioner for survivors of sexual abuse, and as a teacher when you’re teaching people how to use their voice and find their authentic voice.
Dotty the voice teacher
Bec: I’m also a teacher and I know that finding your voice in the vocal class is about learning how to be vulnerable. It’s about helping people get past masks that they may put on when they’re trying to be more confident in the presence of learning something new. Whether it’s “the funny girl mask” which allows them to make jokes and deflect discomfort you’re great at creating a safe space for people to take this off.
One of your students, Georgia, says “You call it singing lessons. I call it surprise therapy!” And she said that you’re a brilliant and patient teacher. And she’s so thankful to have you as a mentor, as she’s stepped into the terrifying world of singing. As someone quick to throw themselves behind the shield of a funny girl, she’s excited to be developing this new facet of herself as a super-serious creative. Talk to me about how you help your students develop into this super serious creative type.
Dotty: I think the voice is such a vulnerable place to express yourself from and I know for myself, I’ve had a lot of trauma and things that I had to work through in this space. I understand how fragile and sensitive this part of us is. Therefore, the way I engage my lessons in my students is with an openness to hold space for them, which is very similar to the healing work that I do, because really it’s about growth.
I want my students to feel safe and comfortable to be at their most vulnerable because from that place we can build on that and we can build true confidence and true self-belief. Of course, it’s a lot harder to do that. If you aren’t able to hold space for the student to be vulnerable, because they need to be able to make mistakes, they need to be able to have those moments of weakness and not feel like they’re being judged or it defines them or what they’re capable of.
That rawness is the best place for us to start
And I think that it’s your starting place that really influences the ending place. It really influences how far you can go, because when a student does feel really safe to be themselves to make mistakes, to be true, then they also feel comfortable enough to take risks and comfortable enough to really push themselves and see how far they can go.
So that’s a bit of the ethos of how I like to teach. And the rest is technical expertise and actually doing the exercises and running the sessions.
Bec: Beautiful. Giving the person the space to make mistakes so that they can be able to take risks. That’s so important. For the business people listening to this podcast, it’s exactly the same. When you have to launch something new or put a new offer out, or even pick up the phone to talk to someone you’ve never talked to before, you need to give yourself that space and compassion.
Dotty, it sounds like you’re really compassionate and interested in understanding the humanity of someone. So, we need to give that to ourselves if we’re freelances or if we work in small business.
Dotty: Definitely. I agree. It’s almost easier to do for others than it is for ourselves. I find, but I think I also love the work that I do and part of the reason why I do so, um, why my work is so diverse and why I’m constantly pushing myself in how I’m working with artists is because when I’m giving that to somebody else, I’m educating myself on how I can hold space for me. So, you know, some people work in the opposite way where they don’t give to themselves first and then they’ll give to others. But I know that for my personality, I learned how to take better care of myself when I take care of somebody else. And that’s why I work in that way.
Bec: “Take better care of yourself when you take care of other people”. I resonate so much with that because I’m an extrovert. So I tend to process things out loud, ask a lot of questions, come together in a group and that’s how I can find the answers. So is it similar for you?
Dotty: I would say mine differs, but I love that. I love that variation because we’re all different.
I think my process comes from a permission thing. I often struggle with permission, but once I give somebody else the gift of anything and I see how much it benefits them, but not only them, me and then everybody around them it affirms to me that I can give myself permission to have whatever gift I’m giving other people.
I think that’s really important because I think we’re talking about growth, expansion, success and being beautiful, magnificent and brilliant. You know, these are a lot of things that I have to say. I feel like majority of society do struggle with giving themselves and each other permission to be. I find that it’s so affirming if I can do that for somebody else and then really be in it with them and go “Yeah, no, I deserve this too. And we all do”. It makes me feel a little bit more liberated and affirmed in that shared space. I’m all about building a community all around me where we can all be fabulous!
Bec: I love that.
Building a community where we can all be fabulous
And that takes me to my next question about the comedy work that you facilitate. You’ve got some courses and you run stand-up comedy workshops. Talk to me about that, because that seems like a really cool community-building exercise where you’re getting to practice the philosophy you’ve just talked about now. I want to know how it allows for the liberation and freedom of people to express themselves.
Dotty: I absolutely love it. I fell in love with comedy when I was little watching “The Nanny”. It was her ridiculousness that I loved. I then discovered stand-up comedy in the Brisbane area about five years ago and started watching stand-up comedy nights while I was going through a rough patch. I was using comedy as a way to get through and laugh at life and find the likeness in life. I was trying to free myself from the darkness. Then I started writing comedy a lot and it gave me this beautiful form of expression where I could laugh in the face of anything that was challenging me. It really helped my resilience.
And from there, I realized how much of a superpower that is and became obsessed. I haven’t been able to separate myself from it since.
The Humour Experiment
Since then I’ve created an organization called “The Humour Experiment” and it’s taken lots of different forms in terms of adults that play and engage in games to make each other laugh. It’s taken a form of improvisation and clowning and in the last couple of years, it’s moved into the standup comedy space. That’s because the participants I was engaging with were saying “We want to do stand up. We want to do stand-up”.
I’ve always loved stand-up comedy and it was a great opportunity for me to sit back and do a bit of investigating and study what these particular comedies are that are used universally across the board.
I came at many different techniques and I was able to break them down into a teachable format so that I can teach anybody how to use them, and essentially empower them to able to be funny and to apply that to their own stories that they want to tell. And so they can create their own standup comedy. I teach that and I run free workshops for people to try it out. And after that, I run an eight-week stand-up comedy course where people can learn these techniques, develop their own 10 minutes of material, be supported in that process all the way through, and then get to perform it on the eighth week.
Bec: I can hear a lot of people sitting at home going “Oh my gosh! Stand-up comedy is one of the seemingly hardest things that you could do.” And you’re getting people through this process and they’re telling their stories. And then at the end of it, they’re performing it. It’s huge!
Dotty: Apparently most people fear public speaking more than death. For some people, it’s more like a bucket list thing. And for others, they want to explore that part of themselves and see where it can take them. And what’s really cool is that you know, a lot of people do the course and realize they’re really talented in that space and they can keep going with it. They then work towards creating their own show. It’s very exciting.
Bec: And do you find that as the weeks progress, the people you’re working with are developing more confidence and coming back to you with stories about how that’s impacted other parts of their life? I’m talking one on one conversations or talking to the cashier at the register. I think they probably have a lot more confidence to be more present and spontaneous in their everyday life!
Dotty: A hundred percent. I mean, if you can stand in front of a crowd of a hundred people and be amazing, what can’t you do really? It’s quite an empowering thing. It’s wonderful to see. And, you know, it’s so exciting to watch those that come in more shy expand into that space.
There was one of those students in particular who was very nervous in the weeks leading up to the show. However during our run-through before the show, she completely came into her own expression and was even loud. She massively dropped in and felt into this thing and was so expressive and playful. And essentially came to life at that moment. And it’s magnificent and beautiful to watch somebody do the work!
Bec: It’s so liberating to hear this. We talked earlier about how as adults society doesn’t really give us permission to be magnificent or to give ourselves all the affirmations that we find easy to give to our students.
So people can find that through a facilitation process. And the bigger picture is that as adults, we’ve all forgotten how to play. It’s like the movie “Hook” when Peter Pan goes back to Neverland as this stuffy old adult. He was once this kid who was a fearless leader who would play and take risks and then he’s not that any more, he has to rediscover that.
That’s why I think the comedy work and the work that you’re doing to facilitate this process with people is helping them get back to that inner child. And that helps them to remember those playful things. I am a real advocate for staying in touch with your playfulness. It’s part of my values in life and in business to operate from a place of zest. To have fun and be in touch with that. And I think it’s such a gift that you give people when you’re facilitating that.
Dotty: I think so. I feel that. I do everything I do for myself at the end of the day, and I’m not ashamed to say that. Do you know what I mean? I don’t think that’s selfish. I think that’s self-full. Like I think if you do the work that makes you light up. It’s for me as much as it is for anybody else. And so I do feel that when, when the participants are growing and shining bright, it’s it brightens me. I still directly correlated with my experience. I one hundred percent agree with what you’re saying,
Bec: Because when you’re experiencing that, then you’re taking that out to the groups of people that you’re around and that’s affecting them, and then they’re taking that out to the world and it’s a ripple effect. I can see how you say it’s self full rather than selfish. And I think that’s a beautiful reframe that we need to remember. A lot of people need to remember. I do as well!
Tell me about pre-stage routines. You’re on stage a lot and you help people get up on stage or express themselves. What is the sort of nitty-gritty techniques that you might share with them before they’re going to come out on stage and share themselves?
Dotty: I think there are a few things I think being warm is really important. So if you’re doing a performance of really physically dynamic you want to get out during the day and have gone for a walk. Maybe a run and do exercise so that you’re ready to go and you’re ready to be physically dynamic on stage.
If it’s a vocal performance, I’ll always warm up. I’ll make sure that my voice is a smooth as butter. So it’s ready to go and do anything because then I can not dry me, you know?
In terms of nerves and stage fright or anything like that, I find that visualization and rehearsal are so important. With the comedy students, on Sunday, we had a show and it was really important to us, for them to actually be on the stage and be visualizing.
They’re walking around on stage, visualizing everybody in the room and doing their material in a way that’s anticipating that presence. That’ so that when people do actually enter the room and then they’re doing the performance later on that day, they’ve already ‘been there and you can kind of play that really positive mind trick, which is “I’ve already done this. I know how to do this. I did this earlier”.
Replicating the environment of performance as much as possible is so important for managing that and feeling ready and confident.
Bec: What are some tips that you have if they haven’t seen the room? Or if there’s a business owner listening to this who has to do a presentation at a networking event; say a15-minute spot and they’ve never been to the venue before.
What’re some tips that you’d give?
Dotty: There are a few different things. I think being able to visualize it is really important. So even if you haven’t been to the venue, there might be a website where you can check out the venue and you can imagine yourself in that place. And be prepared! So knowing what you’re going to say and having a plan is huge. I’m big on having a plan and then throwing it in the bin at the moment.
I think that that’s a self-loving thing to do.
Dotty the advocate
Bec: You’re working with the emotional freedom technique as well. So when you’re working with your group of survivors of sexual abuse, you’re using the tool of emotional freedom technique. And I don’t know if people are familiar with that. So if you want to give us a bit of a rundown of that technique and I can see how that would be really useful for people who are about to get on stage and as a way to manage the nerves.
Dotty: Yeah, definitely. EFT is really cool. It, it draws from different modalities, such as NLP coaching, acupuncture and mindfulness (and several other modalities). It’s a sequence of tapping that you follow through the body. You’re tapping on meridians in the body in order to help relieve the nervous system and get your energy flowing freely. And so removing blockages throughout the body. It’s really beautiful for moving through fears and doubts and stress and anxiety.
Bec: I like to think of it as a pattern interrupter. So especially if you are in your mind a lot – up in your head, right before you’re going to do something, you’ve got to these thoughts:
“don’t screw it up”
“what if this happens”
“I’m going to forget this”
It’s a really good pattern interrupter because you’re actually giving yourself permission to vocalise these fears. When you set up the EFT to express all of the things that are in your brain and you simply say them it kind of diffuses the size of how impactful it feels in the moment. “A problem shared is a problem halved”.
Dotty: So it’s all good. It forces us in a gentle way to accept what is so that we can move through it. Because what we don’t realize is we learn how to resist problems. We get really good at resisting everything, but there’s that great saying that “what we resist persists” and it’s so true. And so to actually move through and get to the other side of anything, we need to first accept it for it to move through us. And more often than not just the simple act of acceptance is all that our being needs to actually move on. And yet we resist. It’s just bizarre with some funny human beings. I love it. I also struggle with it. And so it’s a great tool to use.
Bec: Yeah. Oh, that’s awesome. And tell us how that’s impacting the women and men that you work with when you’re being an advocate and holding space for them moving through their experience of trauma.
Dotty: It’s been very powerful. In the meetings that I run for survivors of sexual assault, not everybody has to engage in the EFT at the end. We’ll do the meeting and then for anybody that wants to stay afterwards for EFT, they can. I think it’s really important to give people the option. They don’t have to do it if they’re not feeling comfortable. It’s such a beautiful modality and they always benefit so much from that. It’s soothing and calming more than anything else.
We tend to focus on strengthening the spirit, um, soothing and nourishing the self. And the tapping really does soothe and regulate the nervous system so that everybody can kind of leave feeling more calm and reassured and stable and in a good place because sometimes those topics can be challenging. And that being said, the groups will be taking a different format from now on because I’m actually stepping away from running the meetings because the businesses that I’m running are growing. I can’t do everything!
It’s still my baby, but I’m sharing the baby.
Bec: It’s a great way to put it.
Dotty: One of our lovely participants is taking that role now of leading those meetings and she’ll have her own way in front of guys. She brings a lot of experience to the plate as well, in terms of being a survivor counselling skills.
Bec: That’s really wonderful work, Dotty. I could talk to you all day and there are just topics that we haven’t even touched on that I’d really love to have you back on the podcast to talk about, you know, your advocacy work. We’ve had a great conversation and I know that people listening are really super busy and they’ve got their own agendas too.
Where can we find you if people want to connect with you?
Dotty: The best place to find me is at www.dorothymay.online and the website will guide you in the right directions for the other projects and work that I’m doing.
Bec: Dotty it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing your story, sharing your tips and experience with us, and let’s do it again soon.