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A Singer’s Inner Work: The Enneagram

September 18, 2016

In the next few posts we’ll be diving deep into getting to know ourselves. Searching out our deeply held convictions, personality styles, motivations, and more. The idea being that the more you know about how you approach the world the stronger you will be in the face of life’s toughest experiences. Plus, a better understanding of your basic fears and desires can help you become more resilient in the march towards your goals. We’ll kick off this inner work research with The Enneagram.

A Singer's Inner Work | The Enneagram | Sybaritic Singer

The Enneagram

The Enneagram is comprised as a set of nine distinct personality types. Each number on the Enneagram symbol denoting one type. Your basic personality type stands out among the nine; but, it is normal to find your personality including a little of each of the nine types. [Note: The quotes in this post all come directly from the Enneagram Institute.]

Riso-Hudson Type Names

After taking the quiz, you’ll be giving a number and a one-word descriptor that helps categorize the different personality types. Those descriptors, in numerical order, include: The Reformer, The Helper, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Investigator, The Loyalist, The Enthusiast, The Challenger, The Peacemaker.

Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
Type Two is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.
Type Three is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.

You may already be able to see why having a better understanding of your basic personality type may give you insight into your musical career not to mention your day-to-day life.

What is so helpful about the Enneagram is the nuance and subtlety that it is able to parse out in each personality type. The 144 question test goes beyond just putting you into a specific dominant personality. It helps answer questions about the emotional center, the dominant emotion of each center, and the two personality types adjacent to your basic personality type.

Levels of Development

As part of your results, there is a section devoted to levels of development for your personality types. “That structure is the continuum of behaviors, attitudes, defenses, and motivations formed by the nine Levels of Development which make up the personality type itself.”

The Levels of Development provide a framework for seeing how all of the different traits that comprise each type fit into a large whole; they are a way of conceptualizing the underlying “skeletal” structure of each type. Without the Levels, the types can seem to be an arbitrary collection of unrelated traits, with contradictory behaviors and attitudes often part of the picture. But by understanding the Levels for each type, one can see how all of the traits are interrelated—and how healthy traits can deteriorate into average traits and possibly into unhealthy ones. As pioneering consciousness philosopher Ken Wilber has noted, without the Levels, the Enneagram is reduced to a “horizontal” set of nine discrete categories. By including the Levels, however, a “vertical” dimension is added that not only reflects the complexity of human nature, but goes far in explaining many different, important elements within personality.

After that section, you’ll read a bit about your direction of integration (growth) or direction of disintegration (stress.) This part helps us discover the shift in our personality when we’re experiencing growth or stress.

The Subtypes

Finally, you’ll look at your subtypes. The subtypes are split into three categories: self-preservation instinct, sexual instinct, and social instinct.

Which Instinct is in each of these three places—most, middle, and least developed—produces what we call our “Instinctual Stack” (like a three-layer cake) with your dominant Instinct on top, the next most developed Instinct in the middle, and the least developed on the bottom).

Show Your (Inner) Work

I was blown away with the results after taking my own Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator. As I was taking the questionnaire, there were certain questions when I felt, “ugh, these are the same to me. I can’t pick one over the other. I bet this won’t be very spot on when I finish.” Boy, was I wrong! The Levels of Development for my type was such an eye-opening process. One in which I kept saying, “Yes! Exactly!”

Divas, your inner work invitation for the day is to simply set aside the time and the $12 (I am not an affiliate or otherwise connected to this organization) it takes to go through the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator. Please feel free to share your thoughts and your types in the comments below. Or, as always, hit me up on Twitter! I’m @mezzoihnen.

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  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
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A Singer’s Inner Work: Healthy Striving vs Perfectionism

September 16, 2016

Brené Brown must simply be the American Woman’s foremost current authority on inner work. Her writing and speaking seems to be everywhere. Her thoughts on shame and acceptance declared and affirmed from blog posts to podcasts to Pinterest pins and beyond. With that much public affection, it can be easy for the psychospiritual-adverse among us to shy away from her ideas. But then, you read something like, “Healthy striving is self-focused: ‘How can I improve?’ Perfectionism is other-focused: ‘What will they think?'” Then, you start to feel the wisdom in her work.

A Singer's Inner Work | Healthy Striving vs Perfectionism | Sybaritic Singer

Perfectionism is Hindering Your Diva Life

So, we’re shining a light on our attitudes toward striving and perfectionism today. When you think about those words in the context of your life and your work, how do you feel? Does one term describe you better than the other? Can you feel where either one is more true in certain parts of your work?

What Will They Think?

Let’s turn to our friend and icon Martha Graham here, “What people in the world think of you is really none of your business.” In a career field that relies on gatekeepers as heavily as this one, it may be difficult to understand this point at first. “Of course I need to care about what other people think. They are the ones giving me the gig!” I understand that logic, but it will ultimately be unfulfilling. We cannot fully understand the people around us that we’ve known for decades. It is obvious, then, that we can never really know what strangers are thinking. We take their verbal and non-verbal information, process it through our own understanding, and then make assumptions based on that and call it their opinion instead of our own.

Ultimately, what other people think of you is none of your business. It is a confession of their own character. That reasoning applies in both directions, friends.

The creative path in this life will be so much more fulfilling and satisfying if we rid ourselves of the notion of needing someone else’s permission to live our professionally creative lives. Remember, you already ARE a singer. Everything after that is simply a jumble of different self-imposed metrics.

How Can I Improve?

Ridding ourselves of the notion that we need someone else’s permission to be professional singers seems to change the rules of the game a bit. “If I don’t have the reviewer from the Times say that I’m valuable…” or “If I don’t have the audition panel for that international competition say that I’m valuable…” or “If I don’t win that shiny trophy for my recordings to say that I’m valuable…”

“… how will anyone know?”

It does change the rules. Your inner work regarding healthy striving versus perfectionism will motivate you to realize that you aren’t clamoring for perfection in your craft in order to gain someone else’s permission to do it more. In fact, it will inspire you to realize that you work diligently at your craft because it is something that you deeply love and you’re searching for alignment in the world. The singing world isn’t actively against you. Truly, they want you to be the right fit for whatever project they’re pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into. Don’t wait, divas. Realize what is valuable about your artistry and then go into the world seeking alignment. Don’t only search for someone to tell you what they need you to be to fulfill their needs.

Show Your (Inner Work)

Think about the difference between what actions, steps, and goals you’ve brought into your life. Make two columns in your journal: ‘how I’m improving for myself’ and ‘goals I’ve chosen based on what other people will/do think.’ If you need some prompts to start thinking deeply, ask yourself:

  • Why did I go to school for music?
  • Why did I choose the school that I chose?
  • What repertoire do I work on and why?
  • What is the big goal that I’m working towards at the moment and why?

Perfectionism isn’t going to bring peace. It is a mythical finish line. More so, it is a through-line to anxiety and depression. When we make an active shift to healthy striving from perfectionism we are not negating our high expectations. We are saying that we’re ready to work in the face of fear. We are ready to try. We are ready to meet our own expectations with our work. Perfectionism means living in a world where we will never be enough. There will always be something wrong with us and our work. Healthy striving means adopting a change in our thinking that focuses on operating at our current best in every situation.

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“The Things I Miss”

September 15, 2016

I don’t miss explaining to people that singing is what I “really do for a living.” I don’t miss hotels and apartments. I don’t miss searching for places to eat that won’t make me sick.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I don’t miss the contrived fights I had with my wife in the days just before leaving the house, because I didn’t want to leave her again for two months. I don’t miss having to explain to my boys why I was leaving and that “I always come home.” I don’t miss how depressed I would be on the walk back to my hotel. I do not miss the night horrors.”

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer
I do miss going to lessons. I do miss opening a brand new score and unraveling the mystery. I miss many of my colleagues. Not all of them. I miss standing next to voices which made me cry and forced me to regain my composure during a performance.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I miss the electricity of the 20 minutes just before the curtain rises. I miss being in a dressing room where greatness once had their scores on the piano. I miss looking at the labels inside my costumes to see who else wore them. I miss my dressers and make up artists who gave me so much free therapy.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I miss belonging to such a marvelous phenomenon which gave my soul wings at times and brought me crashing to the ground at others.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I miss…..

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

by Frank Lopardo

A Singer’s Inner Work: Building Confidence

September 14, 2016

There she is again. She strides, practically floats, onto the stage and takes her place in the crook of the piano. She smiles warmly. Her body seems so at ease. It doesn’t look like her palms are sweating. It doesn’t look like she feels her heart about to burst out of her chest. She makes steady, but not awkwardly prolonged, eye contact with a few random listeners. She takes a calm, relaxed breath and then golden notes seem to come pouring out of her. She’s practically radiating confidence.

And you’re sitting there going, “Ugh. Why don’t I look and feel like that?”

A Singer's Inner Work | Building Confidence and Self-Esteem | Sybaritic Singer

Diva Confidence and Self-Esteem

Don’t worry, diva. You can learn to have confidence just like that. What is the key to building confidence? It is two-fold. The key to building confidence is to build skills and then recognize the skills you have built.

Building Skills

Personal achievement and valuable skills promote self-confidence. Confidence is built on the foundation of thousands of mini goals. Things that you can accomplish from day-to-day. Briefly think about the areas of your life in which you experience insecurity. “I feel insecure when trying to make new friends.” Or, “I feel insecure when I audition in front of strangers.” These are little red flags that turn your attention to areas in which you subconsciously recognize that you need to build your skills.

“I feel insecure in my ability to write my own cadenzas” is simply an invitation to do some research. After increasing your knowledge in the area by reading, listening, and doing the work in the practice room, you will feel unflappable the next time you approach those cadenzas. There are very few ways to build skills outside of actually doing the darn thing. So, think about how you can “audition your way” to more audition success. Also, “perform your way” to performing success. In all areas of your life, you need to do the thing to build skill at that thing. It doesn’t mean it is impossible to build skills outside of the crucible of actually doing it. But, you need to be strategically discerning which skill groupings are apparent in the area in which you want to feel more confident.

Volunteering, exercising, learning how to spend time alone, getting organized, and picking up a new hobby are all under the umbrella of building skill. They are all activities that help broaden your understanding of the world as well as your place in it. Each one of those helps you test yourself, physically, emotionally, and mentally, under new circumstances.

Recognizing Your Skills

Confidence is walking out on stage and recognizing that you are ready because you have prepared yourself for that moment. It is important that we recognize the time, energy, and resources we have put into building our skills. It is that level of commitment and preparation that is helping us take on this new challenge.

Recognizing the skills that you have built is a healthy way to swap out negative comparison thoughts. You do not have to worry about what that other soprano wore, how she sang her high C, or what other sparkling interpretations the panel has heard that day. Real confidence is realizing that you have something special to offer regardless of whether or not they choose you for the role. Real confidence means taking responsibility for your experience in each and every moment.

Show Your (Inner) Work

Show up to every moment in your life with the profound understanding that you are meant to be there. Confidence doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it doesn’t happen without hard work. Finish today’s post by completing these sentences:

  • I like my _____ because _____
  • I am an expert at _________
  • I feel good about _________
  • I feel insecure in these areas _____________
  • The skills directly tied to those areas are ____________
  • I will do these activities to build those skills _______________

And divas, if you need a little boost to get you started, you can always remember Mindy Kaling’s advice, “sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.” Now, go forth and conquer your inner world… and then the rest of the universe.

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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

A Singer’s Inner Work: Self-Care for Singers

September 13, 2016
Did you know that there is Sybaritic Singer content that is exclusive to the email list I affectionately call, “The Sybaritic Faithful”? Well, there is. If you are on the list, then you would have already received today’s post in your inbox. If not, you may want to take a moment to sign up or update your settings now! Click on the image below to go to the sign-up form. After you enter your information, make sure to select “Sybaritic Singer” under the “Pick Your News!” heading.

Your Coping Toolbox

Because we have all lived through and will continue to live through crushing experiences, no matter how big or small it feels, it is also important that we learn how to care for our internal and external wounds.
Self-Care ‘Do Not Try’ for Megan
(an extremely scientific list)
Don’t listen to Damien Rice.
Don’t pretend to like green tea.
Don’t read your PFO’s.
Don’t get arrested.
Ready to read more? You know what to do…
A Singer's Inner Work | Self-Care for Singers | Sybaritic Singer

A Singer’s Inner Work: Make Room For What You Love

September 12, 2016

If you could have one wish, what would it be? Are you wishing for more time with your family and friends? Are you desperately wanting more gigs? Are you craving the feeling of winning a competition? Are you hoping for the stars to align to keep your singing gigs while you try to start  or add to your family? I want you to have all the things you’re truly desiring. I want us all to have the things we yearn for. That’s why I write these posts. It is my sincere aspiration to make every musician’s dreams a little easier to attain through tools, resources, and knowledge. That is also why we are focusing on inner work during this series. I want the knowledge you have of yourself to open more doors to your deepest desires. When we know what we want, we have to make room for it in our lives.

A Singer's Inner Work | Make Room for What You Love | Sybaritic Singer

Internal De-Cluttering

Make room for what you love is a popular de-cluttering mantra. The idea is that we get rid of all the crap and extraneous stuff that is filling up our physical space to interact with only the things that bring us joy and contentment. As part of our inner work, it’s time to do some de-cluttering. You can approach this idea physically like the books for organizing your house suggest. But, you can also think about making room for what you want internally and time-wise.

Maximize & Minimize

Think about your purpose as you define it. What do you need more of or less of to help you achieve that purpose? Feeling unsure? Go back to your answers from our “Pinpoint Your Values” post for guidance. Now, let’s make a list:


  1. [insert answer here]
  2. [insert answer here]
  3. [insert answer here]


  1. [insert answer here]
  2. [insert answer here]
  3. [insert answer here]

Chalkboard Method

The awesome ladies from Being Boss have a wonderful method for helping us make space for what we love. (Also, shout-out to the lovelies in the #DivaSquad for turning me onto this method in the first place.) Kathleen and Emily, of Being Boss, use The Chalkboard Method as a visual goal-setting tool that helps them make space and stay accountable to their goals and their values. I did my Q4 Chalkboard in my bullet journal the other day and I highly recommend you do the same!

Show Your Work

Okay, is it starting to sink in now that inner work is dependent on actually doing the work part? I hope so. Divas, set your timers. Think about your values and your day-to-day experience. Write out three specific things to maximize and three specific things that you want to minimize. Bonus points for any of you that take it one step farther and sketch out your own chalkboard method! Then, tell me about it! Did anything surprise you? Were you clearer on one area than another? You know I love hearing from you. So, drop me a line in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter. You’ll find me @mezzoihnen.

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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

A Singer’s Inner Work: Pinpoint Your Values

September 10, 2016

I have written before in the #29DaystoDiva series that most small business go out of business in the span of ten years. That means that for singers starting in their late teens and early twenties, many will have left the singing profession by the time they are thirty. I do not mean singers who have transitioned into some aspect of singing life whether that’s academia or artistic employment with a non-profit. I mean the singers who got degrees in the field and are now full-time in non-musical careers and sing as a hobbyist, if that. It is my deep conviction that earlier inner work on pinpointing their values could have helped them avoid any pain of having to pivot in their career plan. Understanding your values can help you consistently make the right choice when opportunities arise. Knowing who you are and what you want out of life allows you to say “yes” or “no” with clarity and peace of mind.

A Singer's Inner Work | Pinpoint Your Values

How Do I Figure Out My Values?

Your values help you make strategic plans when important questions come up such as:

  • Should I continue to live in this zip code?
  • Should I apply for that internship/audition/job?
  • What would help me cut down on the stress in my life?
  • Why do I have the relationships with others that I have?

Getting very clear on what you value in life can help you follow your intuition to more success and free you from needless stress and worry. Don’t we all want less stress and worry in our lives? I feel like we can boil this process down into three parts. I want you to think about the things that light up your brain and get you motivated to take over the world. Then, I want you to think about the things that totally drain you. Finally, we’ll focus on the “why.”

What Motivates Me?

Think about a time when you felt you were on top of the world. You do not need to take other’s opinions into account here. Don’t diminish your experience by saying, “well, it was just a little thing but…” Claim the areas of your life that make you feel amazing! Practice the five questions as you think about these areas:

I felt amazing when I performed at the summer festival.
Because it was really hard repertoire.
Why did that make you feel amazing?
I had worked steadily on it and I performed it to the best of my ability.
Why is that important?
It showed me that I was able to take on large goals and accomplish them through discipline.
Why are those things important?
Because I know that to be a professional singer I need to demonstrate excellent performance skills on challenging repertoire and I did that.
What does this tell you about your values?
I know that I value hard work, discipline, determination, excellence, goal-setting, and lest I fail to mention – good singing.

What Stresses Me Out?

Where to start this list, am I right? Think through your day yesterday or the day before. Make a list of any of the things that were stressful or painful to you. Why were those activities or behaviors triggering stress or pain during your day? Take that information and see where those stressful behaviors or activities are incongruent with your values.

Why Do I…?

  • Why do I buy what I buy?
  • Why do I schedule myself the way I do?
  • Why do I live where I live?
  • Why do I pursue singing professionally?
  • Why do I long for what I long for?
  • Why do I admire whom I admire?
  • Why do I have the relationships I have now?

This list can also be endless. Don’t get too hung up on that. Start now. Take a few of the questions in your mind today and answer them as you’re able. Begin to notice where patterns emerge that illustrate your values.

Remember that our inner work is dependent on actually doing the work. So, take your timer and give yourself five to ten minutes to do some of this work immediately. Then, tell me about it! Leave me a note in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter. I’m @mezzoihnen. You know that I love to hear from you!

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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”