How the Enneagram Taught Me How to Love Myself

Friday, July 20, 2018

Have you heard of the Enneagram?

That's how I've started many conversations over the last few months. Almost every person I have talked to has not.

The Enneagram is a personality typing method. This is no Facebook quiz that asks you to pick five pictures and gives you a complimentary paragraph about yourself. Its a legitimate test that has been used and studied for a long time. There are nine different types, each with unique traits, characteristics, and purpose. To find out more about the history and how the method works, check out the Enneagram Institute's Overview and History.

Admittedly, I have known of the Enneagram for a few years but have been willfully ignorant of it, considering it to be a 'lesser' method compared to the Myers-Briggs method which boasts 16 unique personality types. More is more, right? My first introduction (and continued exposure) to the Enneagram was made by Anne Bogel. I've been following Anne on her blog Modern Mrs. Darcy for a few years and have loved her heartfelt and informative writing style. She has such a passion for personality typing, she wrote an entire book on the topic. When I saw "Reading People" at my library last year I checked it out with enthusiasm. The book spends time overviewing a variety of personality typing methods including the Enneagram, but it was not 'Reading People' that finally brought me to try out the method for myself. Instead, it was music.

When Anne included an announcement in her newsletter that a musician by the name Sleeping At Last was writing songs for each of the Enneagram types, I immediately took a test to find out which type I was. As a girl who has always harbored a secret dream of someone writing a song for and about me, I had to know: Which song is for me? What does someone love about me?

First I took this free Enneagram test here but I was unsatisfied with the results. I had a close tie between two of the types and I wanted a definitive answer. I made my way to the Enneagram Institute's online test. I think $12 is a really small price for the wealth of knowledge a test like this has potential to provide. Comparatively, the Myers-Briggs paid test ran about $70 a few years back (still a worthy investment). I took the 140 question test in about 15 min (fair warning, it can take upwards of an hour if you take tests at a slower rate) and got my type: 4. "I hope that means I'm special," I thought to myself as I clicked on the type descriptions. I laughed as I saw the title for the Type 4: The Individualist.

"Mmmkay, maybe the Enneagram is not for me," I said to myself as I read through my type description on the site. Apparently I am "The Sensitive, Introspective Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental". That doesn't describe me at all! I thought. I enjoy the friendship of others. I am polite and tactful and want people to like me. I take great pride in my Myers-Briggs type, ENFJ, "The Protagonist". Its one of the least common types (which I tell myself makes me special) and is very "people" focused, almost to a fault. ENFJs are extroverted, enjoy interpersonal relationships, love to encourage people to be their very best, and intuitively know what makes people "tick". This makes them great friends, problem-solvers, mentors, and teachers. Basically, I'd make a really bomb advice columnist. If I had really lofty goals I'd be a great human rights leader. Me, self-absorbed and temperamental? This test is wrong.

Brushing off my annoyance, I made my way over to YouTube to listen to the song for Type 4. I was hoping for a deep, touching experience. Something I could cry my eyes out over, ya know? Instead, I felt nothing. The test had to be wrong.

The test was indeed interesting. Even my official Enneagram Institute test results tied for two types: 4 and 2: The Helper. The "Caring, Interpersonal Type: Generous, Demonstrative, People-Pleasing, and Possessive". (Side note: I think its really interesting for an ENFJ to tie those two types) I wrote off the Type 2, as the results did mention that women can sometimes incorrectly type as 2 because of learned social behaviors and expectations. I was starting to get annoyed with the Enneagram and almost completely wrote it off. I gave it one last shot by listening to the Sleeping At Last podcast for the release of the Type 4 song. What I heard was life-changing.

The podcast is hosted by Ryan, the singer/songwriter behind Sleeping At Last. He also hosts guest Chris Huertz who is an Enneagram expert and the two of them spend a lot of time talking about each type. They highlight their strengths, inner landscapes, challenges, hurts, and advice for those in relationships with each type. Listening to Ryan and Chris talk about the Type 4 helped me fall in love with myself.

In summary, their discussion reveals Type 4s as deeply introspective. They seek the meaning behind being. They are incredibly sensitive to the nuances of emotion, experiences, and relationships. They have a rich inner world in which they explore the depths of themselves and the role they play in the world. They want to know, "What makes me significant? What meaning do I give to the world?" Certainly, this "self-absorbtion" can be viewed in a negative light, but it roots in a place of wanting to belong in a world, among other people that they see carry so much significance. In a healthy Type 4, this search for meaning grows into a beautiful fulfillment of purpose, both personally and in the community. Hearing myself described in this way healed the self-doubt and shame around my intricate, involved, sometimes heavy inner self. I felt seen. I felt loved. I felt celebrated.

I have a friend who is passionate about language and the power of words. In our conversations, we often celebrate when we discover new words and concepts. She often reminds me that having the language to express oneself is power. Though it may seem silly to some, personality typing methods such as Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram are more than just fun quizzes to feel good about yourself. They provide a framework to explore and discover oneself. For me, the Myers-Briggs test types my outward motivations and the way I interact with others. It was powerful when I was first introduced to it by my aunt eight years ago. The Enneagram is equally transformative for me because it provides me with a concept and language to describe my soul.

Ever since discovering this amazing language, I am obsessed with learning to speak it. I'm reading this book and encouraging those around me to learn about the Enneagram too. I am privileged to be married to a Type 3. My soul sister is a Type 2. My lovely twin-wife (that's what we call each other because our husbands are identical twins) is a Type 6. I love having real-life examples of each type because they help me understand the Enneagram better, and the Enneagram helps me know them deeper. But my favorite thing about the Enneagram is not how it helps me know others. I love it because it helps me know myself.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead and fall down the rabbit hole already! Here are links to every resource I've talked about here:

The Ennneagram Institute
Modern Mrs. Darcy Blog
Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
Free Enneagram Test
Enneagram Institute Paid Test
Sleeping At Last Podcast
The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Chris Huertz
Four by Sleeping At Last
Two by Sleeping At Last
The Myers & Briggs Foundation
Myers & Briggs Free Test
Myers & Briggs Paid Test

And because I can't help myself, I have to know...

What's your type?
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