Three ways the Enneagram has Changed my Business— and my Life.

In the past year or so, the Enneagram has meddled its [wonderful] way into my life, mind and heart. I’m seeing changes in my behavior, my relationships + my overall lifestyle after discovering and pondering the number that I am. God has used the Enneagram to humble me to need Him and seek Him at every moment, and to accept my brokenness —which has opened my [empty] hands to desire His grace and love above all other things in life. Amidst the struggle and pain of such personal growth, I know He is so, so near to me. He doesn’t expect perfection from me, He just wants my trust. The Enneagram has shown me the areas in which I need to relinquish control to Him. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it.

So……..where my fellow Sixes at?

A six on the Enneagram from what I have researched is defined as “The Loyalist” or sometimes “The Questioner.” Sixes are ‘worst case scenario’ thinkers, value security, have an ongoing struggle with fear, and have an overall distrust of situations, people, and often themselves. I’ll stop there. To be honest, I could go on and on about the negative aspects of Sixes— did I mention Sixes can often be labeled as quite pessimistic people? Oops.

On the flip side, sixes are also very, very loyal people, are incredible problem solvers and can have bouts of incredible courage amidst the fear they face in their heads on a daily basis. Learning all of these aspects of my specific Enneagram number has opened my eyes to who I am, and who I want to be. With that said, here are three things the Enneagram has taught me which has changed my business, as well as my life:

01. The Enneagram has taught me how to choose courage— and why it’s always worth it.

Being courageous does not come naturally to me. I’ve been cautious since I was a little girl. Picture a mini Olivia on a warm Seattle summer evening, carefully, with every step, inspecting the gravel driveway for stray rocks while she walks barefoot to avoid getting hurt instead of being like the other kids who just walked and enjoyed in childhood bliss. Hmm. Yeah. I guess I’ve always been six-y.

Every time I send off sneak peeks to clients, my heart races. My inclination, every single time, is to think the worst —that they will dislike their photos and that they will regret hiring me. Yep. Every time. Ew. A piece of a Six that has really resonated with me is their struggle to confidently accept the expectations people put on them. The longer I’ve been in business, the more expectations people put on me to perform. This isn’t wrong of them. I have experience to back my business up! But —instead of thinking “Yes! I can’t wait to show them what I can do!” my Six-ness tends to go the opposite direction and think “how am I going to disappoint them?” Instead of confidence, I have the innate tendency to worry about how I am going to let people down. To some Sixes, success comes with a lot of stress, and success in general is not celebrated or welcomed like it might be to another Enneagram number (ahem, where my 3’s at?). Success equals more expectation of having AMAZING photos. More expectations on me means I must perform perfectly. Being perfect is not possible. Therefore, I will disappointed them. Whatever I just typed out, whatever that mess was…is what goes on in my head every single day I’m working. I’m not even going to edit that to have it make more sense. Cuz it just doesn’t.

To top it all off, I even worry about all the worrying I do. Look in my browser history and you might find “can I have a heart attack at age 27?” That isn’t a joke. The crazy part of all of this is, all the worrying I do, all the scenarios I come up with in my head, RARELY come true. I waste an immense amount of time fearing the worst, and more often than not, I get that wonderful, life-infusing e-mail from my couples describing the joy they felt looking through their gallery of photos. And you know, when I do get the occasional, maybe once a year, e-mail from an unhappy bride, it doesn’t kill me. It hurts, but it doesn’t kill me.

At times, I’ve so badly wanted to quit and choose a job where I don’t have to constantly put my art on the line…a job where I could stay in the background and not have to consistently bear my soul and hard work to the world in hopes that they will like what they see. Knowing that fear, worry, and the struggle to find courage are traits of a Six, I’m now able to take a deep breath, and choose courage. I can either choose to walk the driveway and enjoy the walk, risking my feet the pain but knowing it won’t kill me, or worry about stepping on the sharp rocks and hate the journey, or not even walk the driveway at all. I’m learning the sharp rocks only hurt for a little bit and it is always worth the walk because by walking, I’m giving people a huge gift. As a Six, this idea is everything.

Oh, and amidst the journey, I know my good God is walking right along side me providing the security I need and look for. Great faith takes great courage. I take it back. Now THAT, is actually everything.

02. The Enneagram has taught me that problem solving is a gift of mine and that despite constantly fearing the worst, solving problems actually brings me a lot of joy.

Wedding days are full of what-ifs. They’re living and breathing and “live” (any Survivor fans out there?) which means they are constantly changing. That cloudy, overcast light I planned for? GONE! Sun is blasting and shadows are everywhere and I need to find a way to make it beautiful. That timeline we planned for months? WHOA. We’re an hour off schedule and I have to pick up the pieces and make sure my clients have a gallery of portraits even if there was no time to take them. Are Sixes secretly superheroes? Maybe! See? I can be positive sometimes.

Reflecting on my career, I’m realizing hiccups have never really bothered me. Why? Because even before the wedding has started, I’ve sorted through around 12 different scenarios in my head. All solved. I’m ready for whatever. Always. Bride after bride has told me “your calming presence was a game-changer.” CALM?! Me? A Six? Yes. Because as worst case scenario thinker, I’m ready for anything because I’ve already thought through and solved the ‘anythings’. A bridesmaid goes missing and we can’t finish bridal party portraits? No big. I’ve got the formula to do bridesmaid photos in 2 minutes or less. The bride and groom kissed so quickly that I missed the shot? No big. I just pop ‘em back at the alter after the guests have gone to cocktail hour and tell them to kiss. Forgot my flash at home? Well, I didn’t, because I quadruple checked my bag before I left because I thought about what that would be like to forget my flash at home, and it wasn’t a pretty thought. Problems DO COME with this job —heck, with any job, and oddly enough, I rarely let them ruin me. Rather, when problems or hiccups do arise, I’m calm, cool and collected and I have found I actually ENJOY SOLVING THE PROBLEM. I love that about myself, and I love that it brings calmness to my clients’ days. Sixes willingly take on problems and solve them for the people in their care so that they don’t have to. Hence the Loyalist name. I love it.

03. The Enneagram has taught me that I am absolutely 100% not in control of my business, or my life —and oh, what a beautiful thing that is.

I believe God is the author of my life. I believe He lovingly directs my path and even more lovingly gives me the free will to make decisions, guiding me with His Spirit to make the right ones that will bless others and bless myself. Did I have a mini meltdown earlier today worrying about how I am going to get [all of this] work done on time? Surely did. Did I have a moment of sheer panic when thinking about the possibility of not booking another wedding ever again after being ghosted last week? Yes sir. Even when I have moments of weakness, like those totally stable and non-dramatic examples (HA)… despite my worry, to my core I believe God is at work in my life. It’s all I can count on. He is the only constant and dependable thing I have to lean on in this world. Technology could fail on me at any moment and everything could disappear. I could drop dead at a wedding (I really cannot believe I just typed that sentence out) or I could never, ever book another wedding ever again and need to find a new job. I am out of control. Everything is. God isn’t.

God has provided for me in my journey as a wedding photographer, without question.

JournalOlivia StrohmComment