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Doing it like Dolly - 6 ways to feel empowered and confident

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

When I watched the recent Dolly Parton documentary “Here I Am”, I felt so inspired by her life story and fascinated by what people said about her. The stand-out comment for me was from her friend Jane Fonda who said:

her life is the life of a feminist which means a woman who has fought to realise herself, to actualise her full self”.

Self-actualisation describes the fulfilment of your full potential as a person. Self-actualisation is at the top of the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow believed that people have an inborn desire to be self-actualised, that is, to be all they can be. To achieve this ultimate goal, however, a number of more basic needs must be met. This includes the need for food, safety, love, and self-esteem.

Dolly Parton has overcome adversity and reached the top of this pyramid. What an achievement. She has broken so many glass ceilings in the music business while still remaining true to herself. How does she do it?


Find the courage to be yourself

Dolly’s favourite song “Coat of Many Colours” about the coat her mom made for her out of rags, is about confidence, bullying, and acceptance. She says “it's ok to be different, it's ok not to be like everyone else, it's wonderful that you are who you are”. Jane Fonda says “Dolly is very conscious of self, she has created a mythic, iconic character entirely real, but enhanced" and describes her as being “more unique than anyone else”.

Refine Your Talent

Dolly has a unique voice, is a brilliant songwriter, and is a fantastic entertainer. Alongside this natural talent, she has interest, dedication, focus, and persistence. She’s been performing on stage since she was ten years old and has always wanted to stand out and be a star. Along the way she has honed her craft by learning from legends like Porter Wagoner, appearing on his TV show for 7 years, then moving on to get with different record labels and management. She can connect deeply to her audience and she is funny. Her creativity is astounding, she has written over 3000 songs. In 2019 she celebrated 50 years since performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. She says she knows what it is like to build a career and not have it handed to you.

Carve out your boundaries

Dolly has been married to Carl Dean for over 50 years, she met him early on in her career but Carl is rarely seen in public. At that time her producers didn’t want her to be married, so she kept her marriage a secret for a year to demonstrate to them that she could be successful and married. She knew early on that she would have to carve out boundaries before she got eaten alive. She foresaw in her career what she was going to have to do, to keep her sanity, privacy, and space.

Surround yourself with positive supportive people

Throughout her career, Dolly has developed strong working relationships with her session musicians and when she tours, her band has mainly been made up of family members. Lilly Tomlin and Jane Fonda, her co-stars in the film 9 to 5, talk about the camaraderie they had on and off set and how they used to laugh hard.

Make decisions that work for you

One of the best decisions Dolly Parton ever made in her life was not giving the copyright of the song “I will always love you” to Elvis Presley’s manager. It demonstrated her astuteness as a business woman. 20 years on, when Whitney Houston recorded it, it made Dolly $10 million in royalties. She learned how to stand up for herself early on in her career.

Don’t be pigeon-holed Dolly expresses herself in any way she feels like: as a country singer, crossing over to pop with the song “Here You Come again”, becoming an actress in the woman-led film 9 to 5, returning to her bluegrass roots, and even headlining the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Her ex-manager Sandy Gallin says “Dolly likes to move on”... “She only likes to chew her tobacco once”.

So if you want to channel your inner Dolly, please get in touch to discuss how coaching can help to increase your confidence, authenticity, and empowerment to help move you forward in life or career.


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