Last year I discovered the Enneagram. I was living in Laos at the time and so my main way to communicate with the family was via instant messaging on Facebook.
I messaged them on our group chat and told them all about this enneagram thing. “GUYS! YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THIS THING! IT TELLS ME EVERYTHING I EVER DID!” They probably rolled their eyes and thought it was a simple phase I’d pass over but eventually I sucked them in and eight months later we’re still talking about it.
At the start I thought I was a Type Four, The Romantic Individualist (haha I am soooo not), but the thought was enough to make me jump around the kitchen out of excitement that I could be complicated. Ironic to think, after taking a personality test that tends to label you, I know! But the enneagram allows for my personality to include good and bad aspects across several types, and I liked that. It’s also constructed based on our inner motivations, desires, and fears, not just behaviours, and it had me pegged in an incredibly frustrating and insightful way. Argh HOW DID IT KNOW I WAS LIKE THAT?!
I’ve really enjoyed reading and listening and discussing the enneagram since and it’s really helped me to be more self-aware and make good choices towards emotional health. Here’s how:
It shines a light on what I’m believing. We all believe certain things about ourselves, we all approach life differently, and in the depth of our being we all desire to hear certain things (even if it’s different for each person). On the positive side, it highlights the beautiful parts of my personality, which helps me to accept myself. However, the enneagram makes me cringe because it pinpoints my faulty assumptions and is creepily accurate at outlining what I do when I believe lies about myself. Because I’m more aware of my deep dark motivations, I can ask God to meet my exact needs and realign my heart with his truths.
Triggers for when I’m healthy or stressed. The Enneagram outlines what I’m likely to do when I’m stressed, or when I’m doing well emotionally. I’m a Type Two, the Helper, which means that I’m naturally very giving and helpful. My problem is that I manipulate people into liking me by my incredible generosity, and when I’m stressed my angry, control-freak side shows it’s pretty Hulk-like face. When I start to feel frustrated about everything, when I begin to micro-manage, and berate myself for not being perfect… I know something’s up. I’ve grown heaps in self-awareness because the Enneagram outlines what my stresses will look like.
The beauty of the Enneagram is that it isn’t about our behaviour, but why we do something. I know I’m believing some lie of perfection and earning love, when the behaviour starts to change negatively. And on the flip side, I now know to prioritise looking after myself, and I know I must be doing okay when I don’t feel [as] guilty saying no to somebody.
Permission to thrive. I am a human being! I have flaws and am simply not perfect. I can try to hide it but the truth is it’s there and I do the wrong thing because I believe certain things that simply aren’t true. The enneagram puts a mirror to my misconceptions about myself, God and life, and explains exactly how I have the freedom to walk in the truth because of the Gospel. Personally, I need to remember that I am not the hero; God is. God has not made me responsible for every little detail. I am important to God. Therefore, I don’t have to behave in control, manipulation, and endless working to Do All The Things for others. I’m valuable too, and I’m allowed to rest, create, and be myself with no strings attached.
Grace and boundaries in relationships. This one is huge. The Enneagram has helped me to understand that people function differently from me (even if their way doesn’t make sense to me!!) and have different needs, and will react to situations differently. For example: mum is a Type Three; the Successful Achiever. She’s basically Ironman (although a lot nicer thank goodness). She has no problem with self-esteem and getting stuff done. Until, that is, she’s stressed, and then she starts to procrastinate and put her head in the sand. This can drive me BALMY but now I can see that’s just how she reacts to stress and it’s no better or worse to how I approach life and react to stress.
Some people assume everybody else is as cool with themselves as they are with themselves. But I’m living proof that for some, you have to fight really hard to accept yourself and have half a dose of confidence.
Realising this helped me to understand that we often aren’t out to hurt one another; we just see things differently. We react to stress differently, sometimes in really unobvious ways. Some people pick up new hobbies when they’re stressed (WHYYYY?!?!) and some people lash out at others and redouble their efforts (ahem that makes sense doesn’t it?!). Knowing we do this helps me to extend grace and be patient with others.
Light-hearted accountability. In a similar vein, if we know how each one of us is responding to stress and what lies we’re each susceptible to believe, we can call each other out on it and help each other make healthy choices, and we can praise each other for the good choices we make! Mum recognises now that it is really hard for me to make time for myself and to even express what it is that I need because I feel so guilty about having needs. She will ask me what I’m doing to look after myself, or if I’m carrying a responsibility that’s not mine to carry. It helps me to be a better version of myself and tells me I have no excuses because others are seeing right through me. (Also you better believe I have way too much fun holding up three fingers and pointing them at my mum as a gentle poke in the ribs that’s she’s being a classic Type Three. 😉 )
So yeah! I love love love talking Enneagram with people and learning what my friends types are. It’s really helped me to be a better version of myself and be more compassionate and actively supportive (bossy??) in my friendships. Thank you for sticking around to read this far and if you haven’t taken the test and want to learn more about it, i’d recommend starting with Beth McCord’s free test. Check out Pinterest, or Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s book The Road Back to You or his Typology podcast. Have fun and comment below to let me know what your type is or what you’ve learned from the Enneagram! I can’t wait! 😀