I’ve taken every personality test out there, but the Enneagram was different. As an Enneagram One, I love that this system isn’t just about my strengths or my habits—it is a holistic tool to help me understand what drives me.
WHAT’S AN ENNEAGRAM?
Recently I’ve been learning about the Enneagram. You may have heard of it because of its increasing popularity, but up until a couple months ago, I had no idea what it was. Maybe a fancy way to send a digital telegram?
As I researched, I came to understand that the Enneagram is an ancient explanation of the nine natures of people. The Enneagram teaches that we are all part of each of the nine styles, and each of us is born with one dominant style which frames our perspective on everything—and I mean everything.
It totally fascinates me. In addition to learning about my own type, I’m learning about my husband’s type and my friends’ types. I’m deciphering my kids types. I’ve even found myself wondering if my dogs have Enneagram types. (I’m pretty sure I have a two and and eight on my hands. One is hopelessly friendly; the other bullies him relentlessly. But I digress.)
As much as your style dictates the way you interact with the world, determining your style can be tricky. There are many tests online, but in taking those free assessments my results varied. I decided to spend the time and money to go through an accredited assessment and learn the tool with an expert who could help me decode and understand my own personal style. Once I realized which style was mine, the Enneagram transformed the way I see myself and others in five key ways.
1. It identified my core motivations.
I’ve taken every personality test out there —Myers Briggs, the Kolbe, DISC, you name it. But this was different. Those other tests (although I find them super helpful and interesting) tended to put me into a box with a label. You are a D, INFJ, PDQ. While it doesn’t sound any more revolutionary to be categorized as an Enneagram One, the Enneagram isn’t just about my strengths or my habits—it is a holistic tool to help me understand what drives me, my instincts, my triggers and my fixations. All those things lead to my unique perspective, attitude and even levels of joy. It was overwhelming and relieving all at the same time.
2. It helped me see my blind spots.
Through the Enneagram assessment, I have learned that I am exceptionally low at being a peacemaker and that I might need to stop and think before I blurt out my opinion. (Not that I haven’t heard this one before…) I learned that I need to lighten up and have more fun. I have learned that my primary fixation is perfection and although many of us claim the title “perfectionist,” the Enneagram One lives their life through the sharp-focused lens of perfectionism. This helps me understand why I have never felt good enough or like I’ve done my best. This realization may sound depressing, but naming it has freed me.
3. It enables me to have self-compassion.
Even though every type has its rough edges, there is freedom in knowing more about the uniquely-designed person God has made me to be. I have permission to let go of thinking there is something “wrong” with me.
A deep sense of self-compassion washed over me when I realized that my perfectionism is both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness as an Enneagram One. Self-compassion is different from self-confidence. It’s learning to love yourself for exactly who you are, not who you think you should be. As a performing artist, I’ve spent years acting as if I had self-confidence, waiting for it to show up—which I’ve realized is a facade unless I have self-compassion, too.
Whatever your style, whether you’re the perfectionist, the loyalist, the achiever, the peacemaker, the individualist, or the challenger, you are just as you should be.
4. It makes me more compassionate for others.
As I gain awareness of all the styles, I can better empathize and communicate with the people around me. Just as I’m learning to love myself as I am, I can love them for who they are, too.
Often, when we’re irritated with someone, we’re irritated because their dominant style is different from ours. My style is to grip the steering wheel more tightly and to be agitated when my son is running late for the bus; my son’s style is to close his eyes and rest on our frantic drive to his stop. As an Enneagram One, I see what could be better; as an Enneagram 2, my husband sees the best in things.
There’s nothing wrong with our differences, and no one style is better than another. While our dominant tendencies may butt heads, the goal is to better understand each other and to use our differences to build each other in a beautiful way.
5. It’s a tool for growth.
Beyond seeing my blind spots and having compassion for myself and others, the best part of the Enneagram is that it allows me to grow beyond the tendencies of my type.
I have made a commitment to my personal growth, and now I intentionally create crazy mess in my life to free myself up from the rigidity of my Enneagram One tendencies. I purposefully strive for joy and frivolity. My house is a wreck like it has never been before, and I am painting abstract mixed media art with abandon. This artistic expression is part of The Canvas Project, which is a journey I’m going on and leading in my Facebook Group, Creative Uncovery. Join us to see what I’ve been working on and to embark on your own journey!
Doing art regularly reminds me that I am enough just as I am, and it also makes use of my Enneagram One drive to make things better and to leave any person, place or project better for my having been a part of it.
I am also learning how to keep my mouth closed—even when it feels like the right thing to say what’s on my mind. Not everyone wants to hear the “truth” as quickly and as easily as I like to give it. (I know. I was shocked by this too.)
Will you join me?
A journey into self-awareness and self actualization can be both challenging and relieving, but we are called to bring our best self forth. The only way to do that is to let the cracks show and drag ourselves through the fire.
One of my favorite quotes is by Erma Bombeck: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
As I’m uncovering my true self using the Enneagram, I’m learning that using everything God gives me doesn’t just mean sharing my talents with the world—it means going to the core of who I am, having compassion on myself and others and growing into the most whole version of me.
While it feels vulnerable and unsteady to unzip your skin of protection and let your true self step out, we are all a work of art in progress. I encourage you to take that step with me. What’s your Enneagram type? Read these descriptions to find what seems most like you, and comment what you think you might be!
And if you’re also desiring a deeper exploration of your creative life purpose, join us over in Creative Uncovery!